The first debate between Democrat Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and incumbent Republican State Senator Serphin Maltese kept issues at the forefront of the debate, while each tried to showcase their candidacy by what they had done or were going to do for the 15th Senatorial District.
Five issues took priority: education, public safety and quality of life, economics, transportation, and health care.
Here’s how it went down:
When education was brought up both candidates stressed its importance to society at large. Addabbo mentioned how education draws people to a community and keeps residents there, and he stated that to keep people in Howard Beach and surrounding neighborhoods throughout the district, money would have to be allocated to institutions of education.
“We need to get that money right into the classrooms,” he stated firmly. “Otherwise, people will leave our community and we don’t want that.”
Maltese, with nearly two decades representing the district under his belt, said that he already made education one of his priorities throughout his time in the State Senate. He secured an additional $616 million for the college Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and about $646 million in funding in 2008.
Maltese said that the Senate has made sure the average student receives $8,524 from New York State for college.
Public Safety and Quality of Life
Public safety was a big concern for both candidates as well. Maltese touted his past experience in the legal field, including a stint with Queens District Attorney’s office and deputy chief of the Homicide Bureau.
The senator, throughout his time in office, has sponsored 239 bills that became laws while co-sponsoring hundreds of others. Maltese also co-sponsored 24 pieces of legislation in 2006, which included upping the strength of Meghan’s Law by creating tougher penalties and installing a GPS-tracking device to weed out sexual predators.
Tracking sexual predators was also something that Addabbo has been pushing for in recent months. At a recent press conference in Ridgewood, he advocated for a law that would send e-mail alerts to residents when convicted sex offenders move to their neighborhoods.
Addabbo also said he has worked to improve ways to get in touch with local precincts and fought for a salary increase for the NYPD. He said this would attract new recruits to the force and would increase safety on the streets.
When the two candidates spoke about the economy, they found common ground. Both felt that with the economy crumbling from the top small business are vital to the neighborhoods of Queens they hope to represent in the 15th District.
Both candidates believe that raising property taxes is not the answer. Instead, they agreed, government should simply cut spending.
Addabbo recently criticized big businesses for the Industrial Commercial Investment Program (ICIP), which he argues gives tax breaks to larger companies while taking away from smaller businesses. The Councilman believes this should be reformed to help “local businesses” and “local people.”
As for transportation the candidates also agreed that things needed to change.
Both Addabbo and Maltese were against the congestion-pricing plan, which would charge non-Manhattan residents - including those in Brooklyn and Queens - for driving into the city during peak hours.
Both also said that the MTA’s problematic plan to increase fares should not be the solution to large budget gaps. Addabbo said that he plans to work with the MTA while criticizing them when necessary.
“That’s the way to get things done,” he said.
Maltese noted he secured $2 million to renovate an M-train station in Middle Village, and said the State Department of Transportation plays a role in solving the city’s transportation problems.
The Senator also stated he allocated $1.2 million to renovate Eliot Avenue in Middle Village, which he said was needed massive improvements.
Addabbo and Maltese were again on similar talking points when it came to health care issues.
Addabbo said health care needs to be made more affordable. He cited Medicaid fraud as a big expense, and argued that dollars must be secured for families in need of health care.
Maltese, on the other hand, noted that helped keep Wyckoff Hospital from going under shortly after he was elected to the senate. He also said he helped restored millions for nursing homes and hospitals that former Governor Eliot Spitzer cut from the state budget as well.
“I’ve tried to keep my eye on hospitals in Queens County,” he said.
(For the record: A Sienna College poll was released the day after the debate indicating that both candidates were split evenly, each receiving support from 42 percent of those polled. This differs by a large margin when compared to a May poll that put Maltese at 45 percent to Addabbo’s 18 percent.)