Street Address: 16 Lancaster Drive, Suffern
Race: Assembly District 97 State legislator
More Assembly District 97 State legislator candidates: Joseph Gravagna |
Political and civic experience: Suffern Village Trustee, Rockland County Legislator, NYS Assembly Member
Family: A Rockland resident since 1978, Ellen Jaffee lives in Suffern with her husband Steve. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Residency: Suffern, New YorkIncumbent?: Yes
Education: B.A. in Education/Brooklyn College and Master of Science in Special Education/Fordham University. 60 credits beyond masters.
Occupation: Educational Consultant and Resource Room Teacher
Why are you running for office or seeking re-election?
What in your personal, civic or professional experience recommends your election or return to office?
I was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2007 representing the 95th district. I hope to return to Albany, to represent what will be, due to redistricting, the 97th Assembly District. An outspoken advocate for the communities I represent, my accomplishments include getting New Jersey Transit to lower toxic emissions from trains idling in Spring Valley, bringing state leaders to meet with residents of Rockland’s river villages to discuss impacts of the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, securing funds for Rockland’s public schools, bringing together economic development planners with local communities, and collaborating with the NYS Department of Transportation on state road improvements and high-visibility signs that improve safety for cyclists.
I am proud to note that I have been equally effective as a lawmaker reaching across the aisle and delivering landmark legislation to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. My standout bills signed into law during the successful 2011-2012 legislative session will: increase early detection standards in breast cancer screening; remove red tape for assault survivors seeking HIV/AIDS prevention medication; eliminate gender barriers for job seekers; expand treatment options for women suffering from addiction; reduce toxic mercury in the environment; ban smoking at MTA stations; provide free, reconditioned government computers to qualified seniors and low-income families. In the Assembly I chair the Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues and serve on the following Assembly committees: Children and Families; Higher Education; Environmental Conservation; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; Mental Health; and Local Government. Prior to being in the Assembly I was elected to serve as a Village of Suffern trustee, In 1998 I went on to the County Legislature where I remained until my election to the Assembly in 2007. In the County Legislature I enacted the first well-testing law in New York State. I am an ardent advocate for the highest-quality drinking water and as a voice for sustainable communities, so that Rockland County will remain a desirable place to live and work. I have been endorsed by the New York League of Conservation voters and the Sierra Club and many other organizations. As county Legislator, I Initiated construction of walkway to library for Gitlow senior residents; encouraged the Solid Waste Authority to establish a program, which provides free digital thermometers in exchange for mercury thermometers, thereby assuring safe disposal of mercury ; secured a Shuttle bus for residents of Pondview, Bon Aire, & senior residences; sponsored a study of Rockland Water Supply working with USGS. As Suffern Village Trustee I created a Community Foundation, with the goal of enabling the village to enhance programs for youth, families and seniors, spearheaded an effort to persuade a local Pet Food Company to improve its environmental system so as to eliminate foul odors from permeating Suffern, introduced a law to control arbitrary tree cutting and led the effort to protect several unique natural resources and parks in the village.
What would be your top three priorities if you are elected or re-elected?
1.High Quality Education at Fair Tax Rate
A former teacher, I have fought for the highest-quality education for Rockland’s public school students. I believe all children need a strong foundation, beginning with Quality Early childhood education and expansion of Pre-K that builds through K-12 and culminates in college or vocational training. My priority is increased state aid for education. I have consistently brought back millions more for our schools than the Governor’s proposed budgets; in my first year I was able to close a loop hole that resulted in millions more for Rockland schools. I am dedicated to the stability of the schools in Rockland and will continue to press the state to revise the aid formula for East Ramapo, so its students can get the education they are entitled to and need to be competitive in today’s economy. Focus on mentoring programs in New York State and Rockland. I remain committed to fighting for additional progressive tax reform, including in our corporate tax structure, and to exempt not-for-profits and municipalities from the MTA payroll tax. On the local level property tax reform is a must for families to afford to stay in Rockland. In order to lower local taxes we must: increase state aid to schools; Enact an omnibus middle class circuit-breaker tax cap, phased in over four years for increased tax breaks;Continue of STAR and enhanced STAR;Stop unfunded mandates now.
2. Economic Development, TZ Bridge, Job Creation, Minimum Wage: A thriving business community and sustainable communities can go hand-in-hand. I will continue to focus on support for downtown areas to make the villages and hamlets in the district more business-friendly. As a member of the Assembly’s Economic Development Committee, I will support statewide incentives that will keep and attract businesses in our communities and will oppose cutting programs that have given businesses the incentives they need to compete.
I will continue to hold meetings with state business leaders including Empire State Development Deputy Commissioner and the Rockland Economic Development Corporation to provide help and information about state programs for businesses, and for minority and women-owned businesses (MWBE) supporting higher education as an important part of economic development . I will continue to advocate for Recharge New York, a sustainable energy program for businesses and not-for-profits. I have brought state economic leaders to Rockland, by holding meetings to connect small businesses with state resources. We must focus on attracting high tech businesses to Rockland and at the local and state level support small businesses. I will continue to meet with the business community and chambers of commerce to develop action plans for economic development.
As plans for a new TZB progress, I continue to arrange meetings to allow community members to have access to those in charge of the project. I have promoted a process where the state will:
• Work with and listen to the community because state officials can make decisions that will ease strain on river village residents and businesses during construction.
• Help river villages take advantage of the construction to promote sustainable economic development in the villages and in Rockland County.
• Commit to the new bridge as a beautifully designed structure that our region can be proud of in order to preserve and increase property values near the bridge and to stimulate local economies by attracting tourists.
• Recognize the importance of the environmental health of the Hudson River and how that impacts the entire Hudson Valley.
• Understand that Rockland, specifically the South Nyack area should not shoulder any undue burden as it did in during the building of the first TZB.
While I agree that the Tappan Zee Bridge Project opens up economic opportunity for our county, I have been focusing on assuring that the state is responding to the concerns of residents regarding their quality of life issues during the construction phase of the project. In meetings with the Governor’s Office, DOT and Thruway Authority I have insisted that this project move forward with the state’s commitment to maintain the quality of life of river village residents; and assist local businesses and villages as the construction phase moves forward to grow local economies. I called for limiting the cost of tolls for Rockland commuters.
I will advocate for increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50. A family with a full-time minimum wage earner would see its monthly income increase by about $200 a month. This increase will ensure hardworking families will not have to choose between paying their rent and purchasing food for their families. That money will also circulate in our local economy, which strengthens businesses.
3.Climate Change and Sustainable Energy ( endorsed by the New York League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club)
As a legislator I believe we should take every possible step to slow down this coming crisis by supporting laws and policies that require energy from sustainable, non carbon-emitting sources. I support the state’s goal of having 80 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2050, but hope these goals can be accomplished sooner, as there is no time to spare.
Sustainable energy makes economic sense ! I believes that new and creative approaches to how we heat and cool buildings, fuel vehicles, power factories leads to new industries and increased employment. I am proud to have sponsored the Green Jobs bill among the many other laws that have passed, which will slow down climate change and speed up employment.
I do consider Indian Point a viable source of sustainable energy because it is sited in a densely populated area, where evacuation would be virtually impossible. I stand with Governor Cuomo against the re-licensing of this aging plant and support the DEC’s decision to require cooling towers to save marine life. I introduced A9068B, which mandates an inventory of sustainable efficient power sources that could replace power generated by Indian Point units 2 and 3. Taking an overview of power sources already exists in the energy law. This bill passed the Assembly.
Clean Air and Water
I have voted for every measure before the Assembly to ensure better air and water quality, including my own well-testing and well education bills. Protecting the millions of New Yorkers who get their drinking water from wells is among her highest priorities. In Rockland, as a legislator I passed the state’s first well-testing law; two thirds of all wells tested turned up difficulties, with one third of those significant.
As a result of my advocacy, the US Geological Survey completed a five-year water study, that I initiated and sponsored as county legislator, to provide a vital status report on Rockland’s groundwater supply. In addition, at my request, the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation held a hearing on water quality in Rockland County in 2008.
I have been active participant in the drafting of a sewage reporting bill of 2012, which would affect us locally by requiring the notification of sewage discharged into the Hudson. This bill was signed into law by the Governor.
Water Policy, Conservation, and Desalination
Given the possibility that Rockland could face water shortage during peak use months, I believe that adequate studies have found Rockland can meet demand with a conservation plan and some other measures. Many towns and municipalities in the United States have cut water use significantly through innovative, practical conservation programs. I have met with research scientists at Lamont Dougherty in Palisades to discuss the issue and has held public meetings on limiting water use in landscaping, which requires more water than any other use. New York State has no official water policy; I have been advocating for a water use policy that includes conservation incentives.
In response to perceived water needs in 2006, the Public Service Commission ruled that United Water must supply Rockland with more water. As a result, United Water proposed the Haverstraw Water Supply project, which aims to remove salt and toxic matter from Hudson River water and pipe it into Rockland homes and businesses. United Water has submitted this proposal to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which will decide if the project meets agency standards.
I listed my concerns to the DEC about the proposed project, primarily its cost, which remains vague; cited reports by experts that show United Water has not sufficiently compared alternative water supplies and their costs. In my letter to the DEC, I noted that in order to serve Rockland ratepayers, that the DEC must investigate reports by outside, independent experts that found United Water’s proposal lacked transparency in its evaluation of possible methods of obtaining drinking water. I believe it would be a travesty if the project moved ahead without public confidence in the data and methods by which United Water chose the desalination alternative.
I am committed to most cost effective options with the highest quality water. These include conservation. Reputable experts have found that United Water skewed its data in favor of desalination. After reading reports by these experts, and as one of those who signed on to the 2006 case for increased water supply, I felt obligated to share my concerns with the Public Service Commission (PSC). I wrote a letter asking the PSC to reconsider its ruling based on newly discovered information and unforeseen circumstances. In my letter, I pointed to two major concerns:
1. United Water’s failure to produce a transparent analysis of alternatives to desalination in order to determine which water supply option best served Rockland ratepayers;
2. Conflicting reports about the actual amount of drinking water Rockland has access to as stated in the 2006 case and how actions such as conservation and an accounting of water loss to New Jersey might reconfigure Rockland’s water needs.
I understand that Rockland’s water needs must be met, but only a transparent process can provide solutions that will benefit Rockland residents and businesses. The public deserves an open, thorough analysis before any decision is reached. It took United Water four years to write the DEIS. The public was given two months to reply. This wasn’t enough time for robust public discussion on a matter that will affect Rockland for decades to come. I have also asked the DEC to hold an issues conference before the project goes any further.
In my letter to the PSC,I note that desalination lacks public support, with 24,000 residents signing a petition in opposition. United Water has spent millions on a hard sell PR campaign to ratepayers and on an undisclosed amount to lobby public officials, leaving stakeholders at a financial disadvantage. The few reports opponents could afford were done by reputable experts and found United Water’s data to be lacking. (MacMullin report) The rate-paying public deserves an even-handed discussion, with transparent data when it comes to projects that can determine the future of our county.
Hydraulic Fracturing : As New York State DEC considers whether to move forward on the issue of hydrofracking, it is essential that we enact comprehensive legislation and rules that will protect our drinking water, public health and other natural resources. Poorly regulated gas drilling would pose many threats to our communities – potentially introducing millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater into New York’s waterways, leaks and spills of toxic drilling fluid leading to contamination of ground and surface water supplies, methane in residential wells and drawing down freshwater supplies for use in drilling. The impact on air quality is of concern in many communities as well.