November 01, 2006
Alessi and Panico Face Off
With the 2006 midterm election only days away, the race is heating up between the candidates for the New York State First Assembly District seat, incumbent Marc Alessi and his opponent, Dan Panico.
Since Alessi, a Democrat, was elected to the seat, representing Riverhead, Southold, Shelter Island and part of Brookhaven, in a special 2005 election after former Assemblywoman Pat Acampora's resignation, the Manor Park resident has made his mark.
Alessi's background as a political watchdog during his stint as Downstate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the New York State Comptroller paved the way for his political post, where he continued to push for accountability from LIPA, looking out for ratepayers and calling on New York State's Public Service Commission to audit LIPA surcharges that have sparked increases in utility bills over the past years.
With a focus on reform, Alessi's year in office has been spent ensuring that the government works for the people. A devoted husband and father, Alessi is also dedicated to providing children with the educational resources they deserve, and has challenged a funding formula that he believes gives East End schools the short shrift.
His efforts have resulted in an increase in state aid for schools in his district. "Ten million more than the schools in my district have seen in the past," he said.
Alessi is proud of his successes in the realm of increased school aid, but there's more work to be done. "It's a start," he said. "But we're still not getting our fair share. Mattituck is getting 15% state aid when they're lucky, and the rest of the revenue for the school district is 85% property tax. Then a community that has the same income demographic upstate, such as DeWitt, is getting 50% state aid. There's obviously something skewed with the formula."
Alessi maintains that the state bases the formula on a wealth ratio that includes income and property value. "That's the problem — property value is not an indication of wealth on Long Island. Our property values have skyrocketed 80% in the past 10 years, and that's at a minimum."
East End property taxes are another arena in which Alessi's focusing, working to secure a new property tax rebate of $285 for the average Suffolk County homeowner and $447 for the average senior. Another plus for shoppers — Alessi's fought to eliminate the state sales tax on most clothing and footwear purchases and to create a child tax credit of up to $330 for each child in every Long Island family.
Should he be elected, Alessi says he'll keep pushing to keep LIPA on the hot seat. "I'm not going to stop until we get the accountability that we deserve." Alessi maintains that LIPA's temporary fuel surcharge is "an illegal rate increase," and a full rate review by the Public Service Commission is warranted.
Alessi believes his background in exposing school corruption was the perfect training ground. "I'm not a politician; I'm a public servant. I just do what I think, in my gut, is the right thing to do."
Running against Alessi is his opponent, Dan Panico, endorsed by the Republican and Conservative parties.
Panico, who grew up and was educated on Long Island, is crusading for what he believes is essential change to state government by campaigning for Suffolk County taxpayers and preserving the East End quality of life, with a focus on affordable housing, school property tax relief, lower fuel costs for motorists and small businesses, increased state aid for local schools, and relief for seniors in regard to prescription medicine costs.
"I decided to run because it's almost impossible for people, both young and old, to be able to afford to live here on Long Island," he said.
Currently serving as Suffolk County Deputy County Clerk, Panico is adamant about the need for state government reform.
"We need a person up there who is really going to reform things, not just going up there casting votes. Albany is ripe with overspending."
Panico cites evidence for such overspending such as legislators passing "two or three times that the rate of inflation. If a person ran a household or a business like this you'd be out of business. You can't spend more than you bring in."
Panico also endorses term limits and cutting member items drastically. "You need somebody up there who's willing to say the unpopular thing."
If he wins the election, Panico, who is single, says his first bill will be one to increase the STAR exemption on homes. "The exemption now is based on 1997 values; it hasn't kept pace with 2007 values. It's a great program, but it can be made a lot better."
Going up to Albany, casting votes and doing the bare minimum, is unacceptable, said Panico. "We're at a critical stage here on Long Island."