BY MATTEW SHI
On Wednesday, July 17, the Rockland Women’s Political Caucus hosted a question-and-answer forum with the county executive candidates. Two spokeswomen asked each candidate the same questions. The candidates spoke alone—the others waited outside until their turn—and they were prohibited from commenting negatively on their competition. Unfortunately, the first candidate, Ilan Schoenberger, was not heard by the Rockland County Times.
Dagan LaCorte, two-term Suffern mayor, was the second candidate to speak. He reminded attendees that Rockland County has experienced a 100 percent tax increase over the past five years, but he has kept Suffern’s taxes below the property tax cap. He has also led development on recreation for seniors and children with no cost to taxpayers.
LaCorte, a self-described “progressive Democrat,” boasted that he is the only candidate with executive experience. He reports that he supports women’s reproductive rights, ‘gender equality’ in and out of the workplace, and investment in education. LaCorte believes in a government that imposes leadership beyond its stated power, opining that those in charge should use their power to resolve conflicts even if it does not fall directly in their job description.
What sets LaCorte apart from the other candidates is that he is the only one who entirely opposes a deficit bond. He argues that it does not make sense to borrow money to pay off other loans. In Suffern he sets money aside every year to pay the deficit.
David Fried, the third candidate, was elected in 2009 as the Spring Valley Village Justice. He believes in a “new direction” for Rockland County. He told the women this new direction would include “identical wages for men and women” for identical jobs and noted that he also supports women’s reproductive rights.
Fried agrees that Rockland has not been competitive with federal and state grants and funding. He believes an important move in this “new direction” would be downsizing the county’s “top-heaving bureaucracy.” He emphasizes a stronger focus on conservation in both the household and government.
Fried informed attendees that Rockland County has the fastest aging population in New York. The reason for this is that a significant number students who go elsewhere for higher education do not return to Rockland to settle down. His proposed idea for revamping the county’s economy is to increase tourism, so that outside money flows into the county
Unlike his fellow Democratic candidate, Dagan LaCorte, Fried is not entirely opposed to the deficit bond. In fact, he believes that it is important, but recognizes that the county’s system needs to be restructured in order for it to work.
Vladimir Leon was the fourth candidate to speak. He reports that he has not raised any money, because he does not want to be “sold out.” He reasoned that if a company or organization donated significantly to his campaign, this might make it difficult for him to address certain issues within those companies.
Leon has degrees in sustainability management—knowledge that our county is currently in need of. He made the bold claim that he will be able to lower taxes. Like Fried, Leon believes that increasing tourism is a vital step for Rockland to take in the future. He claims that this was originally his idea.
“The most critical group in Rockland is the newly-weds,” Leon said. He supported this statement by saying that this group is the one buying property and entering the workforce. He also emphasizes the importance of education in primary and secondary schools.
Leon emphatically supports equality for women in the workforce. However, when asked whether he supported women’s reproductive rights, he did not sound very sure. “Yes,” he said, “I support it under certain conditions.” When asked to give a yes or no answer, he was unable to say yes without adding “under certain conditions” to his statement. He said that in his schooling he has studied biology and knows without a doubt when life begins, but did not elaborate on that statement. Any listener could have taken that statement to mean opposite things.
LaCorte, Fried, and Leon had several differences in opinion, but they all said they are opposed to patronage jobs and “inequality” in any sector. They also echoed each other in their concern for the East Ramapo School District. LaCorte stated that East Ramapo is failing its students, supports more funding to the schools, and believes that the school board needs to be reconstituted to represent the students’ interests. Fried, from his work as a Spring Valley Justice, has seen firsthand the decline of the school district he once attended, and Leon has studied and written a thesis on the situation in East Ramapo.