Assembly Candidates Square Off
By Gary G. Toms
With the special election for the 31st Assembly District taking place on April 16, The Wave invited Michele Titus, the Democratic candidate, and Michael Duvalle, running on the Independence line, to come in and present their agendas for Rockaway. The Wave’s Associate Editor, Gary G. Toms, conducted the interviews, in the hopes that residents will have a better understanding of the candidates and their platforms as Election Day approaches.
Wave: Since many of the residents have no idea who you are, please tell them who Michele Titus/Michael Duvalle is.
MT: Michele Titus is a life long resident of Southeast Queens, who was educated in the public school system. My family followed politics very closely, and that was my introduction. I attended Albany Law School, and I served as Chief of Staff and Counsel to State Senator Ada Smith. I was also the director of the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, where I advised them on policy issues and state budgets.
MD: Michael Duvalle is a community activist and life-long resident of the Rockaways since 1971. Through the efforts of Steve Cooper, of the Frank Avenue Civic Association, and myself the hazardous Edgemere landfill was eventually closed. I assisted the Rockaway Sea Cadet program by paying the rent for their facility for one year when they were in danger of being shut down. I have a track record of helping kids and have sponsored numerous programs for them.
Wave: What are the key issues of your campaign?
MT: Education, economic development and issues relating to seniors.
MD: Establishing a shopping center in the Far Rockaway area; tackling the mosquito problem; and dealing with noise and emissions issues relating to airplanes flying over Rockaway. Airlines should be held accountable for causing health problems in the community. Nitrous Oxide, which spews from the airplanes, is making many residents sick. We have to do something about that. I also plan to fight to keep the firehouse on Beach 59 from being moved.
Wave: What credentials, past or present, do you feel will help you in your role as Assemblyperson?
MT: I feel that my legislative experience in the New York State Assembly and the relationships I formed with elected officials will prove to be vital. My firm knowledge of handling state budgets will also serve me well.
MD: I have a B.S. in Biological Science, so I know how to address environmental issues. My military experience has shown me how to be an effective leader. I owned a successful security firm, so I know how to generate businesses and provide jobs. A successful, proven businessman is one of the key things needed to bring economic development to the community.
Wave: District 27 is facing a $10 million cut in education. How do you plan to deal with this issue?
MT: If cuts need to be made, they should be spread out, and not focus on one specific area. Cuts should not come from areas that are already financially devastated.
MD: I would become part of the educational commission so I could create an "educational superfund." Money generated from the New York State lottery would be directed in a separate account, which would be specifically earmarked for education. The current lottery system is not doing that, and everyone knows it.
Wave: How would you reach out to the young people of the community?
MT: I’d keep schools open late, and I’d establish after school programs, where I would make personal appearances and take part in speaking engagements. I would also invite kids to "Albany Youth Day."
MD: My office would be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., so the young people could have access to me. I’d also have a mobile van that would travel to different schools. I would make my schedule available to the public, along with my cell and fax numbers. I would also work with local sports coach, Greg Carter, to bridge the gap between high schools and middle schools.
Wave: What would you do to insure that people’s civil rights are not violated, with regard to questionable tactics used by specialized police units?
MT: I would use my legal background to develop strategies to insure people are treated fairly in police matters. I would also work with community leaders to make sure such issues are addressed.
MD: I would re-educate the public on the role of the NYPD. I would also make note to the community that respect is a two-way street. Moreover, I do believe that the police force should reflect the communities that they serve.
Wave: Do you support the Arverne-By-The Sea project?
MT: I support the economic development portion of the project. I am concerned with the affordable housing issue. I’m worried that the infrastructure of the homes is not solid enough. The fact that there will be an influx of kids and families into the area will have a major impact on education. That concerns me as well.
MD: It’s a good idea, but, as they say, the devil is in the details. That’s all I care to say about the issue.
Wave: How will you help to improve transportation in the 31st district?
MT: A ferry service would be very beneficial. I would re-vamp the A-train too.
MD: We need to install "guide-a-ride" panels so people will know how to get from one form of transportation to another. We need more maps to indicate routes. We need to open up bidding on bus companies, and provide better air conditioning and heating. I’d like to see the Green Bus Line hours extended as well.
Wave: What is your position on the Supreme Courts "one strike you’re out policy?"
MT: It is very detrimental to those in public housing. I plan to meet with NAACP members to discuss the matter.
MD: I think the judges should have discretion on sentencing. Parents should not be evicted if they are not aware of illegal activities their kids are involved in. At best, police should warn parents, so that they have options.
Wave: Did you have an opportunity to meet the late Assemblywoman, and if so, what is your fondest memory of her?
MT: Yes, we met. I’d have to say my fondest memory would be her dedication to the community.
MD: I really didn’t know her, so I can’t comment.
Wave: What is your main goal as the Assemblyperson of the 31st district?
MT: Education, and maintaining an open door policy with the community.
MD: To see the peninsula develop into a vacation spot for people all over the world. I want to see business and tourism flourish.
Wave: What is your favorite baseball and football team?
MT: Ah…the Yankees? Okay, the Yankees! I like the Jets too.
MD: I’m a Mets man, and I love the Denver Broncos.