The NAACP Freeport – Roosevelt Youth and Young Long Island for Justice held a candidate forum on Feb. 19th and Feb 20th. The forum was created to help reach young voters and to spread voting information so residents can get out and vote in Freeport. The four candidates running with We The People are Thelma Lambert-Watkins for Mayor, Tiffany Pandola for Village Trustee and Juana Prado-Moore for village trustee, and Michelle Baptiste for Village Justice.
Michelle Baptiste, an attorney for 20 years born to immigrant parents, focused on the diversity of Freeport and how she would advocate for those in need of a fair judicial system. Baptiste worked as an administrative law judge and a hearing officer. Baptiste said she, “Conducted hearings and made decisions based on the merits of the case,” and will continue to do that if elected into village justice.
COVID has moved all court proceedings onto Zoom, making video conference calls inexpensive to the courts budget. Baptiste said that, “virtual court appearances should continue past COVID,” because the revenue coming for travel could be reallocated.
But the budget for the court isn’t the only fund that We The People says need to be reallocated. Pandola, who is running for village trustee, wants to focus on the spending amount to run the Village of Freeport. According to the Incorporated Village of Freeport, NY Financial Statement and Supplementary Information, the budget has increased by 14%.
“We’re getting a lot of federal and state aid… which is great, but when you’re dealing with a crisis like COVID right now, we’re not going to have that guaranteed state aid or grant opportunity next year,” said Pandola. “So what’s going to happen?”
Pandola went on to say that she would work with people to see where and why the budget has increased and how it can best serve the Freeport community.
Mayoral candidate Lambert-Watkins expressed her love for her community during her introduction. Lambert-Watkins has attended every school in Freeport, sits on the Freeport PTA as council president for eight schools and sits on the board for a local non profit homeless shelter Eager to Serve Inc.
Hurricane Sandy was the cause of many businesses and residents leaving the state. Lambert-Watkins goal is to advocate for the community by revitalizing businesses in Freeport, creating affordable housing and protecting the immigrant community.
Lambert-Watkins believes that if businesses are thriving in Freeport and the community, it will build stability and continuity.
“It will make us more sustainable to make us bring back the families, and maintain the families that are here,” said Lambert-Watkins.
When asked if there was enough community input on Gov. Andrew Cuomo Executive Order 203, she responded.
“I do not think that there was enough community involvement… as far as what they’re doing to follow up with that reform program,” said Lambert-Watkins. “I feel that there could be more done.”
Having an outside entity to handle investigations, similar to a Citizen’s Review Board is what Lambert-Watkins feels should be implemented in Freeport.
“These collaboration programs are something that we’d implement in Freeport,” said Lambert-Watkins. “It would help us transition forward towards Gov. Cuomo’s reform program policies.”
Juana Prado-Moore, who is running for village trustee, was not able to join the forum.
Young Long Island for Justice plans on sending out 12,000 text messages to make sure young voters get to the polls by March 16 for the village election.