WPCNR Morning Sun. Exclusive Interview By Shivaun Dipshan. June 29, 2002. 2:30 AM E.D.T.: Assemblywoman Naomi Matusow has proven to be different, from her opposition to the sales tax in White Plains to going slow on the reform of the Rockefeller drug laws but one thing will always stay the same, her.
Assemblywoman Naomi Matusow of the 89th Assembly District
All Photos by WPCNR
Nothing Has Changed
In an interview with WPCNR at her Mount Kisco office Thursday, Matusow said that even though she only represented a small portion of White Plains before redistricting she has always helped the entire city.
“I have never felt that I have represented only a small portion of White Plains,” she said.
She worked for and successfully passed the mandating of a minimum of 10% in building aid for all the schools in White Plains, which was incorporated in the state budget. This aid also extended to computers as well as textbooks. She noted she also worked with Audrey Hochberg to fund a magnet school in White Plains at the beginning of her 10 years in the Assembly.
Matusow said she would make the same effort to represent White Plains, even though she now represents a larger portion.
Helping to Improve all of White Plains
With discretion over state aid money allotted to her district in the budget, Matusow has donated it to many organizations. For example, she arranged $8,000 over the course of a few years to The Loft, a gay and lesbian organization, and $3,000 to My Sisters Place.
She arranged the funding of $17 million towards establishment of the Judicial Training Center, being created at the law school of Pace University, in White Plains.
She secured $125,000 for the Center of Advanced Technology at Pace University. Matusow has also earmarked $25,000 to the Youth Bureau of the City of White Plains.
In order to improve White Plains transportation, she arranged $100, 000 dollars for a transit-related project, which has yet to be determined by the Mayor.
Assemblywoman Matusow most recently has arranged a Multi-Model grant of $400,000 given to make improvements to any transportation system in the City of White Plains. In a coincidence, White Plains Commissioner of Public Works, Joseph Nicoletti, contacted Ms. Matusow by telephone just Thursday afternoon during this interview to thank her for the Multi-Model monies.
Trying to Get More Money from the State
Matusow voiced her concern about White Plains not getting as much state school aid as it should. She said that upstate they get about 60%-70% of school budgets paid by the state opposed to the 5%-10% that White Plains gets. (White Plains will receive approximately $8.8 MM in state school aid in 2002-03 in a school budget for 2002-03 of $126.9MM.)
She said that it was outgoing Superintendent of Schools, Saul Yanofsky, who brought her attention to the need for reform of how state school aid for building facilities was being denied White Plains.
I DON’T BELIEVE YOU LEGISLATE WITH HEADLINES…RESULTS ARE WHAT I STAND BY: Assemblywoman Matusow noting to WPCNR Reporters projects and bills she has sponsored, gotten passed, and how she has shifted state money to White Plains organizations.
“Making sure we get as much aid as possible is my primary position…We ought to be getting more money from the state”, Matusow said. However, she pointed out that the amount of money made available to the White Plains City School District is determined by formula, and suggested that both the school district and the City of White Plains come to her with specific project needs in the schools and the city.
Ms. Matusow said that White Plains stands to get $1 million from Albany by December if the State Senate passes the Assembly bill increasing local aid 10% over the next three years. She said the bill increases aid 4%, 3%, and 3% over the next three years.
“I am as close as my phone,” She said, picking up the telephone on her modest desk.
Bradley’s Political Tactics
Matusow said her opposition to the sales tax has never been a concern and has only been raised now as an issue to benefit Bradley’s campaign.
“I think my opponent has basically poisoned the well,” she said. “Bradley has succeeded in frightening them… this is a convenient hook if he can scare people enough,” she said. “I know why he’s doing it. It’s to further his political aspirations.”
Matusow described Bradley as a “me, too candidate,” who is in agreement with her on the environment, choice, and school aid, with the sales tax being his only issue.
THE ASSEMBLYWOMAN COOLY PICKED APART THE SALES TAX TRAP: Ms. Matusow, who has been opposed every time she has run for her seat, considers the Adam Bradley challenge part of the political process. She feels confident the northern communities in the 89th Assembly District which together comprise 80% of the voters, with White Plains, making up 20%
will turn the tide in her primary contest with Adam Bradley.
Matusow has not changed her stance on the 1/2% sales tax because she believes that having no sales tax can help boost business sales.
She discussed how, in August of last year, Connecticut had no sales tax on clothing and footwear for back to school sales and everybody went there to shop because it was cheaper.
She believes that the White Plains sales tax is driving consumers away.
“We live in a border area… we should enhance shopping and keep the sales tax down,” she said.
Matusow slowly said that she has voted against the sales tax five times, and “never once have I heard from him (Bradley) about it.”
She also assured us that the ½% sales tax would always pass, despite her “no” vote, and that she would never stand in the way of it getting to the Assembly floor for a vote, “I’ve never stymied it, nor would I.”
Finding New Energy Sources
Matusow objects to Mr. Bradley creating the impression she is weak on Indian Point.
Matusow toured Indian Point in January 2001 and, while she believes it should be shut down, she also understands the need for finding an alternative energy source. She also called for it being shutdown in December, 2001.
“I would like to close it but I am also actively pursuing information about alternative energy sources”, she said.
In a press release from December of last year Matusow expressed her concern about the plant being vulnerable to a terrorist attack. She is also concerned about “the safe storage of spent fuel rods, establishment of an appropriate no-fly zone, and military defense of this potential target.”
In the communication, she states that an “effort must be made to encourage investment in the development and utilization of renewable energy sources.”
Sponsors Mandatory Energy Alternative Evaluation Bill.
Matusow has co-sponsored a bill with Senator Victor Leibell, passed by the Assembly May 25th, requiring all public entities to conduct cost and feasibility studies to determine how they could convert to a more efficient form of energy. Matusow said that there is a state agency to fund such feasibility studies for cities and towns, the New York State Energy Research & Development agency.
Most impressed with geothermal energy.
Matusow believes that geothermal energy is the best replacement for nuclear energy. Geothermal energy works by heat pumps that are placed 4 feet below the ground or lower. These pumps stay at 53 degrees so that in the winter if you were trying to heat your house to 70 degrees you would start at 53 degrees instead of 0 degrees. It also works in the summer because the pump removes the heat from indoors. To find out more information about geothermal energy you can go to http://www.eren.doe.gov/RE/geo_basics.html.
Geothermal energy is used at the Westchester Country Club and has been proven to save 50% of energy, according to Ms. Matusow.
Matusow will continue advocating geothermal energy and is planning another visit to Indian Point to see the spent fuel rod pools. She feels that even should the plant be closed, the rods will still be there, and is concerned about that ongoing hazard.
Matusow Responds to Bradley’s Drug Law Criticism
Adam Bradley, candidate for the Democratic nomination for State Assembly in the 89th district criticized Matusow for opposing reform of the Rockefeller drug laws.
The drug laws severely punish and often incarcerate first time, non-violent drug offenders instead of offering them treatment.
Bradley sees these laws as being costly because it wrecks young lives, families and wastes tax dollars. He is concerned that incarceration of first time non-violent drug offenders is more costly to taxpayers than rehabilitation programs.
How “violent” is “non-violent” she asks.
Matusow, who is in accordance with the district attorney, thinks that the term “non-violent” is used very casually because rape in the 2nd and 3rd degree is constituted as “non-violent.” Additionally manslaughter in the 2nd degree is seen as “non-violent.”
In a press release sent out on June 14th by the New York State District Attorneys Association, it was stated that “roughly 97% of drug felons sentenced to prison were charged with sale or intent to sell.” Furthermore, according to DCJS figures, “77% of those in prison are second or persistent felony offenders.” These facts illustrate that the typical drug offender in prison is a drug dealer and a repeat offender, according to Matusow.
“I want to make sure that people who are out are not a menace to others. I’m not willing to take that chance. We have to revise some of the law,” she said. “I didn’t feel I could go along with the majority of the assembly.”
She also said that a vast majority of first-time drug offenders (75%) are “plea-bargained” by their defense attorneys into interim programs.
In her 10 years in the Assembly, Matusow has passed 36 bills. Some of them include the assault weapon ban legislation, the fingerprinting and background check for school personnel, which include the mandatory reporting of any sexual abuse to law enforcement.
Her legislation for mandatory reporting of sexual abuse came before knowledge of the present church scandal now sweeping New York State.
“I don’t believe you legislate with headlines…results are what I stand by”, she said.
Another bill she co-sponsored, that recently passed was one that raised the driving age, which is an issue she is deeply concerned about.
Ms. Matusow, after ten years in the Assembly is on the Speaker’s Steering Committee, playing a key role in determining what bills come before the Assembly. In addition, she is a member of the Environmental, Transportation, Economic Development, Job Creation, Local Government, Consumer Affairs and Protection; and Tourism, Arts and Sports Development Committees.
In the end only time will tell if her independent stance will win her another term in office.
Ms. Matusow will be appearing shortly on an edition of White Plains Week, the local city news roundup program on Channel 71.
THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY CHAMBER