When I started to think about what the American flag means to me, I realized that the American flag has always been a source of inspiration in good times and bad. In good times, I feel pride in seeing the flag flying over government buildings, schools, fire and police stations, and many other institutions. The display of the flag is a constant reminder, to Americans, that we should be proud to be a citizen of this amazing, wonderful country.
There have, and always will be, many powerful images involving the American flag. In World War II, a group of marines planted the American flag on a hilltop in Iwo Jima in honor of the thousands of servicemen who died there. On a very sad note, we now see flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, with the bodies of our American servicemen. This tradition has been followed in every war. In my opinion, one of the most remarkable accomplishments, by man, was the sending of an American to the moon. The first job of the astronauts after landing on the moon was to plant the American flag on the moon’s surface. And, finally, right after 9/11/2001, the flag was displayed on many, many homes, businesses and cars all over the United States giving us a feeling of security and oneness that we were all in the fight of terrorism, together.
Who would ever have thought that, back in May 1776 when George Washington met with Betsy Ross in her home to ask her if she would sew the first flag, that the American flag would have such significance in the lives of Americans?
Each letter of the word “Flag” stands for what the flag means to me. The ‘F’ stands for Freedom, the ‘L’ stands for Liberty. The ‘A’ stands for Allegiance and the ‘G’ stands for Greatness. To me, the flag will always be a symbol of freedom and liberty. When I see it, it is a vital reminder of American history to me.
On Flag Day, Assemblyman Weisenberg spoke at a Long Beach American Legion ceremony honoring 16 veterans, each of whom had his name inscribed on a brick at the Veterans Walk of Honor. The brick walk is located on the Reynolds Channel bulkhead between Magnolia and National Boulevards. At the ceremony, the Assemblyman presented a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol to 8th grader Russell Goetz whose essay, “What the American Flag Means to Me,” won first prize in the Legion’s Flag Day essay contest for students. (Russell’s winning essay appears in the column to the left.)
During one of the toughest years ever in New York State’s economy, I fought hard to protect funding to our schools. All the schools in my district faced cuts in Governor Paterson’s proposed budget. And, because Long Island is viewed by many in the state as being wealthy and not as needy as some of our neighbors, the aid restorations from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were not as large as I had hoped for. The result was that some districts received increases in state aid, and a small number saw decreases.
I was, however, able to secure additional line items for many of our districts. For example, Oceanside will use this additional grant for several technology projects, including the purchase of Smartboards, laptops on a cart and classroom performance systems. Long Beach Schools will enhance their gifted and talented program to rigorously challenge accelerated learners as well as provide enrichment for all sixth graders. They will also begin an organic garden that will supplement many core classes, while using the produce from the garden to teach students how to market a product at a local farmer’s market. The East Rockaway School District expects to use their grant to strengthen school security, improve equipment for the orchestra and band, purchase materials for driver education and better maintain the athletic fields.
During state budget negotiations, the Governor proposed shifting the cost of preschool special education from the state to local school districts – which would have cost Long Island taxpayers $37 million (in addition to proposed state aid reductions). I was vehemently and vocally opposed to this measure. Treating our most vulnerable children like political footballs by shifting responsibility for their care will never be good public policy. I am very happy to report that this was taken off the table. I also voted against the onerous MTA payroll tax, which unfortunately was adopted, and will burden Nassau County schools alone with an $11.6 million obligation.
Ultimately, I was pleased to see that our local school districts were able to offer taxpayers reasonable budgets, balanced between taxpayers’ ability to pay and the need to ensure that our schools have the resources they need to prepare the next generation for a productive future.
I would like to dedicate this newsletter to the memory of the late Jesse Mistero, an outstanding public servant who was beloved throughout the Five Towns and beyond. Jesse will be remembered as a kind and caring individual who was always willing to extend a helping hand and who was always there for his community. His legacy will live on in his wonderful family and in the many, many people and organizations he helped and supported.
When I hear the words “thank you” from a grateful constituent, or read the words in a note someone has taken the time to write, I am reminded of exactly why I became a legislator – to make a difference. For me, the best part of being a New York State legislator is using my office to gather resources for the benefit of individuals, families and organizations that need my help, to be able to provide for the neediest of our society, and to give hope and reassurance that there are people and agencies working to give everybody dignity, respect and a positive quality of life. Below is a sampling of the “thank you’s” I’ve received in the past few months. In these challenging times, it is important to remember that there is still good work being done.
Long Island Arts Alliance, Karen Petry, Executive Director
“On behalf of the Board of Directors of Long Island Arts Alliance, I would like to thank you for the recent grant. This support allows the Arts Alliance to carry out its program of advancing arts education ... and programs that encourage strategic collaboration among Long Island’s not-for-profit organizations. Thank you for your generous support of these efforts and for recognizing the importance of a vibrant arts community on Long Island.”
Peninsula Counseling Center, Herb Ruben, Executive Director
“On behalf of Peninsula Counseling Center – and especially South Shore Services for the Handicapped – I want to thank you for the grant which you have made possible for us. It’s all the more amazing in light of the serious economic downturn facing us that you were able to come through as you did.”
South Nassau Communities Hospital, Joseph A. Quagliata,
President & CEO
“Thank you for your efforts in securing an appropriation for the South Nassau Family Medicine Center’s Perinatal Education Program – one of the few bilingual programs for prepared childbirth and parenting in Nassau County. Of those receiving obstetrical care at the South Nassau Family Medicine Center, more than 60 percent are Hispanic women of limited English proficiency and nearly all are Medicaid-eligible. This program helps to ensure that this vulnerable population will continue to receive culturally and linguistically appropriate counseling and patient education services that are contributing to improved health outcomes for mothers and their newborns.”
Long Beach Public Library, George Trepp, Director
“We are delighted and thrilled that you could secure such funding and once again display support for the Long Beach Public Library and its users. The Movement Education for Older Adults award was greeted by the seniors with glee and relief … Similarly, the Library is most appreciative for the Theatre at the Library grant, as it enables us to enrich the cultural life of the community. The grant affords the Library the opportunity to present quality, uplifting performances at no cost during a time when discretionary income is diminishing. … Speaking for the Library and the community, many thanks.”
Nassau Community College, Sean A. Fanelli, President
“We are very appreciative of your recognition of the role that community colleges can play in being part of the constructive solution to the difficulties faced by individuals trying not to let go of their dream for a quality higher education. Once again you demonstrated your thorough understanding of how community colleges are a key component of our local economy. It is reassuring that, in you, NCC has a strong partner.”
SJK Foundation, Stephanie Joyce Kahn, Founder
“Year after year I try to express how very grateful I am to you, and, as always, I find myself at a loss for words. Let me simply say that when your letter arrived informing me of the grant for SJK, I asked that it be read to me at least three times! The words joy, relief and gratitude do not do justice to how I felt. ... Your steadfast, ongoing support of our programs have truly played a vital role in the continuation and further expansion of our efforts, and for this I am forever grateful.”
Meadowmere Park Civic Association
“With grateful appreciation for all that you have done, and continue to do, to assist us in achieving our goals.”