Jun 01, 2012
By Amanda Mayo
Dr. David Sussman, a Lawrence resident who has served on the school board of the Lawrence Union Free School District for the past 17 years, has officially been nominated to run as Assemblyman for New York State Assembly District 20. He will be running on the Republican ticket, against long-time incumbent Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach). The election will be on November 6. So far, Sussman is the only Republican challenger.
Sussman is a urologist with an office in Brooklyn and has lived in The Five Towns since 1963 where he served as president and vice president on the Lawrence School Board. He himself was a student in the Lawrence school district and his children have graduated from the district as well.
“My forte, as I think every school board member’s forte should be, is bringing the best education possible to all the children of the district at a tax level that everyone can afford,” Sussman said. He recalled his achievements with the Lawrence School Board and its tax level. “At the local level, I think we’ve done a very, very strong job. The rate of increase for District 15 taxes is basically the lowest in the state,” he said. This is the first time he is running for a public office other than school board.
“When I look past the school, I see that we’re suffering from the same problems that the rest of this Assembly District and the state and Long Island are suffering from,” he said, adding that a reason that he is running is to get to the power source of district problems up in Albany. “These are issues that are coming from Albany. They’re not coming from the local districts.”
Sussman said that right now, taxes are a huge issue and so is education. “I’d like to see a change in direction,” he said. “We’ve been fighting hard for better education opportunities for everyone, but we’re up against institutional problems that need to be solved at a higher level.”
He spoke of teacher tenure and how teachers are considered for tenure after only three or four years of teaching. “I submit that we have to look long and hard at that system and ask ourselves, ‘Does it serve the children or does it serve some other interest?’” He added, “People change, and yet after four years we basically say to a teacher ‘You’re ours, forever.’ It has to be looked at much more carefully,” he said.
“We need to decrease taxes. We need to look at the delivery of all items that the state is involved with, that your tax dollars are involved, with and say ‘Are they being done in the most efficacious matter that they can be?’ And if not, we have to change them appropriately.”
The last election cycle for New York State Assembly was in 2010 when incumbent Weisenberg was challenged by Josh Wanderer, a tax attorney from Lawrence and chairman of the board of the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway. Wanderer lost by a very narrow margin, the smallest margin in years. “One of the down sides of my campaign was I got off to a considerably late start,” he said. “I didn’t start seriously campaigning until the middle of September which gave me less than a month and a half to overcome the main recognition issue.” Weisenberg was in office for 20 years at that point, so overcoming name recognition proved difficult for Wanderer.
“One of the things Dr. Sussman is going to have to do is campaign earlier,” Wanderer said. “He’s going to have to connect with the people of Long Beach. It’s going to be difficult. Everything is timing. It’s going to be a lot of hard work.” Wanderer said that winning the election could certainly be in Sussman’s future, especially if he wins the people of Long Beach.
Sussman said there are a lot of problems down here on Long Island, including the distribution of state aid, that need to be fixed at the source in Albany. “ An unfair burden is being placed on the suburbs. Nassau and Suffolk have become a piggy bank for subsidizing New York City,” Sussman said. “The system is broken in Albany and we have to repair it at its source. We can work as hard as we can down here but we can’t change what’s raining down on us without getting to the place where it starts.”
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