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Author: The BCW

Congressional Debate a Lively Exchange on Range of Key Issues

From left, BCW Chairman James Schutzer; BCW Executive Vice President & COO John Ravitz; Congressman Jamaal Bowman; News 12 Westchester Anchor Tara Rosenblum; Westchester County Executive George Latimer and BCW President & CEO Marsha Gordon

The Business Council of Westchester and News12 co-hosted a debate on Monday for one of the nation’s highest-profile congressional races.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman and County Executive George Latimer appealed for voters’ support in the race for New York’s hotly contested 16th Congressional District. The one-hour debate in White Plains addressed many issues, including the Middle East, immigration, public safety, and infrastructure.

“The BCW was pleased and proud to have partnered with News12 to bring this important debate to the public,” said BCW president and CEO Marsha Gordon. “This was the latest political event organized by the BCW so that the business community can have a front row seat to hear where the candidates stand on important issues. The BCW does not endorse candidates, but we encourage everyone to participate in the process and vote on Primary Day.”

Moderator Tara Rosenblum began the discussion with a question about the current Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Latimer said Israel has a right to self-defense.

“Any future for peace begins with the release of the hostages or the remains of the hostages, and from that point forward humanitarian aid and a cessation of hostilities makes sense,” said Latimer.

Bowman said he agrees with the Democratic leadership on Israel.

“I align myself with Sen. Chuck Schumer. Benjamin Netanyahu should not be the leader of Israel at this time. He is causing more harm to Israel than good,” said Bowman.

On public safety, Rosenblum noted a recent survey stating that only 37 percent of New Yorkers felt safe in their neighborhoods.

Bowman stressed the need for taking a public health approach to public safety.

“We have to deal with the issue of poverty and abject poverty in our communities. Our communities have been historically neglected, and as a result, we don’t have the economic development, access, and opportunity to the American Dream,” said Bowman. “We need to invest in mental health supports. We need to invest in substance abuse, we need to invest in education. We need to invest in workforce development.”

Latimer said that police presence is essential to bolstering public perception of safety.

“I’ve seen in the Bronx, in the 47th Precinct and in the 45th Precinct, additional police effort that works in harmony with the community and is able to represent a better way to give people a sense of protection. That’s why Co Op city is seen as one of the safest sections of the Bronx because there is a police (presence), but you need to fund them,” said Latimer. “That’s what I’ve done in Westchester County fully funded the police and that is a factor in why violent crimes are down in Westchester County.”

A debate viewer asked the candidates about increased boarder security funding and scrutiny of asylum-seeking migrants.

Bowman said that the border patrol has adequate resources.

“What is missing is more FEMA support, more humanitarian support, and more judges, social workers and lawyers to help process those who are coming in seeking asylum—which is a legal process,” said Bowman.

Latimer called for a reform of the asylum-processing system.

“I call for an asylum court to be established right here in Westchester County,” said Latimer. “That would help us be able to adjudicate cases here and move people through, because you can’t have people living in a hotel room for two years. That’s insane.”

On infrastructure, a debate attendee asked both candidates to describe their efforts to rebuild or improve Westchester’s public works.

Latimer said the county will spend $400 million this year on infrastructure, an amount that is like recent years’ spending.

“We have fixed so much infrastructure. Sprain Ridge pools, Memorial Field, north and south county trainways, improvements to our sewage treatment plants,” said Latimer. “All of those projects represent our hard commitment to infrastructure.”

Bowman also ticked off a series of projects, including the Yonkers sewage treatment plants and the Lake Isle Dam.

“We have brought in resources to invest in all these areas, and many, many more. But infrastructure is not just about hard infrastructure without climate justice,” said Bowman.

A recording of the debate is posted on News12’s website.

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