The video released by the Rockland GOP regarding the illegal housing situation in Rockland has stirred up much emotion and passion. Regardless of your view on the issue, it is not about any one picture, video, religion or race.
The reality is we have a problem in Rockland County that has gone unaddressed for so long that it has been allowed to fester into a heated debate over everything except for the issue at hand.
Through the debate and rhetoric, we must not forget the fact that the problem of illegal housing needs to be addressed. It has become extremely dangerous for our first responders, particularly our volunteer firefighters and EMS, as well as our residents.
I believe that our sheriff should be a partner and play a leading role in the crackdown of illegal housing. County Executive Ed Day has begun to address the problem through launching a Code Enforcement Initiative and its Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team (UNIT).
Sheriff Falco claims to be working with the county executive, but not one claim has come from his department through the Codes Initiative, and the sheriff’s office has never had any representatives on the Illegal Housing Task Force as he claims.
In fact, it wasn’t until just the other day – after he made his false claims of involvement on the issue – that the sheriff called the head of that task force and asked to be included.
This has unfortunate similarities to the Sheriff’s lack of involvement in the Drug Task Force and efforts to end Medicaid fraud. Sheriff Falco has even gone so far as to jump on stage for drug busts he and his office had nothing to do with, rather than actually working to stop drugs in our community.
It is easy to say it’s “not my problem” and just turn away or to claim that you’ve “done all you can,” but these issues we face are too serious. The people of Rockland County deserve better – they deserve a sheriff who will get involved and make a difference regardless of the obstacles.
This is why I have developed a 5-point plan for how my Sheriff’s Department will have a real and meaningful role in the fight to end the illegal housing problem in Rockland and keep innocent families and first responders safe. My plan consists of the following:
- Direct the Sheriff’s Civil Enforcement Division to proactively target those who ignore housing violation fines levied by any court in Rockland, or who ignore subpoenas issued in such cases.
- Rather than passively waiting for the office of Consumer Protection to identify violators, work with them to proactively target both unlicensed contractors and unscrupulous licensed contractors who are responsible for these illegal subdivisions and unsafe conditions by directly assigning Sheriff’s deputies to this task as their primary responsibility.
- Re-task members of the Sheriff’s Patrol Division to enforcement of code violations in coordination with the County Health Department by incorporating them directly into the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team (UNIT), which will greatly improve that team’s capabilities to enforce the law and find offenders.
- Send Sheriff’s deputies for training in code enforcement with New York State Division of Building Standards and Codes as part of their professional development, in order to better equip them to identify and root out unlawful developers and unsafe conditions.
- Work directly with volunteer community groups, particularly the Illegal Housing Task Force to receive any reports of, identify, and arrest or fine any housing violators and scofflaws.
You can read the full plan by going to: http://www.vasquezforsheriff.com/illegalhousing.html
As we move forward as one Rockland County it is important that we do so with a sheriff who will be committed to enforcing laws fairly and consistently and who will not bend to political pressure or protect their own interests.