A Broad or a Narrow Vision for the job of Rockland County District Attorney?
Trial lawyers are very competitive, and prosecutors even more so. They hate to lose. Yet the elected District Attorney has a higher responsibility than merely winning cases. His obligation to uphold the law, protect the public, and to do justice. There are two views as to how the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office should function. One view is that issues such as systemic welfare and Medicaid abuse should be handled by the state, and that land use regulation, including zoning, illegal housing and fire safety violations should be handled at the town and village level. Under this approach, the DA’s office should stick with prosecuting what it traditionally prosecutes—violent crime, financial and theft crimes, and drug dealers (including opioids), and little more. It is a narrow view. I disagree with such a constrained view of protecting the public interest, in view of the problems we see in Rockland today. A District Attorney who fails to comprehend that people are worried about overdevelopment, about tax increases, and about our quality of life is a DA with blinders on and his head in the sand. A District Attorney must open his eyes and see what is happening in Ramapo and happening around the region. Let me ask: What has the State of New York done to abate the overuse and defrauding of Medicaid and other welfare programs? Little or nothing. Yet the use of these programs is growing exponentially in Rockland County and vicinity. What has government in the Town of Ramapo (including its villages, such as Chestnut Ridge) done about illegal housing, spot zoning, slumlord abuse of minority and immigrant populations, and fire safety violations, including unsafely allowing people to be potentially endangered in “three car garages” misused for large gatherings of people (for political, social or religious purposes—the purpose does not matter)? Little or nothing. What has county, town and village government done to stem special interest illegality and public corruption? Again, very little. Fortunately, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office have helped find appropriate housing behind bars, in federal prison, for corrupt actors. Public corruption has resulted in many of the land use problems we see in Ramapo. It has also resulted in the severe educational deprivation for too many children attending public and religious schools in the East Ramapo Central School District. A politically independent District Attorney can use the power of the office to promote lawful behavior. However, this requires a District Attorney who has his eyes open and his ears to the ground. It requires a DA who understands both immediate and long-range threats to public order and the general welfare. It requires a District Attorney with vision, not one with tunnel-vision. It requires a DA who will protect the rights of all our citizens. Today, Rockland needs a DA who will prosecute fairly and honestly, and who will also use his office as a bully pulpit, to help steer the Titanic that is our County to safer waters. A DA who will not abandon ship when confronted with the icebergs we see ahead of us, namely Bloc-controlled politicians, corrupt actors and special interests, and those who ignore sound land use regulations and fire codes. Mike Diederich, Jr. Stony Point Candidate for Rockland County District Attorney (published Oct. 2, 2019 in Our Town)