State Sen. Peter Harckham vowed Sunday the state new legislature would make significant gains on a progressive agenda while also tending to the needs of local municipalities at his swearing in ceremony at Peekskill High School.
The event, which saw Harckham given the oath of office by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a resident of the district who had appealed to the former Westchester County legislator to run for the seat, also had a recurring theme of promoting diversity and inclusion while rejecting the politics of fear and division.
During his address, Harckham reached out to the array of elected officials in the audience from throughout the district, which extends northward into parts of Putnam and Dutchess counties. Most in the crowd thunderously applauded his comments.
“We have a lot of local issues that we need to deal with,” said Harckham, the first Democrat to represent northern Westchester and Putnam in the state Senate since 1914. “First and foremost, to my colleagues in local government, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, what the make-up of your towns are. I work for you and I can’t be successful unless all of you are successful. But it’s not about me about imposing some vision on your municipality. We’re a support system to you for what you are trying to accomplish.”
In the upcoming session, which is scheduled to open this Wednesday, Harckham said there will be immediate attempts at proposing and voting on longtime measures such as the red flag bill which can temporarily remove firearms from gun owners who are deemed a threat to themselves and others, reproductive health care protections for women, the Child Victims Act and election reform. He said more must be done to help state residents who have fallen victim to opioid addiction.
There must also be a focus on local issues such as economic redevelopment, transitioning the state away from a reliance on fossil fuels to green energy and to protect the taxpayers of the Village of Buchanan, the Town of Cortlandt and the Hendrick School District with the pending 2021 closure of Indian Point nuclear power plant, Harckham added.
“We have 1,200 families who are living with uncertainty about what that’s going to do to their school district and municipality,” Harckham said. “We’re going to focus like a laser on economic redevelopment and see what we can do to save those jobs by requiring Entergy to hire them during decommissioning of the plants.”
Cuomo, who asked Harckham to run for the office last spring, said he’s excited for the 40th Senate District because it is getting an outstanding public servant. Harckham has worked in the public sector, private sector and the nonprofit world and is particularly qualified to help move the state forward, he said.
“He knows the job, he knows it from every aspect but he has a heart as big as the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “He’s doing this for all the right reasons.”
Cuomo then turned his attention how with the current federal government is stoking fear and “spreading a cancer” that is dividing the nation that it is left to the state to lead the way.
“The state is going to stand up and fill that void that this federal government is creating,” he said. “Let them try to divide us. Let them try to divide us by religion and race. We’re going to say the exact opposite in this legislative session. We are united, we respect each other’s rights. We stand up for women’s rights, which have been disrespected. We stand up for the LBGTQ community. We’re going to set a tone of unity rather than division.”