While the courthouse at Orangetown Town Hall was packed with standing room-only, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee knows that if she accomplishes all she wants to in her current term, Sunday will be a relatively small part of her next two years.
“It’s not what I say today that necessarily matters,” she said. “It’s what I do, and what we do moving forward that matters.”
Jaffee was sworn back in as a member of the New York State Assembly Sunday in Orangetown after winning her re-election bid last November. She holds the seat in District 97, which includes Orangetown, Chestnut Ridge, Spring Valley, New Square, Airmont, Hillburn and portions of Montebello and Suffern
She was first elected to the assembly in 2006. Sunday, Jaffee was surrounded by family, supporters and colleagues in the courthouse. There were also a few emergency responders in attendance who were honored for their work in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy last year.
“There are people that went well beyond what is anticipated and what is expected, who gave their time and effort and truly deserve our recognition and deserve the honor,” Jaffee said.
During her speech after being sworn in by Family Court Judge William Warren, Jaffee spoke about current hot button issues around the county and how the conversation always comes back to the government.
“Look at the headlines this week: a debate over disaster relief and a debate about stricter gun laws,” she said. “I have always been clear, and I stand where I stand on both discussions and debates. We need funds to rebuild our communities, our infrastructure, restore our lives. We need sensible gun safety laws to keep our communities free from unnecessary danger. Safe strong communities should always be our goal.”
Jaffee also spoke about education and the need to secure funds for education so that students receive quality education no matter what zip code they live in.
“It makes all the economic sense in the world. A Harvard Business Review article shows how unfunded schools lead to weakened economies,” Jaffee said. “A work force that can compete globally begins in childcare and extends to all levels of education. The way to a quality education is a solid beginning with strong quality pre-kindergarten and childcare programs. Every dollar spent on pre-k and kindergarten guarantees our child a brighter future, and eliminates spending on one industry we do not want to grow: state prisons, because quality early childhood education has proven in countless studies to stop our students from seeing crime as an option.”
Jaffee also said she wants to work to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour, plus an index for inflation.
Two members of Congress, Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel, joined the many elected officials on hand for the ceremony. Both spoke about not only the work Jaffee has done, but also about her character.
“What’s most important about Ellen is that she’s a person who wakes up everyday and says, ‘What can I do to make out community, our nation and this world a better place?’” Lowey said. “And I’ve always said, as a public official and I would certainly say it to you again, you can’t always agree with everything your elected representative does. But you want to be sure that the honorable person is truly honorable and makes the decision because she feels that it’s the right decision.”
Engel said it’s important for public officials to show that they’re actually working for the people and that they’re not in politics for themselves.
“She’s not in this for an ego trip, she’s not in this because someday she wants to run for higher office,” Engel said of Jaffee. “She’s in this because she believes that Rockland needs good representation in the New York State Assembly in Albany, and she’s willing to do it. She’s got her feet on the ground. She knows the community. She does what is motivating her, and that is her love for Rockland County.”
Other elected officials on hand for the ceremony included State Sen. David Carlucci, Chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature Harriet Cornell, Rockland County Legislator Toney Earl, Rockland County Sheriff Lou Falco, Orangetown Town Supervisor Andy Stewart, Piermont Mayor Chris Sanders, Nyack Mayor Jen Laird-White, South Nyack Mayor Patricia DuBow, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, Suffern Mayor Dagan LaCorte and others.
There were also musical performances by the Jamaican Civic and Cultural Association of Rockland (JAMCCAR) Ekklipse Steel Band, Pearl River High School Women’s Glee Club and East Ramapo High School Band. Members of the NAACP Youth Council led the room in the Pledge of Allegiance.
After the swearing in, Jaffee and many of the elected officials thanked the various fire and police departments in town for their work after the storm, along with many of the local departments of public works and others.