Two men are in a race to become the Democratic nominee for District 4 of the Orange County Legislature. Kevindaryan Lujan and Omari Shakur will face off in the Democratic primary election next month.
Both Lujan and Shakur are well-known community activists in Newburgh. District 4 encompasses a portion of Balmville and the East End of the City of Newburgh. The seat is being vacated by Curlie Dillard, who is stepping down due to health concerns.
Lujan, a member of the Orange County Young Democrats, ran for a seat on the Newburgh City Council in 2015. Lujan has received the endorsement of the Working Families Party.
“Our main focus is our cities and working families,” said Lujan. “Cities have been ignored. We want to make sure we’re fighting to get our fair share of resources and services for our community.”
The city is burdened by issues related to poverty. We’re a city that has struggled with poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of development and lack of county support,” said Lujan. “We have a big crime issue. If you want to address poverty, you have to address crime.”
Jobs and job training are needed for district residents, he said. However, high taxes have become a barrier to development and investment, Lujan said. “We have among the highest taxes of any city in the state,” he said. “We need more houses on the tax roll, more tax ratables. We need to make it more affordable for people who want to come and buy homes and open businesses.”
“We need to make sure we’re investing in the right way,” Lujan asserted, including tech companies, trade schools and art galleries that draw tourism. “Ultimately, we want long-term benefits and livable-wage jobs.”
“We should not be creating industries that hurt the environment,” he added. “We’re a community at the crossroads of many environmental issues,” he said, citing so-called “bomb trains” traveling along the Hudson River, a proposed oil pipeline along the Thruway and PFOS contamination of the City of Newburgh watershed. “Clean air and clean water are basic human rights. We need to make sure we have people who will fight for these issues at the county level.”
Efforts to combat dumping and blight need to be supported and stepped up, Lujan said.
Omari Shakur, a City of Newburgh native, ran for the District 4 seat in 2009. He ran twice to become City of Newburgh mayor; once in 2011 and again in 2015. Shakur has been endorsed by the Orange County Democratic Committee.
He agreed drinking-water concerns are a priority in the district. “That is the biggest issue right now. We want to make sure that policy is put into place for mandatory testing,” Shakur said, for PFOS and other contaminants that may be lurking in drinking water around the county from runoff and other forms of pollution. “We don’t know exactly what’s going on. We need to find out.”
And, more outreach is needed to inform residents about pollutants in their neighborhoods, he said. “We need economic development and growth,” Shakur said. “We need good paying jobs so people can have stable lives and take care of their families.”
One of the ways to ensure this is to increase job training opportunities, particularly in growing industries such as the renewable-energy sector. “One of the things we hope we’ll see more of are green jobs,” he said. “I’m talking about solar power, hydroelectric… We need to make sure people get the necessary training to be ready for these jobs in the future.”
Residents also need to be able to get to work, he said. “One of the things we think will help is a low-cost, busing system,” he said, where riders can travel throughout the county on one low fare.
If elected to the position, Shakur said, he would work with lawmakers across the aisle. “I’m willing to learn and keep an open mind,” he said.
The Democratic nominee will face Republican Anthony Tarsio in the general election in November. The primary election takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
By SHANTAL RILEY