A veterans group is holding a forum for the 13th City Council district’s candidates.
The Bronx County American Legion has invited candidates in the Tuesday, September 12 Democratic primary for the 13th City Council district, and the general election Tuesday, November 7, to a forum that specifically addresses veterans-related issues at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 9.
The forum, which takes place at the Samuel Young American Legion Post 620 in Pelham Bay, will address issues germane to the 33,000 veterans living in the borough, many of whom reside in the 13th City Council district.
There will be questions pertaining to services related to helping homecoming veterans as they transition to civilian life, making the city government responsive to veterans needs, how to support troops overseas and their own thoughts on the military.
Event organizer Joe Bello said that a lot has changed since the last municipal election in 2013 including the addition of veterans courts in all five boroughs, the creation of a NYC Department of Veterans Services, veterans property tax exemptions and mental health training.
Much of the time candidates stick to talking points about supporting troops and veterans, but the forum sponsors want to hear specifics and not generalities from the candidates, said Bello.
“We want to hear something a little more tangible,” said Bello, adding “We have had some real significant changes over the past four years.”
The American Legion would like all veterans to participate in the forum, said Pat Devine of the Theodore Korony American Legion Post 253.
The district itself has a large number of veterans and veterans’ organizations, said Devine, adding that there are at least ten organizations in the district.
“I am not interested in the potholes and stop signs, we are strictly looking at veterans issues,” said Devine. “It is strictly about…how they are going to serve the veterans on the City Council.”
Devine said that he believes this is the first time that a candidate forum specifically addressing veterans issues has taken place in the 13th district.
Bello said the first veterans forum was held by Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. in 2013.
Issues like housing, homelessness and mental health concerns, said Bello, for the brave men and women of our military will be front and center at this forum.
Tom Hansen, past post commander of Post 253, and a past county American Legion commander, said that the changing of the guard in the 13th district is of great importance because Councilman Vacca was known to be pro-veteran.
Vacca was instrumental in helping build Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park first as Community Board 10’s district manager and later as a councilman, said Hansen.
“Our perspective is this is something that has not happened in our community in a very long time,” said Hansen. “We would like to see how (the candidates) would approach our veterans.”
As of press time, confirmed for the forum are John Cerini, John Doyle, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, Egidio Joseph Sementelli and Majorie Velazquez.