Vallone, Council Seek Better Cop—Community Relations With New Committee
BY JOHN TOSCANO
As the City Council signaled its resolve last week to create a dialogue and improve police–community relations, Council Speaker Peter Vallone declared it was "time for New York’s political leadership to step up and ensure that a terrible tragedy like the Amadou Diallo incident does not happen again."
Vallone said that in creating the select Committee on Police Performance and Community Relations, the Council was declaring its commitment to enact "fundamental change in the relationship between our communities and our police."
Vallone added, "The first step in this process is to create a dialogue so that both sides can begin to understand the other’s perspective."
Toward that end, the new committee will hold a series of town hall meetings in each borough in the coming months. Each meeting will bring members of the community and the Police Department together to hear the concerns of residents and to examine police tactics and strategies.
One of the members of the new committee is Councilmember Walter McCaffrey (D–Woodside).
Responding to reporters’ questions about the new panel’s operations, Vallone asserted, "We don’t intend this to be an exercise in police-bashing."
The Council declared openly that the new committee had been created in the wake of the death of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx and the recent acquittal after trial of the four police officers who had fired the shots that resulted in Diallo’s death.
Diallo’s death and the jury’s verdict have sparked strong protests and demonstrations and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has also become a target of the protestors.
The situation could get some added volatility when the verdict is issued in another highly publicized police brutality case in Brooklyn.
HEVESI URGES ‘CALM’:After the Diallo verdict was issued, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi issued the following statement: "The killing of Amadou Diallo was a tragedy. The jury has reached its verdict and, while passions are high, we have to ensure two things—one, that calm and sober reflection mark this event; and two, that we reform the Police Department to improve training and supervision so that we do not face the repetition of this tragedy."
COUNCIL–MAYOR CONFLICT:The mayor and the Council got into a tiff last week over a bill the legislators passed to protect employee rights at city food markets. The mayor and Republicans in the Council complained that the bill would give unions a chance to extort from businesses in ways similar to those used by mob-controlled unions on the waterfront.
Vallone said the mob reference was "ridiculous" and that workers and all unions should not be judged the same as unions proven to be tainted.
Council Minority Leader Thomas Ognibene (R–C, Middle Village) charged the Council’s action was politically motivated and that the bill was only passed to elicit a mayoral veto which would then be overridden. Several stories recently said the Council would pursue such a strategy to embarrass the mayor in his campaign for the United States Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton.
INDY PARTY SQUABBLE STYMIES CANDIDATES:The ongoing battle for control of the Independence Party at both the state and local levels is having some effect on the Giuliani and Clinton campaigns. With Pat Buchanan as one of the leading contenders to become the Reform Party’s presidential nominee, and given both Giuliani and Clinton’s aversion to Buchanan, the two Senate candidates are staying firmly uncommitted as far as approaching the Independence organization for support.
Meanwhile, the fight for control of the party goes on. At a recent state committee meeting, Frank McKay of Suffolk County was elected state chairman, displacing Jack Essenberg, also a Suffolk resident, but Essenberg is challenging the legality of the state committee’s action.
Locally, Gerald Everett of Woodside is aligned with McKay and is recognized as the Queens party chairman. Michael Niebauer, of Whitestone who headed the Queens organization since its inception several years ago, is aligned with the Essenberg faction, and maintains he is still county chairman.
Perhaps the hazy picture will be clarified with a court ruling on Essenberg’s challenge to McKay, or with the presidential primary results. Meanwhile, the Clinton–Giuliani relations with the Independence organization could be affected by the national Reform Party’s consideration of Senator John McCain as its presidential nominee.
The Independence Party is the Reform Party’s affiliate and locally, Niebauer’s faction backed Donald Trump as the presidential candidate before the mega-real estate developer quit the race. Everett says he’s neutral in the presidential race, although some of his colleagues are leaning to Buchanan.
BALLOT REFORM BLOCKED:State Senator Daniel Hevesi (D–Central Queens) complained last week after senate Republicans refused to consider his bill reforming the presidential primary law in New York state. Under that law, United States Senator John McCain (R–Arizona) would have been kept off the ballot in Tuesday’s primary. It required a court suit to order that he be placed on the ballot.
Under Hevesi’s bill, nationally recognized candidates would be able to demand a spot on the primary ballot, but "fringe candidates" would have to get 5,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Delegates to national conventions would be apportioned based on a candidate’s total vote.
State Senate Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said Hevesi’s bill didn’t go far enough, and he stated the Republicans would address primary ballot changes later in the session.
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR GRADUATE STUDY:Four scholarships of $2,500 each are available for individuals entering graduate study for the first time in the fall pursuing an advanced degree in political science, public administration, public policy or a related field, Assemblymember Margaret Markey announced. The Maspeth Democrat said applications and supporting documentation must be submitted by June 20th and applicants must contact the Sprint Corporation, the sponsor, at 1-800-796-3464. Sprint’s offer is being coordinated by the Women’s Network of the National Conference of State Legislatures, of which Markey is a member.
GARAUFIS FEDERAL JUDGE?:According to a release from Borough President Claire Shulman, her former counsel, Nick Garaufis, has been nominated by Clinton to be a judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District. The proud and pleased B.P. declared that Garaufis, of Douglaston, "will be an outstanding jurist." Garaufis served Shulman from 1986 to 1995, when he left to become chief counsel to the Federal Aviation Administration.
MALONEY SEEKS DORM SPRINKLERS:On the heels of a fire at Seton Hall University which took three lives, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Manhattan/Astoria) introduced a bill requiring colleges to disclose to students and parents whether their dorms are fully sprinkler-equipped and smoke alarm-equipped. It also requires the federal Fire Administration to develop dorm room safety standards that will require sprinklers and smoke alarms, and universities to adopt compliance plans.
SHULMAN HITS LIRR SERVICE:Borough President Claire Shulman said last week that her longstanding assessment that Long Island Rail Road service in Queens is appalling has not changed in recent years.
Citing a recent report that showed Queens users of the LIRR must endure high fares, sparse service and other shortcomings, Shulman declared: "The LIRR apparently still feels that the purpose of the tracks in Queens is to transport commuters from Manhattan to Nassau and Suffolk counties."
Nine years ago, Shulman criticized the railroad for abandoning Queens starting 30 years ago.
CROWLEY, FBI TEACH LIC KIDS:Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D-Elmhurst) joined forces with the FBI recently to teach a computer safety class for students and educators at IS 204 in Long Island City about the dangers of child predators on the net. Crowley said that last year alone the FBI had opened about 1,500 new child exploitation and pornography cases emanating from computer uses.
Crowley emphasized to the students: never give name, address and other personal information without parents’ permission; never agree to a face-to-face meeting; and never send mean messages or use bad language." Just as a kid should not talk to strangers on the street, she or he should not talk to a stranger in a chat room," Crowley advised.
WEPRIN FAVORS CAMERAS IN COURTROOMS:Pursuing his efforts to allow cameras in courtrooms on a permanent basis, Assemblymember Mark Weprin (D–Bayside) said the recent use of cameras in the Diallo trial in Albany showed how beneficial the practice is. "Whether you agree or disagree with the verdict," Weprin stated, "cameras allowed all citizens the opportunity to see and hear this trial firsthand. It gave everyone the chance to draw their own conclusions without media bias and without having to listen to other spin doctors’ versions of what the trial was like."
WEINER AGREES WITH PA, BUT...:Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Brooklyn/Queens) applauds the Port Authority’s decision to continue its sound-proofing of schools near airports, but thinks the program would be more far-reaching and effective if the PA supplemented the federal government’s funding of the program with some of its own funds.
Weiner, whose district includes Kennedy Airport and who constantly rides herd over the PA’s noise abatement efforts, said the PA should do more to soundproof homes as well as schools.
HATE STICKERS AGAIN IN C.P.:Tony Avella, president of the North Shore Anti Graffiti Volunteers, reports that "hate stickers" reappeared recently on telephone poles in College Point. Avella attributes them to the National Alliance, which he describes as "a neo-Nazi extremist group" promoting anti-American programs.
Avella and other volunteers in the area removed many similar stickers from poles in the past. "It’s a very serious matter," he says. "Perhaps these sick individuals forget that most Americans are descendents of immigrants."