2000-12-27 / Political Page

Leffler Steps On Vallone’s Toes At Press Conference

BY JOHN TOSCANO

There probably wasn’t much chance for it previously and now it looks certain that City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Councilmember Sheldon Leffler will not in any way support each other’s campaigns for public office next year.

Vallone, who’s running for mayor next year, was dissed by Leffler, a 2001 candidate for Queens Borough President, when Leffler abruptly grabbed the microphone at Vallone’s press conference last week to announce his cell phone ban legislation.

Leffler made the unusual move to make it known that he introduced a similar bill in 1999 to completely prohibit us of cellular phones while driving a car.

Vallone, acting quickly, took the microphone away from Leffler (D–Queens Village) and announced that Leffler’s bill will be one of several dealing with cell phones that will come up for discussion in the Council next month. But, Vallone made clear, he disagrees with Leffler’s bill "and there’s no way I will support a total ban on cell phones."

Vallone’s bill, introduced last week, slaps a fine on anyone caught using a cell phone while driving, but allows drivers to talk into headsets and to dial for calls. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also supports a bill like Vallone’s, so its’ likely that this is the one that will become law.

Meanwhile, Leffler’s breach of political etiquette has likely engendered a level of animosity in Vallone such that he’ll get the word out to his supporters throughout the borough to try to scuttle any chance Leffler might have in the crowded borough president primary field.

Other Democrats who have announced they’re seeking the B.P. post are former central Board of Education members Carol Gresser, Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz (Forest Hills) and Helen Marshall (East Elmhurst) and Assemblymember Anthony Seminerio (Ozone Park). Councilmember Mike Abel hopes to get the Republican nomination, and there’ll probably be more Dems in the race as the 2001 campaign heats up.

Of course, the big prize next year is the mayorality. Vallone is in that race along with City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, Public Advocate Mark Green and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. The Reverend Al Sharpton is also a strong possibility to run for Gracie Mansion.

On the Republican side, City Council Minority Leader Thomas Ognibene (Middle Village) is considering running as well as is an operator of a financial news service.

EYES VOTING METHODS: Wasting no time, United States Senator Charles Schumer (D–New York) and Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, have introduced legislation to update voting methods throughout the U.S.

Their bipartisan bill would create a $500 million matching grant program that would fund efforts of individual states to upgrade voting machines and systems. the Schumer–Brownback bill would also provide $10 million for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to study available voting systems.

The FEC would have all of 2001 to complete a study of current methods of voting and then offer a variety of plans to the states to try to prevent the same confusion that marked balloting in Florida and other states in the George W. Bush–Al Gore presidential election.

In 2002, the federal government would allocate $250 million to cover three-quarters of the cost incurred by states to update their voting systems as recommended by the FEC. Additional funding would follow in future years.

Schumer said a majority of New York state’s voting machines are about 50 years old and are often purchased from other states. The Brooklyn lawmaker estimated it would cost $120 million to upgrade the state’s voting system.

MALTESE TO RE-INTRODUCE BILL: Incorporating a change suggested by Governor George Pataki when he vetoed a bill to help battered women get released from prison, state Senator Serphin Maltese (R–C, Middle Village) said last week he will re-introduce the bill.

The bill vetoed by Pataki would have given the state Correction Commissioner the sole authority to allow women convicted of all types of assaults, including homicide, to be released from prison if their crimes had been committed as a result of substantial physical, sexual or psychological abuse by the victim of the crime.

Pataki vetoed the bill, which he otherwise supported, because it gave the Correction Commissioner sole discretion. The governor said the district attorney who prosecuted the underlying crime originally was in a better position to determine whether the convicted woman committed the offense because of substantial domestic violence.

Maltese said he will introduce the bill again because he believes "that these women should be given special consideration."

DEN DEKKER FUNDRAISER: Queens County democratic leader Thomas Manton and Assemblymember Margaret Markey were among the guests, including business, labor and community leaders, who attended 25th Council District candidate Michael G. Den Dekker’s first fundraiser recently.

Den Dekker, running for the Democratic nomination for the Jackson Heights/East Elmhurst seat being vacated by Councilmember John Sabini, described the event as a "huge success," but didn’t say how much was raised.

Besides Manton and Markey, on whose staff Den Dekker works, the candidate singled out Sanitation men’s Association Local 831 leaders for their support.

Den Dekker said in a brief talk that he wants to become the council representative because the district covers the area where he was born and raised and he wants to help it grown into the next millenium.

Other Democrats in the 25th Council District race are Rudolph Greco, Jackson Heights activist, James Lisa, Corona district leader, Mal Press, businessman and community activist, Ellen Raffaele, former chief of staff to city Councilmember Sabini; and Jimmy van Bramer, a Queens Borough Public Library staffer who hails from the Woodside portion of the district.

GOV SIGNS LAFAYETTE BILL: Applications by convicted felons to change their names are now assured of coming under public scrutiny under a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette (D–Jackson Heights) that was recently signed into law by Pataki.

Lafayette said, "The law requires that victims, prosecutors and the state Department of Criminal Justice Services be notified when a convicted felon petitions the state to change his or her name. The law makes it more difficult for a convicted felon to simply change his or her name without the victim’s and prosecutor’s knowledge."

McLAUGHLIN FESTIVAL: Rabbi Charles Agin of the Free Synagogue of Flushing and Monsignor Edward Bottino of St. Mary’s Nativity Roman Catholic Church in Flushing, gave an interfaith air to Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin’s recent season-launching Holiday Festival in Bowne Park.

The religions leaders participated in the lighting of a Christmas tree and Chanukah Menorah. Later, Norma Tower lent her voice to community Christmas carols. McLaughlin also recognized the J division of Local 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, for the work they did in setting up the lights for the festive event.


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