Feuding Starts As Mayoral Campaign Gets Ugly
If last week’s face-off between City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and comptroller Alan Hevesi is any indication, we’re in for a blistering 14 weeks of campaigning winding down to the Sept. 11 Democratic mayoral primary.
The two Queens pols tried to put a friendly face on things during their budget debate at a City Council hearing, addressing each other as "Peter" and "Alan." But in reality it looked more like the Hatfield and McCoy feud of legend as Hevesi leveled charges that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s proposed budget was paving the way for $4.5 billion a few years down the road and Vallone retorted sarcastically that his Forest Hills foe had uttered similar dire warnings in the past which never panned out.
Putting the impromptu debate in its proper focus was a remark by Hevesi at one point that Vallone’s questions were asked with a "lot of venom," as one reporter covering the event wrote.
In prior campaign appearances before Queens Democrats picked Hevesi over Vallone in the mayoral race and everyone was on his most politically correct behavior, the "Alan" and "Peter" references came in conversational tones. But with only a little more than three months to go, the gloves are off and the battle for Queens and the rest of the city is in full tilt. Another long, hot summer lies ahead.
While Vallone and Hevesi are going at it hot and heavy, the two frontrunners in the race. Public Advocate Mark Green and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, seem content to let the pair beat up on each other.
BLOOMBERG LOOMS: Meanwhile, media magnate Michael Bloomberg was acting more like a candidate over the Memorial Day weekend, joining Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in parades in Forest Hills and Douglaston/Little Neck. This brings greater expectations that the $4 billion man will soon officially enter the race for the Republican and Conservative nominations for mayor. He let it be known on Monday that he’s prepared to spend freely to try to capture the mayor’s office. Giuliani had encouraging things to say about Bloomberg as well, so everything seems to be falling into place for the well-heeled candidate-to-be.
BALLOTING HELP: Legislation hoppers in Albany and Washington are loaded with proposals to improve the voting process throughout the country.
In Washington, United States Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and three of his colleagues collaborated on two bipartisan bills for election reform and condensed them into one which has been given a good chance of being enacted.
The compromise measure would make $2.5 billion available over five years for local governments to buy new voting machines or upgrade equipment. Local governments would have to foot 25 percent of the bill. The measure would be especially welcome in New York City where some voting machines are 50 years old.
The bill would set up a bipartisan commission to look into disturbing issues that have come to light since the Florida debacle last winter. Another agency, also bipartisan, would be created to consider the commission’s recommendations.
Schumer had teamed up with Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, chairman of the powerful Rules Committee, to create one of the bills in the compromise. McConnell’s involvement will help to assure the compromise bill’s passage.
Meanwhile, a New York state senate task force on elections, co-chaired by Senator Serphin Maltese (R-C, Middle VIllage) proposed creating statewide standards for counting absentee ballots, a centralized registry of voters and higher pay for poll workers. It also proposes providing $25 million to implement to plan. The Democrat-controlled Assembly is working on a similar proposal.
LOWERING DWI STANDARD: In another compromise in Albany, both Dems and Republicans are supporting lowering blood alcohol levels from 0.10 to 0.08 percent to determine if an individual is considered intoxicated while driving.
The movement toward the lower level was prompted by a law enacted in Washington several months ago under Congressmember Nita Lowey’s (D–Westchester/Queens) sponsorship. The law requires states to accept the lower blood level standard or lose federal highway funds, in New York state about $48 million, by 2007.
The Assembly has raised some issues, one of them calling for a separate law to deal with repeat offenders and alcoholics who cause fatal crashes. Even if these differences are resolved, the measure would have to survive during the negotiation on the state budget that is now two months (or 60 days) late. Budget talks either proceed at a snail’s pace or do not proceed at all.
SAVORING SENATE CONTROL: The mind-boggling action by U.S. Senator James M. Jeffords last week which gave Democrats control of the Senate brought different reactions from local Democrats. Congressmember Gregory Meeks (Southeast Queens) saw it as retaliation for President George W. Bush’s "Heavy handed tactics, threats of retribution to members of Congress if they voted against his proposed policies and an ultra conservative agenda that benefits only the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans."
Schumer emphasized that in gaining control of the Senate, Democrats can now bring about a more balanced federal judiciary through their control over approving or disapproving the president’s judgeship recommendations.
But the greatest benefits will come, Queens Congressmembers agreed, in assuring that in compromises between both houses of Congress, New York state can look forward with some degree of assurance to securing billions of dollars each year for vital transportation, construction and other capital projects.
‘REMEMBER GOVERNORS ISLAND’ PER MALONEY: Continuing her long-running battle to acquire Governors Island for New York City, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney asserted last week that President Bush would never put a price on the Alamo in his beloved Texas, so why do it with Governors Island, which is as highly revered by New Yorkers?
Maloney spoke out after a report that the Bush Administration was looking to sell the island for about $500 million. Maloney (D-Manhattan/ Queens) reminded the president that his predecessor, Bill Clinton, had offered the island to New York state for $1. She also pointed out that Clinton had declared the island’s two forts national monuments, so legally the island cannot be sold. Therefore, said Maloney, the forts are national treasures just as much as the Alamo, and their value should be marked in contributions to history, not in dollars.
BREAK GROUND: Councilmember Walter McCaffrey (D-Woodside) was joined by his colleague John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights), Park Commissioner Henry J. Stern and Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley on Memorial Day at groundbreaking ceremonies for the reconstruction of Doughboy Memorial Park at Woodside Avenue and 56th Street in Woodside.
McCaffrey had secured $200,000 for the project, which will include new decorative pavement, shrubs and benches. More importantly, the Doughboy statue, honoring World War I veterans, which has been copied all over the country will be refurbished.
Said McCaffrey: "The refurbished Doughboy Park will not only be a fitting memorial for the World War I veterans who fought so valiantly for our country, but will create a much improved sitting area for the Woodside community."
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside/L.I.) will turn Roastmaster of Ceremonies on Thursday evening, June 7, at a celebration of Assemblymember Mark Weprin’s 40th birthday with family and friends at Harper’s Restaurant in New Hyde Park at 6 p.m.
MURATORI DIES: Jack Muratori, the former Queens County Republican leader and City Councilmember died May 20 at his home in Point Lookout, Long Island at the age of 72 of cancer, Newsday reported last week. He is survived by his wife, Rosemary, with whom he resided in Flushing. He’s also survived by three sons.
Muratori, an attorney, served as Councilman-at-Large from 1984 to 1983, losing his seat when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled at-large Council seats violated the one-man, one-vote principle. Simultaneously he served as GOP county leader over most of that same period.
An affable person, he was an executive with the King Kullen Grocery Company after his Council career.
CORNSTEIN TO ANNOUNCE: Businessman David Cornstein, the former New York City Off-Track Betting chairman has told Republican and Conservative Party leaders throughout the state that he will announce his candidacy for state comptroller June 5. If he becomes the GOP standard bearer, he will run in next year’s election. Cornstein is also vice chairman of the state Economic Development Corporation and of the Battery Park City Authority.
McCALL SPEAKER: State Comptroller Carl McCall, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in next year’s elections, will be the featured speaker at the June 8 meeting of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation (LICBDC) at Citibank, 1 Court Square, from 8 to 9:30 a.m.