Eye on politics
The 2003 City Council election year officially opened this past Monday when the Queens Democratic organization designated every council incumbent for re-election in November except for Councilmember Alan Jennings of Jamaica.
The endorsements were passed unanimously which would appear to assure the nearest thing to total support an incumbent could expect.
Of the 13 Democrats who had regular organization backing two years ago, all but two survived primary challenges. In those 2001 elections, the first under term limits, Democrats won 13 seats and a single Republican, Dennis Gallagher of Middle Village, took the 30th Council District seat.
The council candidates, all of whom have served for two years, are running for another two-year term, necessitated by council districts having been redrawn following the 2000 census.
The councilmembers designated for re-election were: Tony Avella, 19th District (Bayside); John Liu, 20th District (Flushing); Hiram Monserrate, 21st District (Corona); Peter Vallone Jr, 22nd District (Astoria); David Weprin, 23rd District (Bayside/Queens Village); James Gennaro, 24th District (Kew Gardens); Helen Sears, 25th District (Jackson Heights); Eric Gioia, 26th District (Woodside); Leroy Comrie, 27th District (St. Albans); Melinda Katz, 29th District (Forest Hills); James Sanders Jr., 31st District (Laurelton), and Joseph Addabbo Jr., 32nd District (Ozone Park).
The Democratic leaders did not designate anyone to run against Gallagher because no name was submitted for that district, a party spokeswoman explained. This raises the possibility that party leaders didn’t want Gallagher challenged.
As for Jennings, unanimous opposition to his designation was led by 32nd Assembly District Leader Yvonne Reddick. The committee then endorsed Reddick to run in Jennings’ place. A source explained that Jennings "has always been anti-county," that is, against the county organization. Reddick is a veteran district leader and also the district manager of Community Board 12.
Speaking after the council designations were voted unanimously, County Democratic Chairman Thomas Manton stated: "We redesignated all of them because they have done a great job despite having some tough issues to deal with and the committee felt they each deserve another term. Needless to say, we will do everything that needs to be done to re-elect them"
District Attorney Richard Brown was designated unanimously, and several district leaders praised his record in office effusively. In the past, he has generally received Republican and other designations and has run unopposed.
The primary is set for September 9.
The three individuals designated for Civil Court judgeships were Ira Margolis of Forest Hills, for a countywide vacancy, and Anna Seminerio Culley and Howard Lane for district posts. Culley is the daughter of Assemblymember Anthony Seminerio, a veteran Ozone Park/Richmond Hill lawmaker.
ONORATO, GIANARIS ON OVERRIDING PATAKI VETOES: State Senator George Onorato and Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, both Astoria Democrats, cited Governor George Pataki’s opposition to New York City interests as among their reasons for voting to override the governor’s 119 vetoes of budget bills.
Gianaris stated: "Governor Pataki turned his back on New York City at a time when our city is in desperate need of help. We could not stand by and let the governor further harm the lives of ordinary New Yorkers. The choices that were made were very difficult choices, but securing adequate funding for education and healthcare will pay dividends long into our future."
Onorato said he had joined in "an historic bipartisan effort to support our schools, ensure access to health care and more fairly share the pain of closing new York state’s $11.5 billion budget gap" by voting against the governor’s vetoes. He said the legislature’s overrides, the first in more than 20 years, underscored the legislature’s determination to ensure adequate funding for education, health care and other programs of vital importance to all New Yorkers.
LIU GETS MORE PUBLIC TRASH BASKETS: Reduced residential garbage pickups, as proposed for every borough except Manhattan, usually makes for heavier loads in public trash receptacles. Perhaps with this in mind, Councilmember John Liu (D–Flushing) has secured 28 additional trash baskets for Flushing.
Liu said the baskets are larger than standard because of the high volume of pedestrian waste generated in Flushing and are covered to contain odor and keep out wind and rain.
CROWLEY HITS AIRPORT LAYOFFS: Highlighting the lack of funding for airport security, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) last week charged recent layoffs of airport workers throughout the country will affect security at the airports. Crowley, whose district includes La Guardia Airport, said he was especially concerned over the 36 layoffs at this airport. The John F. Kennedy International Airport was hit with 396 layoffs.
SCHUMER’S FINGERS CROSSED: United States Senator Charles Schumer put together a bipartisan local aid bill with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe early this year which potentially could bring New York City $469 million out of $2.2 billion for New York state. The bill was approved by the Senate last week, but it faces a stern test in the near future when it goes before a joint Senate–House reconciliation committee which must make the presently different Senate and House tax bills identical and agreeable to both parties in both houses. Schumer gave the latest update on the crucial aid for New York City on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s radio show last Friday.
AVELLA WANTS SUNSET TAX: Councilmember Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who was among the few lawmakers to vote against last November’s 18.5 percent real estate tax hike, is now proposing that the council and mayor approve a limit on the number of years the tax must stay in effect.
Avella said: "I am asking that the mayor and the city council follow the example of the state legislature by enacting a sunset provision to the 18.49 percent property tax increase. While I do not believe that raising taxes is the sole answer, at least Albany included a timetable for the elimination of it. We should do the same with the property tax increase."
PERALTA: BUDGET IS FAIREST: Assemblymember Jose Peralta (D–Corona) the first Hispanic elected to the Assembly from Queens has just come through one of the most historic sessions ever as the state legislature passed a budget and then overrode Governor George Pataki’s vetoes to make it official for 2003–2004.
When the state legislature first passed the spending plan earlier this month, Peralta cited the state’s struggling economy, which had forced hard decisions on everyone, and said the governor should join with the Assembly and Senate and get behind the budget.
Peralta said: "The Assembly passed a budget that makes the right choices for young students across the state by helping schools avoid cutting essential educational programs, laying off teachers and increasing local property taxes. Without a sound investment in our children and their education, New York would face crumbling school buildings, overcrowded classrooms, and few opportunities to excel."
MONSERRATE FUNDRAISER TONIGHT: The Monserrate 2003 Committee, established to re-elect Councilmember Hiram Monserrate in November, will hold a fundraiser for the Corona Democrat tonight from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the World’s Fair Marina Restaurant off the Grand Central Parkway near La Guardia Airport. Among his endorsers are United States Senator Charles Schumer, Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Gary Meeks and Assemblymembers Catherine Nolan, Brian McLaughlin, Ivan Lafayette and Jose Peralta.
GOP CLUB CHANGES NAME: The Bayside Republican Club, established 109 years ago in 1894, has changed its name to the Northeast Queens Republican Club. Members will celebrate the longevity and the name change tomorrow night with a cocktail party at the Reception House, 167-19 Northern Blvd., Flushing, from 7:30 to 10 p.m.