Will Top State Court Settle Jennings Case?
Queens Democratic Leader Thomas Manton expressed confidence last Friday that the state’s highest court would reverse a lower court decision and keep maverick City Councilmember Allan Jennings off the primary ballot.
The party law committee was not expected to reach any decision until yesterday, the deadline for any submission to the Court of Appeals in Albany.
Manton said "We still think we have a good case. After all, the case in Supreme Court heard exhaustive testimony about how fraudulent Jennings’ petitions were before the judge ruled him off the ballot."
But as for an appeal, Manton said, "It’s a question of how much more time you want to spend in court trying to get him off."
The law committee had to decide by yesterday whether the party should go back to the Appellate Court to get permission to seek an appeal, and then ask the Court of Appeals directly to hear the appeal. The odds that the party will succeed in this are not good, since the five-member Appellate Court ruled unanimously to reinstate Jennings to the ballot in the 28th Council District primary.
As the Gazette went to press yesterday there was no sign of which course the Dems would take.
In a stunning development in the battle between Jennings and the Queens Democratic organization the incumbent Jamaica lawmaker won an important victory last week when an appellate court in Brooklyn put him back on the ballot.
If Jennings eventually stays on the ballot, it will dent the prestige of the organization led by County Leader Thomas Manton and provide the lawmaker with a public relations victory in the highly charged battle he has waged in the press over the issue.
However, even if Jennings defeats the organization’s candidate, Yvonne Reddick, in the September 9 primary, it won’t do the party too much damage. The Queens Democratic Party already has the support and loyalty of 12 other Democrats in the City Council.
But Manton certainly will pull out all the stops for Reddick if a primary fight against Jennings comes to pass. Manton, in addition to trying to beat the 36-year-old Jennings on Reddick’s behalf, will also be trying to avenge the defeat suffered by the organization two years ago when Jennings bucked the party and won the seat for the first time.
Jennings had been declared off the ballot about two weeks ago by Queens Supreme Court Justice Janice Taylor who ruled after a trial that Jennings did not have enough valid signatures to qualify for a run in the primary. But the five-judge panel of the Appellate Division in Brooklyn didn’t see it that way. The panel said there was no fraud in the way the 3,357 signatures were collected and so reinstated Jennings to the ballot.
MALONEY HELPS HANAC VOTERS: On Primary Day, September 9, voters who reside at the HANAC Archbishop Iakovos Senior Citizens Residence at Broadway and 21st Street in Astoria will vote at their old polling site in nearby P.S. 17, thanks to Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan).
This wasn’t the case two years ago. At that time, the HANAC polling place was in a different location, one that was not within walking distance and was far away from any bus stop, Maloney recalls.
The old, familiar polling site had been changed when new district lines were drawn following the 2000 Census. Some polling places, the HANAC residence included, were changed. Residence officials contacted Maloney and she, in turn, contacted the Board of Elections and the change back to the P.S. 17 site was made.
Maloney applauded the move. "The board took the opportunity to right a wrong, and in the process strengthen our Democracy," she said. "This will undoubtedly increase the number of those voting within the community."
Most similar complaints were dealt with in much the same way.
PATAKI PRESSURED ON POWER: Governor George Pataki is under pressure to act on two bills in Albany dealing with power plants in the aftermath of the recent blackout.
One bill involves speeding up construction of power plants by streamlining land use and other regulatory processes. A temporary law expired last December while Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver squabbled over the issue.
Now Pataki aides say he favors the measure, even holds it as a priority. If so, a recent editorial said, then a special legislative session should be called to deal with it.
The second bill is already on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature. Authored by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Frank Padavan (R–C, Bellerose), it would give the state oversight on power generating plants, which Gianaris said is a necessary protection against terrorists.
"While not related to terrorism," the blackout made clear just how much chaos can be created by a disruption to our power supply, Gianaris noted.
The governor may have to do some negotiating with Silver before he’s ready to deal with the power plant construction bill, but he need only pick up a pen and sign the Gianaris–Padavan bill in order to achieve some sorely needed protection for existing plants.
FUNDS RESTORED: Earlier this year in the hustle and bustle of putting together a doomsday budget, a $3,214 funding grant in last year’s budget for the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition (CALDC) got lost in the shuffle somehow.
CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali brought the snafu to Councilmember Eric Gioia’s attention, pointing out, "$3,214 is a substantial amount of money for a small community organization like ours to lose."
Gioia (D–Woodside) responded by allocating $3,500 to CALDC in this year’s budget. He wrote Torniali: "It is my privilege to support your organization and the excellent services you provide to Astoria and Long Island City; your efforts are not going unnoticed."
CALDC’s president is Julian Wager, former longtime head of the Steinway Merchants Association and a strong advocate for the Astoria/Long Island City area. He’s presently general manager at the Gazette.
NOLAN BERATES GOV.: Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) sponsored the bill which authorized Pataki to keep open 62 subway MetroCard booths and 45 part-time subway fare booths but the governor chose not to sign the bill and left the MTA and New York City Transit to deal with the issue. Those agencies went through with the plan to shutter many of the booths.
Nolan took Pataki to task for his inaction, saying, "When you’re standing in the shadows of a subway station, it’s always reassuring to see another face inside the token booth. People are less likely to commit crimes if there is a witness nearby. Unfortunately, the governor’s failure to approve this vital legislation means that many token booths will close, leaving subway riders more vulnerable to crime."
Nolan has not given up the fight, however. She has asked the MTA to impose a system-wide moratorium on the booth closing, as her bill mandated.
HEVESI LASHES OUT AT CORPORATE GREED: City Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s latest eye-opening report charged that corporate corruption cost the city $260 million in tax revenues and $7 billion in losses to its five pension funds.
"The wave of corporate corruption scandals didn’t just hurt the companies involved and their employees," Hevesi declared. "The scandals imposed a huge cost on every American."
He singled out Enron, Adelphia, Tyco, Global Crossing and WorldCom among the culprits. The former Forest Hills lawmaker previously played a major role in trying to block the MTA subway fare increase, charging the agency kept two sets of financial records to conceal its true fiscal condition.
AVELLA CRITICIZES SANIT.: The Sanitation Department mandates that homeowners and business owners are responsible for keeping sidewalks in front of their properties and 18 inches into the street clean. Councilmember Tony Avella (D–Bayside) recently attacked the regulation, saying, "Asking business owners to clean up bus stops [in front of their stores] is unfair; the city should do it." He said there should be at a minimum a better way for the Sanitation Department to deal with business owners, possibly by informing them about trash pickups and possible fines.