I on politics
Assemblymember Michael Gianaris has emerged as a leader of the effort in the state Assembly to reform the undemocratic ways in which that body operates and also to change the way the budget is handled so it can be passed on time.
At this point, the response to this latest wave of reform by two of the officials that would have to surrender some power—Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno—has been underwhelming and predictable—Silver and Bruno have appointed committees to study how to make possible improvements, and that’s all.
Meanwhile, Gianaris (D–Astoria) is ready to introduce a bill to create a nonpartisan commission to draw up legislative districts where lawmakers are elected. Right now, Democrats control all Assembly lines that are drawn and Republicans draw up the Senate lines.
“This system has guaranteed a high re-election rate for incumbents,” Gianaris said. Some advocates for change say the present process helps more than 98 percent of incumbents win new terms easily, many of whom often run without opposition because the new lines are so favorable to them. Under this system, control of both houses in Albany hasn’t changed in about three decades.
“The redrawn districts under the present process makes the districts not so competitive,” Gianaris said, “but my proposal can bring a significant, a huge change.” The lawmaker, now in his first four-year term, acknowledged it wouldn’t change some districts much because there are so many Democrats or Republicans in certain areas that giving one party or the other a large majority in those areas is unavoidable. But in other areas, he said, there are ways to draw up the lines that would make them more competitive.
Right now, Gianaris said, there are many people who believe that virtually giving incumbents free reign in drawing their own lines protects them and assures their re-elections.”
Gianaris’ bill has 11 co-sponsors among the group of 17 Assemblymembers pushing the reform proposals. “I’m sure support for it will grow by the time we hold a conference on reform later this year,” he said.
Among the other Assembly changes being talked about is one that would require members to be present when voting, another that would give committee members authority to pick their own staffs, and a third that would allow committee chairs to schedule hearings on proposed bills.
Other reforms call for major changes on dealing with the budget so that it could be passed on time, which hasn’t happened in 20 years.
Gianaris, said he feels, “By opening the process, we can bring issues to successful conclusions.” The changes “may help politically, but my main motivation is to improve the way government operates and to improve our state.”
GIOIA NUPTIALS SET: City Councilmember Eric Gioia (D–Long Island City) has announced his marriage to Lisa Hernandez Ester on Saturday, October 16 at 3 p.m. in St. Sebastian’s Church at Roosevelt Avenue and 58th Street in Woodside. A “celebratory dessert reception” will follow in the St. Sebastian School Auditorium, 39-76 58th St., across the street from the church, following the ceremony.
In lieu of gifts, Gioia and his future bride will welcome donations to the St. Sebastian Youth Center.
MALONEY AT WOODSIDE HOUSES: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens, Manhattan) attended the recent Seventh Annual Woodside Houses Friends and Family Day, where she pledged “to continue my best efforts to marshall the resources of the federal government” on behalf of one of the largest public housing complexes in Queens.
Maloney met with Tenants Association Leader Ann Cotton Morris and with Matthew Ancona, president of the Woodside Senior Center. Later, she visited the center’s new facilities.
S.C. JUDGE NOMINEES: Queens Democrats have nominated five sitting judges from the borough, all Democrats, for state Supreme Court judgeships in the November 2 elections. Also nominated was the counsel to Governor George Pataki.
Nominated at the recent judicial convention which followed the primary elections were incumbent Supreme Court Justice Randall T. Eng of Manhasset, Criminal Court Judge William M. Erlbaum of Forest Hills, Civil Court Judges Augustus C. Agate of Howard Beach, Valarie Brathwaite Nelson of Jamaica and James J. Golia of Douglaston. James M. McGuire of Brooklyn, counsel to the governor was the remaining nominee.
McGuire, according to sources in the legal community, is a highly regarded attorney who many of the profession believe will move up to higher positions in the future. They cited his position in the state Republican administration, despite being a Democrat, as evidence of his high legal standing.
Of note among the others is the fact that Golia, in moving from the Civil to Supreme Court, will be joining his brother, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Golia, on the higher court bench.
Supreme Court justices are elected to 14 year terms at salaries of $136,700.
ELECTION PROFILES: Assemblymember Nettie Mayersohn, who’s been in office for two decades, has no opposition for re-election in the November 2 balloting, but she is nonetheless as busy as any candidate this election season, trying to get her son, Lee, 49, elected as a Civil Court judge.
Lee Mayersohn, of Bayside, has been an attorney for 23 years. He has also served on the New York City Real Estate Tax Commission for many years.
Lee Mayersohn, running only on the Democratic line, is opposed by Peter F. Lane, a Republican–Conservative from Whitestone. Lane could not be contacted by press time.
Mayersohn, his wife Jill and son Benjamin, who attends I.S. 25 live in Bayside. He is a graduate of Francis Lewis H.S. in Flushing, Queens College and Hofstra University Law School in Nassau County. The son of Ronald and Nettie Mayersohn has been a Queens resident all his life. They have another son, Jeffrey, who lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
VALLONE PROPOSAL PASSES IN SUFFOLK: A bill introduced in New York City by City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) to ban the sale, purchase or use of the controversial Alcohol without Liquid (AWOL) machine, was adopted by the Suffolk County legislature on Long Island, which passed the measure. It is now awaiting the county executive’s signature.
Vallone introduced his measure several weeks ago, citing the deleterious effects of the machine. The device vaporizes alcohol, enabling users to inhale it, not drink it, to get a buzz. Vallone cited the dangers of using the machine which include increasing alcohol addiction and DWI incidents.
WEINER HAILED: Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens, Brooklyn) has been recognized for his leadership efforts to heighten awareness of breast cancer among women. The lawmaker was named an honorary host of the Men Against Breast Cancer (MABC) “Get the Picture, Save A Life” campaign, the first national non-profit effort focused on getting men involved in the campaign against the disease.
Weiner earned the honor by conducting a study of New York City mammography clinics which showed that 55 clinics have shut down since 1999 and that the average waiting time for an appointment is an astounding 61 weeks.
Weiner has joined physicians, women’s advocates and cancer patients in the fight for an increase in Medicare reimbursement rates covering mammographies.
CANDIDATES’ NIGHT: The Bay Terrace Community Alliance will hold its Fifth annual “Meet the Candidates Night,” Tuesday, October 19, 7 p.m., Bay Terrace Jewish Center, 13-00 209th St. at the Cross Island Parkway in Bay Terrace.