2004-12-16 / Political Page

Liu Has Praise For MTA Head For A Change; ‘Drunken Sailor’ Remark Irks Monserrate

I on politics
By John Toscano

on politics

Maybe it was a case of being overcome with the holiday spirit, but City Councilmember John Liu, who has been the MTA’s severest critic for the past several years, actually complimented the transit agency’s chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, saying that he deserved kudos for his plan to rescue the authority from fiscal doom.

Liu (D–Flushing), chairman of the council Transportation Committee, was moved by Kalikow’s proposal to impose surcharges on the corporate sector to help meet MTA deficits. While the proposal will be painful for businesses, Liu wrote, over the long term, increased worker productivity and commercial activity will more than offset these surcharges.

Holiday spirit or not, Liu continued to berate Governor George Pataki for the deafening silence coming down from Albany on solutions to MTA deficits, and he again applauded Kalikow’s courage in challenging the governor to finally address the current crisis in mass transit.

Meanwhile, between pats on the back for Kalikow, Liu reminded him that the MTA’s deficits can’t be solved “on the backs of New York commuters” and that hiking the fare will only drive straphangers away.

Liu also extended an olive branch to Kalikow from the council, which usually piles on the MTA when it delivers news of another fare hike. Instead, Liu said, the council stands ready to help push the business tax surcharge plan through the “logjam in Albany.”

MAYOR HELPS HARLEM DANCE TROUPE: Mayor Michael Bloomberg came up with a $500,000 personal contribution to the Dance Theatre of Harlem to help it out of a $1.6 million hole. A report in the New York Post said the contribution was made anonymously but “confirmed by a source.”

It was heartening to see this bit of generosity, but it also struck us that this could help the mayor politically in wooing black voters. But then, we thought, if the mayor can make an outlay like this, isn’t it unfair that he constantly dumps on his opponents when they try to level the playing field somewhat by increasing public funding for their campaigns? The obvious answer is that the public funding comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets, but this source was created several years ago, establishing the precedent for this funding.

WEINER GETS $ BOOST: Speaking of campaign financing, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn), who’s announced he will run for mayor next year, may be sitting on a $1.5 million bonanza that he had raised in prior campaigns but wasn’t able to use.

Under a provision inserted in a huge spending bill in Congress, lawmakers in Weiner’s situation would now be allowed to switch funds from congressional accounts over to other races in their states. President George W. Bush signed the bill and there is nothing to indicate that the provision favoring Weiner was removed.

MONSERRATE WANTS APOLOGY: Jordan Barowitz, top aide to Bloomberg, picked the wrong day to accuse the City Council of “spending money like a drunken sailor.” Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D–Corona) took exception to the remark and asked the mayor to apologize for it. Barowitz made his remarks last Tuesday, December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. Monserrate, a former Marine, said the comment would be inappropriate at any time, but it was especially offensive being said on the 63rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.

“I am disappointed that the mayor’s office would choose to use such an offensive phrase, especially on a day when we remember the sacrifice and service of our military,” Monserrate, chairman of the council Veterans Committee, said. He said he understood that the remark was made in the heat of political discourse, but added that he believes it is never appropriate to denigrate the work of the armed services.

Unless we missed it, we don’t think Monserrate got his apology.

SPITZER DECLARES: New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer finally made it official last week. He will seek the Democratic Party’s endorsement for governor in 2006. That’s still a long way off, and while Spitzer may appear to have a clear field at this point to an uncontested nomination, party leaders are hoping this will be the way it will play out when the campaigning starts in earnest.

After the gloom in Democratic ranks following Bush’s re-election, Spitzer’s declaration offered his party a much-needed morale boost. It was compounded by the prospect of Pataki appearing not to offer any real challenge at this point as his ambitions lie in a run for the White House in 2008.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani seems also to have chosen this path, so for a change, the Republicans appear to have a problem fielding a realistic challenger to Spitzer, and, to a lesser degree, any other Democrat.

Surprisingly, the new state GOP chairman, Stephen Minarik, announced a few days before Spitzer’s announcement that while the governor would be his first choice to take on Spitzer, he would consider anyone who could bring $100 million into play. This pointed, he said, to Tom Golisano, a Rochester millionaire.

This got a rise out of Republicans who recalled how the millions Golisano spent in each of several elections against Pataki gave him very serious problems. But Minarik, with visions of all those Golisano greenbacks dancing in his head, continued to focus his attention on the upstate billionaire. Stranger things have happened, but 2006 is a long way off.

Liu Secures Flu Shots: City Councilmember John Liu has secured another 200 flu shots for his constituents. The shots will be administered next Monday, December 20, at the Korean American Senior Center, on the second floor of 133-35 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Registration to receive the flu shot starts at 2 p.m.

Liu said that on December 6, some 200 seniors from his district received flu shots, but many others were turned away. He later obtained additional vaccine and immunizations will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. Only people aged 65 and older will be eligible for the free service.

Science Lab Dedicated: The newest science laboratory in the city public school system was opened recently at M.S. 172 in Floral Park.

Dedication ceremonies included City Councilmember David Weprin (D–Hollis) who has secured $100,000 in budget funds for the project.

Weprin said the school was chosen as the site for the new lab because of its devotion to the study of science and its need for such a facility.

Weprin, council Finance Committee chairman, said the improved lab boasts a number of amenities, such as desperately needed science tables, each equipped with sinks, new chairs and an environmental chamber in which the students can manipulate the environment to study how change affects an experiment.

Weprin commented, “To provide quality education, students must have quality facilities. This laboratory clearly fits the need.”

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