2006-10-11 / Political Page

Only Vallone Has Comments On Pirro

There can't be any disputing that City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. last Saturday won the newsmaker award hands down with his frank, open statement that there are "serious questions" about former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro becoming the next New York state attorney general.

Most other Democrats chose not to trample the Republican candidate when a ton of trouble hit her after she came under investigation for allegedly discussing the possible wiretapping of her husband's phone because she suspected he was having an affair.

But when Vallone who, along with Pirro, attended the Columbus Day Parade in Astoria, was asked to comment, he pulled no punches in responding.

"If your average citizen called up Bernie Kerik and asked him to do something illegal, that's one thing," Vallone declared. "But for a prosecutor to call up and ask him to do something she knows is illegal raises serious questions as to this person's fitness to be our number one law enforcement agent." Vallone, an attorney, heads the council Public Safety Committee.

Pirro's opponent in the attorney general race, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who has had little to say about Pirro's alleged conversation with Kerik, was standing near Vallone when the councilmember spoke to reporters at the parade. He again refrained from making any comment.

Cuomo, who has had a comfortable lead in polls over Pirro since the race started, still enjoyed a 19 percentage point lead in a Quinnipiac University poll reported last week. The report said the number represented a slight improvement for Pirro from previous poll results.

However, it appears that Pirro would have had to draw much closer to Cuomo in that poll if she hoped to catch up to him in the next 27 days, all the time that is left until the November 7 election.

It's hard to see how Pirro can build any momentum in her candidacy when there are new aspects of the initial allegations popping up almost daily. Those allegations are enough to keep potential voters focused on her legal situation and not her campaign question: how she can overtake Cuomo.

GUNS GET BLOOMBERG ATTENTION: Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign for stricter gun control is now supported by 109 mayors in 44 states. Besides building a widespread coalition to get guns off the streets of the nation, the issue is also getting Bloomberg better known around the country, which indicates some measure of success for the plan hatched by one of his top aides to run the mayor for president in 2008.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, the mayor's top political advisor who's trying to convince the mayor to run in 2008, hasn't had much success in changing the mayor's mind about a presidential bid. He has consistently said he was not interested since stories about it started to appear earlier this year.

Yet, although Sheekey says the mayor's frequent jaunts to other states to talk on hot button national issues-the environment, education, homelessness-are not designed to encourage presidential election buzz, they do help to advance the mayor's agenda.

QUEENS POL ELECTED DEM S.S. LEADER: State Senator Malcolm Smith of Southeast Queens, enjoying the announced support of Eliot Spitzer, defeated three opponents last week to become the Democratic minority leader of the state senate.

Smith, 50, got 14 votes, one more than is required to win the position. Three others split the other 13 votes. Smith, (D-St. Albans), who is completing his sixth year in the senate, will replace Senator David Patterson, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket with Eliot Spitzer.

SEN. CLINTON AT QUEENS DEM BASH: U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will attend the Queens Democratic organization's traditional Annual Pre-Election Cocktail Party on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at Antun's in Queens Village.

The event will be the first since Congressmember Joseph Crowley was elected as the party's new chairman, succeeding the late Thomas Manton.

WEINER SAYS SCHOOL SAFETY PLAN IS DEAD: Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn) has released what he says is new data showing that the Bush Administration and the GOP Congress have gutted a key federal school safety program that was initiated by former President Bill Clinton in 1999 after the Columbine tragedy.

Weiner said Clinton appropriated $160 million each year for the "Cops In Schools" program, but in the last three years of the Bush presidency and under the Republican-controlled Congress, the program was cut from a high of $161 million and was "zeroed out" last year.

"Bush and [House Speaker Dennis] Hastert say they want to protect kids, but their actions don't match their rhetoric," said Weiner. "This is shameful hypocrisy at its worst. Parents deserve better."

With the program's decline, only 375 New York City police officers are now assigned to provide security at 1,200 public schools. Under the earlier funding levels, the city would receive as much as $24 million over three years to hire as many as 154 new police officers for city schools, Weiner said.

MALONEY ASSAILS LOW JOBS INCREASE: Commenting on the U.S. Labor Department's report that "a mere" 51,000 jobs were created in September, far below the 140,000 to 150,000 that had been forecast, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan) commented: "The anemic job number underscores the anemic economy for American workers, who deserve better. Since President Bush took office, just about every economic indicator has gone in the wrong direction." In addition, other key economic indicators are down, said Maloney, the senior house Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee.

CELEBRATE CENTRAL AMERICAN HERITAGE: Councilmembers John Liu (Flushing), Hiram Monserrate (Corona), James Gennaro (Fresh Meadows) and Diana Reyna (Queens/Brooklyn) were among those who hosted the first City Hall celebration of Central American Heritage and Culture at City Hall on October 3.

The event took place during Hispanic Heritage month when Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrated their Independence Days.

SCHUMER BACKS FOOD SAFETY BILL: Citing the federal government's laxity with food safety as responsible for recent outbreaks of serious food product contamination, United States Senator Charles Schumer has called for a single new agency to take responsibility for food safety, instead of the dozen or so presently involved.

"The situation is troubling, not only because of the recent outbreaks, but [also] because of a lackadaisical, disorganized approach that the federal government has traditionally taken against protecting our food supply," Schumer said on Sunday.

Citing the recent E. coli outbreaks that have contaminated spinach, beef and lettuce, Schumer said he is supporting the Food Safety Act which would create a single agency to be responsible for food safety.

Presently, about a dozen federal agencies handle different segments of the food industry. When emergencies arise, they blame each other.

The bill also calls for creating bar codes to be put on produce that would make tracing the source of a food-borne illness and conducting a recall easier.

In addition, the bill would mandate food processing plants to establish standards to prevent contamination and would subject U.S.-based facilities to undergo regular inspections. FLU SHOTS AVAILABLE NEXT WEEK; GIANARIS URGES: GET ONE Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and several community organizations, have arranged for Western Queens seniors to receive flu shots next Wednesday, October 18, at the Variety Boys and Girls Club, 21-12 30th Rd., Astoria.

Appointments are required to get the inoculation. To make an appointment, call Gianaris' office at 718-545-3889.

Gianaris (D-Astoria), who cooperated with New York Presbyterian Hospital, the Ambulatory Care Network (ACN) and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York in co-sponsoring the shots, said that the past several years have seen increasingly severe flu strains, making prevention more urgent than ever.

"The best medicine is prevention, which is why I am proud to offer these flu shots every year," Gianaris stated.

The lawmaker added: "As winter approaches, it's important that our community receive the necessary vaccines to prevent a rough influenza season. This event is a great example of government and community successfully working together to protect the health of area residents."

Gianaris noted that numerous agencies, including the Federal Centers for Disease Control and the city Department for the Aging (DFTA) have stated that annual flu shots are an important prevention tool. Seniors and people with asthma or other chronic health concerns are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the flu and are especially encouraged to protect themselves with a flu shot.

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