2007-01-31 / Political Page

Learn From Sean Bell Tragedy, Vallone Says

Despite the highly controversial nature of the still simmering Sean Bell tragedy in Jamaica last November, City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. feels that some good can come of it for the city as a whole.

Speaking after last week's joint City Council hearings before his Public Safety Committee and the Civil Rights Committee, Vallone stated: "Out of every tragedy, we learn and we improve. Although this is an emotionally charged issue, it's only through this civil discussion that we can make the changes that will ultimately save lives, both of citizens and police officers."

Vallone also praised Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for his openness, past and present in dealing with the council and Vallone's Public Safety panel. "Commissioner Kelly has never shied away from sharing the facts about his department, and because of his exemplary record, he has nothing to hide. He once again showed his class and extensive knowledge when confronted with tough questions."

Kelly was peppered with searing questions from several black councilmembers, alleging police engaged in racial profiling and racially motivated shootings by cops, but he held his ground and defended his department.

Vallone noted that he and Kelly pointed out to those questioners that police shootings have dropped dramatically in the past two decades. Kelly also pointed out that his department is more racially diverse than ever and that he has promoted more black officers to command positions than any other police commissioner in history.

Vallone (D- Astoria) concluded: "This hearing was supposed to be a forum to improve undercover training and inform the public, but several councilmembers treated it as a personal soap box for their views. They were just trying to get their name in the paper, and guess what- they did. But New York is not safer as a result."

MAYOR BUTTS INTO SENATE RACE- AGAIN: Remember early last year when Mayor Michael Bloomberg was threatening to work against the re-election of some state senators from New York City because they weren't working hard enough to get more financing for city schools?

The threats never materialized after he received assurances from Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno that he would support more New York City school funding in the budget. It all worked out very well for the mayor as the budget

which passed contained a multi-billiondollar

school aid package for

New York City.

Well, the mayor is now again butting

into a state senate

election. This

time, the special

election will fill the

vacancy created when

Governor Eliot Spitzer appointed a Republican state Senator Michael Balboni, to become his homeland security advisor.

Bloomberg is now aiming to contribute toward the election of the Republican candidate, Maureen O'Connell. Some sources say the mayor is ready to contribute as much as $250,000 to O'Connell, a tidy sum anytime, but which can be of tremendous help in a special election.

What makes this all the more interesting is that O'Connell's opponent in the contest, Democratic candidate Craig Johnson, is being supported by Governor Eliot Spitzer, who has been seen in television commercials urging Johnson's election.

Spitzer would love to see another Democrat added to the senate ranks because this would further reduce Bruno's majority, which took a hit in last November's elections despite an infusion of $500,000 by Bloomberg just before those elections.

ONORATO WEIGHS IN AGAINST CON ED: If there was ever any question whether Con Edison, and not its customers, should pay for any penalty assessed because of last summer's nineday power blackout in North West Queens, it was answered last week.

Con Ed announced that it earned $201 million in last year's fourth quarter. That was a 45 percent increase from the same period the previous year.

At about the same time, state Senator George Onorato, who represents much of the area that was blacked out, issued a statement:

"The challenge now is twofold: to make sure that Consolidated Edison cleans up its act to make sure that we never experience this kind of devastation again and to ensure that ratepayers- who have already suffered enough- aren't further punished by what the Public Service Commission staff are calling the utility's 'gross disservice' to its customers."

GIOIA PANS TV RENTAL SCHEME: Anyone who's thinking of renting a large, flatscreen television with a clear, sharp picture for this weekend's Super Bowl extravaganza can forget about, it say two Queens lawmakers.

City Councilmember Eric Gioia (D- Long Island City) says a rental is not financially feasible. "Weekly payments add to one big, bad deal," he said.

A study done by the council showed, he said, that the $37-a-week payment adds up to $5,186 at the end of the 142-week agreement. In comparison, the same TV set can be purchased for $1,297, according to the study.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie (D- St. Albans) pointed out that the study showed that if one payment is missed under the rental agreement, the TV set is repossessed.

LAFAYETTE EYES SMOKING WITH KIDS IN CAR: A person caught smoking in a car with a child under 16 as a passenger would be a crime subject to fines from $500 to $1,500 plus 10 days in jail under a bill introduced by Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette (D- Jackson Heights).

Lafayette, the Deputy Assembly Speaker, says laws covering the same behavior are already in effect in several states. His bill has advanced to the Codes Committee and he's looking for a senate sponsor, anticipating Assembly passage.

TOWN HALL MEETING: Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D- Astoria) and the United Community Civic Association (UCCA), headed by Rose Marie Povoromo, will hold the organization's annual town hall meeting tomorrow night beginning at 7 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image (MMI) located at 35th Avenue and 36th Street, Astoria.

The event's topic is Community Concerns. Elected officials from city, state and federal governments will be on hand to answer questions and help solve constituent problems.

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