2008-04-16 / Political Page

Bloomberg May Seek Third Term, Thompson Puts Quinn On Notice

An intriguing and interesting story that Mayor Bloomberg is toying with the idea of scrapping term limits so he could run for a third term next year was leaked at City Hall last week.

At the same time, City Comptroller William Thompson Jr., a candidate for mayor next year, sent a letter to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, also a mayoral candidate, informing her in the midst of an inquiry into her questionable use of discret ionary funds that he plans to impose more control over the spending of those funds.

Several days after Thompson's move was revealed, federal authorities looking into Quinn's involvement in a scheme that kept millions of dollars of city funds stashed away in a secret money box to be distributed at her pleasure might be filing fraud charges against the Speaker and members of her staff. As the secret money stash story kept unfolding, Quinn reportedly hired an attorney to help guide her through the storm of charges she faces.

The successive stories means bad news for Quinn's mayoral ambitions at the same time that the mayor might be looking to extend his stay in City Hall- a sharp change from past stories that he was anxious for his second term to end so he could tend to running a foundation he had set up. It also represented a change in position on term limits, which he said on several previous occasions was a good law.

But although there was no indication of why the mayor would want a third term, except that he felt there wouldn't be any challenging pursuits to occupy him, we think the mayor must surely be looking for more time to try for another shot at getting congestion pricing enacted or firming up his control over the public schools.

In fact, if these were some of the reasons the mayor had in mind, we would urge him to go for it. It's for sure the public would be behind him. A Quinnipiac poll just last month found 57 percent of people polled said "yes" to Bloomberg's extending his time in office (34 percent were opposed), and the mayor's approval rating was at 75 percent- phenomenal.

As for Quinn, her mayoral ambitions have had a serious jolt because of the secret slush funds allegations. Only rarely can a campaign for any office overcome a hurdle like this.

DENOUNCE AFFORDABLE HOUSING THREAT: Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D- Ridgewood) has joined Assemblymember Margaret Markey (D- Maspeth) and the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development in expressing concern about the recent purchase by corporate investors of rent-regulated apartment buildings in Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights and Flushing.

Nolan said the acquisitions were "an example of a recent real estate trend where private equity investors purchase low and moderate rent apartment buildings and raise rents to levels current tenants cannot afford".

This is an attempt, Nolan said, to provide the investors with a higher rate of return from this kind of purchase, a practice she described as a "predatory equity", that leads to many evictions.

Nolan said she has complained to state housing officials that these "illegal evictions" set a negative precedent and deprive tenants of their right to affordable, rent-regulated homes.

Nolan, who with Markey has made this issue a priority, said the harassment of tenants will accelerate evictions and eliminate affordable housing from the city's housing stock.

LOOKS/LIKE GIANARIS WAS RIGHT: The courts recently rejected Assemblymember Michael Gianaris' Airline Bill of Rights Law which called on airlines to provide passengers with working restrooms, water, fresh air and snacks on planes that leave the gate but are delayed from taking off and must sit on the tarmac for more than three hours before departing.

After watching last week's fiasco that saw hundreds of flights cancelled and thousands upon thousands of passengers inconvenienced while airline technicians checked out the electrical wiring to make sure the grounded plans were safe to fly, Gianaris (D- Astoria) issued the following statement: "Can anyone be surprised that airline passenger frustration is at an all-time high? This Airline Quality Survey confirms that airlines routinely sacrifice passengers' rights at the altar of higher profits. The federal government must take swift action to protect airline passengers with a national Airline Passenger Bill of Rights".

WORTH A LOOK: After 10 years, the city has spent $400 million to track city workers' payrolls with scanners and has been able to track only about 15,000 employees at 26 agencies. Some people are questioning not only the costeffectiveness of the city contract with a company called City Time but also the necessity of the scans. Among them is Councilmember Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D- Ozone Park), chair of the Civil Service Committee.

"It's a lot of money to be spent on a situation or an issue that I don't think was broken," Addabbo told a reporter, indicating he is questioning the necessity of continuing the payroll scanning in the future.

Addabbo is going to take a closer look by holding a hearing on the contract and whether the program is necessary and effective.

TRYING TO HELP FORECLOSURE VICTIMS: Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D- Bayside) seeking to give needed relief to homeowners caught up in "the subprime mortgage foreclosure mess", said recently he would work to pass legislation to allow legal expenses related to foreclosure proceedings to be tax deductible.

Ackerman, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said his legislation would provide a one-time income tax deduction for 60 percent of total legal costs up to $1,200.

RAGUSA TO SPITZER: GIVE $3M TO CHARITY: Queens Republican leader Philip Ragusa has called upon ex- Governor Eliot Spitzer to donate the $3 million in his 2010 re-election campaign fund to charity, rather than use it for personal legal expenses connected to his associations with prostitutes. Ragusa suggests Spitzer "can try to atone for his breach of the public trust" by donating the funds to helping young women avoid selfdestructive lifestyles such as prostitution. New York state voters will be watching closely, to make sure the campaign funds are used for some positive purpose and not Spitzer's personal legal defense.

CAMPAIGN HQS. OPENING: Looking ahead to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's call for a Special Election to fill Councilmember Dennis Gallagher's vacated 30th Council District seat, former Councilmember Tom Ognibene, who held the seat for about a decade, formally opened his campaign headquarters at 79-47 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village last Saturday.

Also expected to run for the seat are Anthony Como, endorsed by the Queens Republican organization; Elizabeth Crowley, who has the official endorsement of the Queens Democratic organization; Joseph Suraci, a Middle Village attorney, and Charles Ober of Ridgewood.

GIANARIS BRINGS DMV TO ASTORIA: Assemblymember Michael Gianaris will host the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles mobile outreach program at his district office, 21-77 31st St., Suite 107, Astoria, on Thursday, April 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Residents without drivers' licenses can obtain official New York State non-driver photo ID cards. To make an appointment, call 718-545-3889


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