Simotas Launches Assembly Campaign To Accolades
An enthusiastic, star-studded audience was on hand last Saturday night as Aravella Simotas officially launched her campaign for the Astoria–Long Island City Assembly seat pledging “to fight to make sure that the working men and women of Astoria have another great ally in Albany”.
Simotas is running to succeed Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, who will run for the state senate seat becoming vacant with the retirement of Senator George Onorato.
Simotas, an attorney, community activist and lifelong Astoria resident, also pledged “to make sure every resident has access to healthcare services and that our schools are properly funded, and I will make sure that Con Edison and the other polluters are held responsible for the damages they have caused”.
A veritable who’s who of public officials and political leaders headed the standingroom only audience of 200 that turned out for Simotas’ official campaign kickoff for the 36th AD seat.
Leading the list of dignitaries was Congressmember Joseph Crowley, who’s also the Queens Democratic Party chairman, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, Gianaris, Onorato, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., state Senator Jose Peralta and Councilmember James Van Bramer.
Crowley hailed Simotas as, “The candidate and advocate that Astoria needs” and predicted she will be “an independent and strong voice in Albany that will get all the resources it needs and deserves”.
Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan), who helped to breach the gender line in politics when she was elected to the City Council previous to her election to Congress, noted in her remarks, “Strong women leaders help advance the cause of equal representation and equality for all people.”
“I know what it takes to represent this community in Albany and Aravella has what it takes,” Gianaris said about his probable successor. “Aravella has the strength to fight back against powerful interests like Con Edison,” Gianaris added.
Vallone Jr. noted in his remarks, “Aravella grew up in this community and she knows what it needs. She will make sure that we’ll get our fair share of resources and funding from Albany. We need a strong fighter, and Aravella will be that fighter.”
Simotas has raised more than $110,000 in her brief campaign and already has been endorsed by many public officials since Onorato, who is the local Democratic district leader, led the way for her designation as the candidate.
Since then, she has received the personal endorsements of Gianaris, Maloney, SpeakerVallone, present Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmembers Vallone, Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm, the powerful Taminent Regular Democratic Club, the Powhatan and Pocahontas Democratic Clubs and various community leaders.
Simotas has for several years been a member of Community Board 1, which covers Astoria; she also serves on the boards of the United Community Civic Association and the Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed two problems last week that can have an adverse impact on life in New York City— rising crime and the Working Families Party.
Speaking in the wake of the Easter evening eruption in Times Square, where a large, unruly gathering of young people, including members of two gangs, gave the NYPD some uneasy moments, the mayor stated firmly that he was dropping plans to reduce the police force because of the extremely tight budget situation.
As for the Working Families Party, he described it as “a very big problem” because its influence over many city councilmembers might make it difficult to take certain actions regarding the budget, including laying off some city workers.
The mayor’s decision to leave the NYPD at its present strength was generally well received. In defense of the policy change, which might have affected 3,000 officers, Bloomberg stated: “Other parts of our city may have to do more with less, but we have made this the safest big city. We have the best police department, and we’re going to keep doing it.”
One person taking issue with the mayor’s decision was Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria)—not because he objected to keeping the department at its present level of strength.
Commenting on the mayor’s action, Vallone issued a statement declaring, “I’m tired of the mayor’s promises, promises to not lay off police officers while he continues to allow our force to dwindle to 1990 levels. He won’t fire cops, but he won’t replace the members we are losing [due] to attrition either, and that’s just as bad.”
What the mayor should do, according to Vallone, who heads the Public Safety Committee is “pledge to increase the force, or at least ensure the head count doesn’t further decrease—and he won’t”.
The mayor’s problems with the Working Families Party (WFP) is more serious and could give the mayor more agita. As reported in the New York Post last Friday, the mayor’s concern is that the amicable relations and cooperation that he has had with the city council on budget matters in previous years will be threatened this year because many councilmembers owe loyalty to the WFP because 36 of 51 were endorsed by and received assistance from that political party last year.
The story quoted the mayor as saying during a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board, “Some of them will sign on [with the WFP’s budget positions] because they’re basically—I don’t know if captives is the right word—I don’t want to use that word—but they’re influenced by and supported by the Working Families Party.”
Among the WFP’s budget aims are higher taxes for the financial industry and workforce layoffs. Bloomberg questioned whether the council’s leadership could hold the line on restricting spending plans by councilmembers for local projects and for WFP-endorsed items.
The mayor will also face problems from Albany regarding the city’s budget, simply because the state is facing a $9 billion deficit and, among other things, may not be able to funnel as much money to the city as in previous years.
The governor and the legislature have already missed their April 1 deadline for having a new budget in place. The city budget deadline is July 1. There’s some doubt that Albany will have a budget in place by July 1, which means the mayor and city council may not have either exact or approximate figures on the state aid portion of the city budget by the deadline date.
The mayor has proposed a $63.6 billion preliminary budget to the city council, and the council leadership and Speaker Christine Quinn had already indicated opposition to any police layoffs before the mayor announced at the New York Post meeting there would be none.
As for the prognosis on the state budget, Governor David Paterson and legislative leaders haven’t even gotten beyond the preliminary steps and there appears to be total confusion on passing a budget. The lawmakers are just returning from their Easter recess and were greeted on Monday with a statement from the governor that he’s ready to wait until June or later to get a fiscally responsible budget from the lawmakers.
MALONEY CENSUS BILL PASSES: A bill introduced by Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) aimed at prohibiting non-government mailings that look like official U.S. census packages was signed into law last week by President Barack Obama.
Noting that the bill was signed by the president just 57 days after Maloney introduced it, and it had Republican support, Maloney said, “There’s a clear bipartisan message here: do not mess with the census.”
However, Maloney said the bill was prompted by direct mailings sent out last December by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele which were labeled “Census Document” and “Do Not Destroy—Official Document”.
CONSERVATIVES OPPOSE MEDICAL MARIJUANA: “Calling marijuana ‘medicine’ in the belief that it will produce revenue is an ill-conceived idea that will ultimately harm all New Yorkers,” the state Conservative Party, which is opposed to a bill filed in the state legislature to authorize the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, declared in a statement. The organization’s release did not identify the bill’s sponsors.
MARKEY WELCOMES CHANGE IN GARBAGE PLAN: A garbage disposal plan opposed by Assemblymember Margaret Markey (D–Maspeth) has been changed to avoid having “hundreds of additional big trucks” using Maspeth’s already crowded streets, the lawmaker announced.
The original plan called for Waste Management Inc. to collect waste in Western Queens, containerize it and ship it out of state. Waste Management planned to truck the garbage through Maspeth, but Markey led the opposition to the plan and the waste disposal company agreed to change the shipping route by utilizing a 2,000-foot-long private roadway alongside Long Island Rail Road tracks to carry the garbage to a newly activated Blissville rail yard.
The plan must still be reviewed by two community boards.
MARSHALL SEEKS BUDGET INCLUSIONS: Queens Borough President Helen Marshall led a rally on the steps of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens yesterday calling for restoration of budget cuts that would leave each of Queens’ 14 community boards understaffed.
Each board is facing a $17,000 reduction of funds in the mayor’s proposed $64 billion spending plan for 2010–2011, Marshall said.
“Reducing the boards to a full–time district manager and one part–time employee will no doubt limit their ability to perform their City Charter-mandated functions,” Marshall said.
The cuts proposed by Bloomberg are general municipal employee reductions, forced by lower tax collections brought about by the ongoing recession, the mayor has said. Also, because of the state’s $9 billion deficit, huge cuts in state aid to the city are expected. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has said one major cut from the state will be $493 billion in state education funding alone.
CONSERVATIVES URGE SPENDING CUTS: Rather than cut spending, state legislators are seeking ways to raise taxes and fees and by borrowing money in huge amounts, the state Conservative Party charged in a release.
“The budget deficit will not be closed by: raising taxes and fees, by borrowing $6 billion, by fiscal gimmicks, using money intended for specific needs, and certainly not with unrealistic projections of income—for example the income from increased gambling outlets,” the release said.
The release from the organization headed by Michael Long, brother of Queens party leader Tom Long, says bluntly, “Just say NO to increasing taxes and fees and to new borrowing.”
The Conservatives urge cut state spending, reduce Medicaid reimbursements, place limits on public employees’ salaries and pensions, reduce tax rates and reduce debt and don’t sell state assets.
Presently Conservatives say, every plan being studied by legislators ignores “the obvious problem that spending is the problem”. The state must cut spending now, they averred.
MENG ANGERED BY CENSUS ERRORS: Assemblymember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) says that although she is very supportive of the 2010 Census effort, she was “incredibly disappointed and angry” when errors in the Korean version of the census application was called to her attention. Making the situation worse, when complaints are made about this by Chinese and Korean persons, problems arise when census representatives who are supposed to be fluent in Chinese or Korean do not speak their native languages fluently.
WEPRIN CLUB 51ST ANNI DINNER: The Saul Weprin Democratic Club, founded by the late Assembly Speaker, held its 51st annual dinner last Sunday at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center. Heading the guest list were City Councilmember Mark Weprin and Assemblymember David Weprin, both sons of the club’s founder. Dinner honorees were Alan Kaufman, CEO of Melrose Credit Union, Community Service Award; Katy and James Pi, Victoria Cruises, Business Leadership Award, and Carole and Bob Ross SWDC Member Award.