2010-05-26 / Political Page

Weiner Urges White House To Tell All About Rumored Job Offer

Congressmember Anthony Weiner on Monday urged White House officials to put to rest rumors that Pennsylvania Congressmember Joe Sestak was offered a job in the Obama Administration to preclude his running against veteran U.S. Senator Arlen Spector in a recent primary race. Sestak emerged as the victor in the primary, bringing about the end of the 80-year-old Specter’s Senate career.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has consistently refused to get into a discussion about the alleged offer.

Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) told the New York Post: “I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say “Here are the facts…”

Weiner said he didn’t think the White House did anything wrong, but it had to put an end to the rumors and speculation, and the best way to do it would be to release whatever information it has and end all the speculation.

However, according to other press reports, that’s not going to happen. On a Sunday morning talk show, Press Secretary Gibbs continued to refuse to go beyond what he had previously done—refuse to answer any questions from enquiring reporters and others, including some Republicans who no doubt want to embarrass the administration.

Sestak, himself a retired Navy admiral, alleges that the White House did offer him a job, but won’t go beyond that, either.

We agree with Weiner. The present situation is not going to satisfy the public and sooner or later the White House is going to have to come clean, as Weiner says.

WOMAN LAWYER CHALLENGES MALONEY: Reshma Saujani, who was born in the U.S.A., to parents who fled Uganda, attended public schools, Harvard and Yale, and worked with community groups to register voters and volunteered in immigrant aid programs on her way to a job as a lawyer with a Wall Street financial services firm is challenging longtime incumbent Congressmember Carolyn Maloney for the 14th, Queens/Manhattan Congressional District seat she has held for almost two decades.

In a release introducing herself, Saujani says she “has always wanted to serve the country that saved her parents’ lives. She decided to run for Congress after President Barack Obama was elected and realized that “change couldn’t stop and end with the president”. She “understands that we need new ideas and new leadership in Congress.”

Saujani, who earned a Masters degree in public policy at Harvard and her law degree at Yale, got a start in politics in this country by starting South Asians for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign. The group registered voters, raised funds and worked to get South Asians out to vote and support Kerry. She later volunteered in voter registration campaigns in New York City and also with the New York Bar Association to offer free legal services to documented immigrants in Queens.

One of Saujani’s main issues is immigration reform and creating a path to citizenship for 12

million illegal immigrants. Another issue she supports is allowing citizens who are part of same-sex couples to sponsor their partners for legal immigration status.

Saujani has worked as a lawyer at Fortress Investment Group, a financial services company, on Wall Street and supports regulation and reform there. She believes there is room for much improvement in this country’s educational system and is an advocate for women’s issues and protecting a woman’s right to choose. She also feels strongly about marriage equality and promises to fight hard for lesbian and gay marriage rights.

FINANCIAL CONTROL ISSUE MOVES TO HOUSE: The U.S. Senate has passed the Financial Stability Bill, which puts measures in place to control Wall Street and the banking industry. The issue now moves over to the House for final passage.

Following the Senate’s approval, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan), House Financial Services senior member and Joint Economic Committee chair, stated: “The long, hard climb to protect consumers and stabilize the financial system is finally approaching the finish line. By creating a Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and by bringing the kinds of complex deals that helped trigger the financial crisis out in the open, we will help to prevent abuses and improve the stability and soundness of our financial system.”

Maloney said she would support efforts of House Democratic leaders to resolve the remaining differences between the House bill, which was passed last fall, and the Senate bill, and send the final legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature.

On the campaign front, Congressmember and Queens County Democratic Organization Leader Joseph Crowley led a community reception in support of Maloney, chair of the Joint Economic Committee.

The guest list included Maloney’s political colleagues and community leaders and filled Manducati’s restaurant in Long Island City with an overflowing crowd of supporters.

TURN UP HEAT ON MAYOR: Astoria lawmakers Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale) joined with firefighters, senior citizens, community leaders and residents to inspire Mayor Michael Bloomberg to save Engine Company 262 in Astoria and all other units in jeopardy of being closed under the mayor’s budget.

The three lawmakers had previously banded together to try to save Engine 262 and scheduled the rally after the mayor said he would move more slowly in carrying out firehouse closings last week.

In all, the mayor had proposed to shut 20 fire companies throughout the city and reduce FDNY personnel by about 400 by July 1 when the 2010–2011 budget/fiscal year begins.

Crowley reacted to the mayor’s go slower policy, saying she hoped it was a “positive sign” as far as saving Engine 262, but, she added, “We cannot relax until our fire protection is secured.”

Crowley, voicing the same sentiments as Vallone and Gianaris added: “We need to keep up the pressure and continue to let Mayor Bloomberg know that we have no room to compromise our safety services.” The rally to save Engine 262 followed at that facility, at 30-89 21st St., Astoria. Also present at the rally were Steve Cassidy of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) and Al Hagen of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA).

MAYOR SUPPORTS GOV’S PROPOSED CHANGE IN SODA TAX: Trying to break the logjam of opposition to his tax on sugary sodas in the state legislature, Governor David Paterson proposed a change which would bring in less revenue ($815 million instead of $1 billion) and would produce the votes to pass it.

Mayor Bloomberg, who favored the proposed tax of a penny an ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages because it would combat teen obesity while providing funding for schools and hospitals, said the governor had “wisely reframed” his original bill.

“By exempting low-calorie beverages (diet drinks and bottled water) from all state and local taxes, while also adding a tax on beverages containing more than 10 calories per 8 ounces, [Paterson] has expanded both the health impact of the measure and addressed concerns of the industry,” the mayor pointed out.

The mayor further explained, “The new proposal will discourage consumption of high calorie beverages while simultaneously making lowercalorie beverages more affordable, which will help lead to major gains in public health. I encourage all legislators to take a fresh look at this issue.”

LIU DISLIKES WATER RATE INCREASE: City Comptroller John Liu didn’t favor water rate hikes when he was a councilmember, and now as city comptroller he still doesn’t like them. Commenting on the Bloomberg administration’s recent increase, Liu stated: “The city’s water and sewer ratepayers are soaked with this double-digit rate increase of nearly 13 percent, which will be especially burdensome on small businesses and homeowners. Included in the everrising costs of the water system is a back-door tax on New Yorkers. The lion’s share of the rental payment should be returned to help defray the cost of operations and fund future capitol projects.”

On another subject concerning homeowners, Liu said he recently voted against the continuation of the 9 percent late payment interest rate on real estate taxes on small properties. The rate should be lowered to 6 percent, Liu said. The voting took place at a meeting of the New York City Banking Commission, which consists of the mayor, comptroller and the Finance Commissioner, each of whom has a representative at the meeting, and the Deputy Commissioner of Finance, Treasury Division, who also serves as commission secretary.

Liu argued that interest rates are at a “historically low” level, and other interest rates should be appropriately lower.

ACKERMAN TO HILARY: ‘RELIST N. KOREA AS TERROR SPONSOR: Displeased and concerned about North Korea’s sinking a South Korean ship during an unprovoked attack and its sale of ballistic missiles to militant and terrorist Arab organizations, Congressmember Gary Ackerman has asked Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton to “relist” North Korea as a state sponsor of terror.

Ackerman (D–Bayside/Long Island) said of North Korea’s military weapons sales to Hamas and Hezbollah: “While the United States is aggressively working to pursue Arab- Israeli peace, North Korea is distributing the equivalent of matches and gasoline to known arsonists.”

In a letter to Clinton, Ackerman reminded her that during the administration of President George W. Bush, to demonstrate good faith on the part of the United States, North Korea was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

But now, said Ackerman, North Korea’s attack on a South Korean ship in home waters and the murder of 46 Republic of Korea sailors— “unquestionably the most belligerent and provocative incident since the 1953 armistice was established” coupled with the sale of arms to dangerous organizations, calls for relisting North Korea as a terror state.

“These intolerable actions necessitate a strong U.S. response,” said Ackerman, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

VALLONE GETS ACTION: Following a request from City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) to the MTA to inspect the N and W subway station staircases at 31st St. and 30th Ave., maintenance crews tightened the screws on each step to make the stairways safe again.

Noting that he had been alerted by concerned Astoria residents to the dangerous situation, Vallone complimented them.

“We’re fortunate to have very alert and civic-minded residents in this community,” he stated. “We want to hear from everyone in Astoria, whether it comes to shaky steps on the subway, cracked sidewalks or any other issue that comes to mind.”

GIANARIS’ HOMEOWNER PROTECTION BILL PASSES: The Homeowners Protection Act, which requires all advertisements posted by distressed property consultants to include a statement that such consultant services for homeowners facing mortgage foreclosure are available free of charge from state funded, certified housing consultants has passed both houses and now awaits Governor David Paterson’s signature.

The bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) and state Senator Jeffrey Klein (The Bronx), both Democrats.

Gianaris said the need for the legislation arose from a combination of many homeowners struggling to pay mortgages who must retain consultant services which often are exorbitant offered by private consultants.

“Knowledge is power,” Gianaris said. “I want to ensure all homeowners in New York understand they are entitled to free debt counseling to help them stay in their homes.”

Lists of the free counselors are available from the New York state Banking Department, Gianaris added.

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