2011-08-31 / Political Page

Weprin Cancels Debate, Sets Off New Storm

After a lull in the name-calling and brick throwing that has marked the rival campaigning between Assemblymember David Weprin and Bob Turner, which will be decided in just two weeks, in the September 13 special election, the rhetoric was ramped up and resumed yesterday— just one day after Hurricane Irene—when Weprin excused himself from a debate with Turner Monday night.

Weprin pulled out of the debate sponsored by the Juniper Park Civic Association in Middle Village saying the storm had fouled up his campaign schedule.

In contrast, Turner said he had no trouble making the debate, even though he had to be assisted escaping the storm from his home in the Rockaways on Sunday.

“He is ducking this debate, period,” said Turner, a 70-yearold former businessman.

In fact, Turner staged a stunt, having a volunteer drive the distance from his campaign headquarters to the debate locale, and it took just 22 minutes to make the trip.

Mayor Bloomberg thanks the Fire Department for the rescue of 64 people in Willowbrook Park. 
Dan Miller/DMD Images Mayor Bloomberg thanks the Fire Department for the rescue of 64 people in Willowbrook Park. Dan Miller/DMD Images Bob Holden, president of the civic association was angry about Weprin’s lastminute pull out, and said Weprin’s aides tried to get him to change the debate format to a forum, which was rejected.

The debate’s co-sponsor, Maureen Walther, publisher of a weekly newspaper, called Weprin a coward.

Aides to Weprin said that the stormy weekend had forced him to postpone several campaign meetings and they had to be held on Monday night, or not at all, so he had to cancel the debate that evening.

But Weprin’s campaign spokesperson, Jake Dilemani, insisted the charges that Weprin dodged the debate were ridiculous. He had done three debates already and planned to do another which is to be televised, he said.

MAYOR’S HANDLING OF ‘IRENE’ APPLAUDED: Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s job is to make life in the city as trouble-free as possible, so his planning, preparation and handling of Hurricane Irene was as smooth an effort as we could ask for.

There was only one fatality in the city and no major injuries attributed to the storm that we’ve heard of. Meanwhile, before Irene finally made an entrance, Mike’s minions had safely evacuated 10,000 New Yorkers—most of them frail seniors and hospitalized patients and sheltered them safely during the windblown rain that occurred, flooding many basements.

And let’s not forget the Fire Department’s rescue of 64 people in Staten Island’s Willowbrook Park during the storm.

It didn’t just happen by chance. Planning started shortly after Hurricane Katrina pummeled New Orleans six years ago. All city departments, especially the NYPD and Fire Department, were involved, but under a novel feature, 130,000 city workers got into the act as volunteers in the city’s Coastal Storm Plan, its official name.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s cool hand was coordinating execution of the marvelous plan and keeping the city steady as we awaited Irene’s arrival after almost a week of nail-biting as the storm made its way from the Caribbean up the eastern seaboard.

Thanks to the Coastal Storm Plan, we were all somewhat ready and waiting.

With the storm over and the work of repairing the damage in full swing, it’s back to other matters for the mayor. One intriguing matter of interest for the mayor is the start of the trial involving Forest Hills’ John Haggerty, to whom the mayor gave $1 million in 2009 to help get him elected to a third term.

Since that time, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has raised major suspicion’s about the socalled $1 million gift and has charged Haggerty with grand larceny by keeping most of that money for his own use. Haggerty’s trial is set to start on September 12 and, according to the New York Post, the mayor is expected to testify in open court and describe just what he had in mind in handing the huge wad of cash over to Haggerty. It could be embarrassing for the mayor, but also a very intriguing story. We anxiously await.

RUDY NOT RUNNING? There’s no decision yet from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani about whether he will join the ranks of presidential wannabes for next year’s presidential election.

Advisers to Giuliani say he’s still trying to find campaign donors willing to spend some bucks on him, but other sources in the media say flatly Rudy is done for this election cycle because it’s too late to mount a campaign. From our own perspective, it appears the ex-mayor hasn’t made any progress toward getting involved as a presidential candidate since he announced a couple of months ago that he was testing the waters for 2012. Yet the latest CNN/ORC poll shows Giuliani running fourth behind Texas Governor Rick Perry (27 percent), Mitt Romney (14 percent), Sarah Palin (10 percent) and Giuliani very close to Palin at 9 percent.

But eliminating Palin and Giuliani, Perry rises to 32 percent at the top and Romney increases slightly to 18 percent, the almost same relative distance away from Perry, who was the last to get into the race when he formally announced his candidacy earlier this month.

Interest in Perry could explain why Giuliani is not progressing in his quest, being stalled without even having announced his candidacy. In 2008, Giuliani fared very well as a fundraiser in Texas, where he took in about $6 million from Texans in the 2008 race. Obviously, that money, and a lot more, is finding its way to Perry’s coffers right now.

The latest CNN poll shows Republican conservatives still rejecting Romney.

The latest CNN poll shows Republican conservatives still rejecting Romney and going to Perry who is also doing well with Tea Party types. Another knock against Romney was the Obama-like healthcare program he hatched years ago as governor of Massachusetts.

SCHUMER STILL WANTS LOCKERBIE KILLER: Dead or alive, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–New York) still wants Abdelbeset Al-Megrahi extradited from Libya. Al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of the Pan American flight 103 killed 270 people, lies near death from cancer.

But Scottish authorities, who allowed Al-Megrahi to return to Libya because he was near death after his trial, reportedly are still adamant that he be left alone to die in peace.

But Schumer, among many pols clamoring to have the Lockerbie bomber returned, hasn’t given up hope yet. Schumer said in a Daily News report yesterday, “This wouldn’t be the first time that Libyan officials claimed Al-Megrahi was on his deathbed.”

The lawmaker insisted that we need more than the word of Libyan officials to shield Al-Megrahi from facing his fate before the world’s justice.

Al-Megrahi was discovered by a CNN reporter covering the war in Libya in recent days, but even the new Libyan government that replaced Moammar Khadafy’s regime refused to let the convicted bomber go.

The story said the reporter found Al- Megrahi in his palatial villa in Libya, hooked up to a machine in a hospital bed and apparently comatose and near death.

BRAUNSTEIN CALLS ON MTA: The MTA’s proposed $1 surcharge on new MetroCards purchased at LIRR vending machines starting in 2013 doesn’t sit well with Assemblymember Edward Braunstein (D–Bayside).

The freshman lawmaker, a member of the Transportation Committee, points out that LIRR vending machines, unlike other MetroCard vending machines, are incapable of refilling previously purchased cards.

But, says Braunstein, “The MTA justifies this surcharge by arguing that recycling MetroCards is good for the environment.

“Therefore the MTA plan to promote refilling MetroCards by adding a $1 surcharge for new cards serves no purpose at these machines and is unfair to commuters in the outside boroughs.”

He emphasizes, “Many of my constituents purchase their new MetroCards at the vending machines at LIRR stations because they are the only available outlets. After I reached out to the MTA and informed them of this problem, the agency still refused to reconsider the proposed surcharge.”

Braunstein finds this little episode “yet another example of government nickeland diming the residents of Northeast Queens. I once again call on the MTA to reconsider this outrageous and unjustified fare increase”.

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