Liu’s Mayoral Hopes Look Brighter After Bloomberg Springs Pension Plan
City Comptroller John Liu, who has been getting lots of criticism for going against demands for solutions to costly municipal pensions, finally found some common ground with Mayor Michael Bloomberg as they hatched a plan to create a consolidated investment strategy for city workers’ pension funds that gets the politics out of the process and generates more money for the fund.
The key factor in the new plan the mayor and Liu worked out is to get private consultants— and the fees they collect out of the pension money that is invested for 237,000 retirees and more than 300,000 current city workers. It could save the city about $1 billion a year. It would also relieve the city of having to pay for losses incurred by the pension funds with taxpayer dollars.
The plan, which creates for the first time a full-time professional investment staff to manage the city’s pension plans, will require state approval, but there doesn’t seem to be any opposition from Albany.
What’s good about the new proposal is it appears to ease the tension between the mayor and comptroller, and also appears that Liu’s chances of winning the mayoral race next year have suddenly brightened clearing away the notion that the pension issue was hurting his hopes of walking off with the prize.
It might also clear the way for a rapprochement between the city’s two top elected officials that will bring the mayor into Liu’s corner. Liu could be making these gains because he reportedly played a major role in devising the new plan.
Liu commented on the proposed new system: “Our labor leaders and trustees have delivered a huge win for taxpayers and city workers alike with this game changer.”
Liu, the former Flushing councilmember, made another move last week that improved his mayoral chances. He announced that he had ordered an independent investigation of claims that some of his campaign contributions were tainted.
Former state Attorney General Robert Abrams will conduct the probe. It all started when it was recently reported that Liu’s campaign coffers received about $1 million in donations, made out to them in the amount of $800 from Asian-Americans. Many of these donations came from unlikely donors like small business owners and local Flushing residents. The New York Times did an investigation and found that many so-called donors did not contribute the funds; also the handwriting on many of the donations seemed to be similar raising other suspicions.
As it appeared a major probe by campaign finance officials might be undertaken, Liu wisely decided to bring in his own investigator, one above reproach, like Abrams, to do a thorough investigation and hopefully clear the air. Hopefully any possible violations of campaign finance laws will be cleared away by a fine or slap on the wrist.
MILLIONAIRES TAX CHATTER: The top tax rates on New Yorkers with taxable incomes above $200,000 are set to expire on December 31, and it couldn’t come too quick for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who wants the bothersome levy off the books.
But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who favors extending the tax because polls show that is what many people want, issued another call last week for extension of the tax beyond December 31.
CROWLEY CRITICIZES GOP “ANTI-UNION” BILL: Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) described himself as dismayed by a Republican-led committee’s decision to roll back common sense regulations which had been issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Crowley said the GOP-controlled House Committee on Education and the Work Force had passed on a strict party line vote for a bill designed to curtail labor organizing rights by repealing an NLRB proposal to streamline the union election process and increase fairness for American workers.
The bill is now headed for the House floor for a vote by Congress.
“The party-line vote on the legislation makes it more difficult for workers to organize into labor unions in a fair and transparent manner,” Crowley charged “at a time when middle class Americans can’t afford to have the deck further stacked against them.”
The lawmaker noted, “The right to form a union is a fundamental right, and Republican efforts to chip away and dismantle these rights are not only wrong, they are bad for the economy.”
GIANARIS ENCOURAGES RESIDENTS: ‘APPLY FOR LIHEAP’: State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) issued a reminder yesterday to Western Queens residents to sign up for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP offers low income households assistance to pay their energy bills to protect themselves against the cold winter weather. The program provides assistance in several ways, Gianaris said, including making bill payments and helping with energy crises, weatherization and other energy home repairs. The program is particularly beneficial to the community’s seniors, young children and the disabled who are at a higher risk of life-threatening diseases due to lack of sufficient heat in their homes.
“During these difficult economic times, energy costs are an increasing burden for all New Yorkers, particularly for those in need,” Gianaris said. “I strongly encourage all who are eligible to see how this program can help their families.
For information, visit liheap.ncat.org/profiles/NY.htm/and the federal Web site at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/index. html. Interested applicants can also call the National Federal Assistance Referral (NEAR) project at 1-866-674-6327, Monday thru Friday.
FREE CHILD ID AT THREE LIBRARIES: Assemblymember Margaret Markey (D–Maspeth) is teaming up with the NYPD and the State Division of Criminal Justice Services to bring the Operation Child Safety Program to Queens Public Library branches in Woodside, Astoria and Maspeth.
Markey says the Operation Safe Child program is designed to raise awareness about child safety by using digital technology and high resolution photography to create a Safe Child ID Card which parents retain, containing a child’s name, biographical information such as date of birth, height, weight, hair color and fingerprint image of both index fingers. The card, which is made in less than two minutes, can easily be placed in a wallet or pocketbook.
The free service to secure a card will be available:
•Monday, November 14, 2 until 7 p.m. at the Woodside Library, 54-22 Skillman Ave.
•Thursday, November 17, 2 until 7 p.m. at the Maspeth Library, 69-70 Grand Ave. and
•Saturday, November 19, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Broadway Library, 40-20 Broadway, Astoria. For information call 718- 651-3185.
Information from the card is available only to law enforcement officials in the event of a disappearance and it can be used in conjunction with the New York state Amber Alert and the Missing Child Alert programs. The voluntary program requires the written consent of a parent or guardian.
VALLONE BLASTS COPS IN GUN SMUGGLING: Commenting on the arrest of several New York police officers who were running a gun smuggling operation, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, commented: “These despicable actions by a few police officers endangered not only our communities, but their fellow officers who risk their lives to get illegal guns off the streets. I commend those who uncovered this activity and hope to see those quietly rot in jail for a long time.”
QUEENS MAINTAINS DIVERSITY TITLE: New York City’s population expert assured Queens Borough President Helen Marshall recently that Queens continues to be the epicenter of diversity.
During a Borough Board meeting at Borough Hall, Joseph Salvo, the director of the city Population Division at the Department of Planning, told Marshall, “You have a mix of just about everything.”
Salvo was loaded with facts and figures, and disputed the 2010 Census figures, especially in Northwest Queens.
“Young people are discovering Queens,” Salvo insisted. “There is no way we could have lost 10,000 in Astoria. It’s preposterous.”
Among the figures cited by Salvo were:
•Half of all Asians in New York City equalling 512,000, live in Queens.
•57 percent 1,206,520 individuals speak a language at home other than English.
•There were 100,000 more births than deaths in the borough.
•The foreign-born population of Queens is equal to that of Dallas, Texas.
•Immigrants from Ecuador have risen dramatically— up 19 percent—in the last decade, while the number from the Dominican
Republic has waned.
•Total Hispanic population of Queens is 614,000.
In another matter, Marshall officially turned over the keys of a $273,000 Mobile Training Vehicle—funded by her office—to Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano last Thursday morning outside Borough Hall. The vehicle offers onboard training in: forcible entry, operation of breathing masks during stressful and emergency operations and emergency situations that could result in operation of emergency alert and MAY DAY transmissions.
VAN BRAMER TO VERIZON: ‘RESTORE SUNNYSIDE’ PHONES: Surrounded by Sunnyside residents, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Woodside) demanded that Verizon restore phone service that was knocked out by Hurricane Irene two months ago. Despite efforts by the lawmaker to get action by Verizon, and calls from affected residents, Verizon has failed to restore land-line service and affected customers are without day-to-day service and, more importantly, Van Bramer added, service to report emergencies.
MALONEY BILL THANKS GREECE: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan), Hellenic Council cofounder and co-chair, was joined by fellow caucus co-chair and lead sponsor Congressmember Gus Bilrakis (D–Fl.) who introduced bipartisan legislation that expresses gratitude to the government of Greece for preventing the Gaza flotilla from setting sail which was in violation of Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
The bill also requires the State Department to report to Congress whether any support organization that participated in the planning or execution of the recent Gaza flotilla attempt should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization.
“Greece’s decision reflects its commitment to international law and regional stability and conforms with the view of the UN Secretary- General, the European Union and the Quartet,” Maloney stated.
ADDABBO SETS MAMMOGRAPHY, METROCARD BUS: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., in collaboration with the American-Italian Cancer Foundation (AICF) is sponsoring a free Mobile Mammography Van with staff from Multi Diagnostic Services (MDS). The event will be held in front of the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 78-15 Jamaica Ave., Woodhaven on November 19, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
An appointment is necessary, so please call toll free 1-877-628-9090, ask for Maria. Women ages 40 and over are urged to have a free scanning for cancer and clinical breast exam. This is the ninth free mammography event the senator has coordinated for women in his district since October 2008.
In December, Addabbo has scheduled other free cancer and clinical breast exams as follows: December 7, Holy Child Jesus Parish, 111-11 86 Ave., Richmond Hill; December 11, Adhikaar (Human Rights Org), 70-07 Woodside Ave., Woodside and December 22, P.S. 58 (The School of Heroes), 72-24 Grand Ave., Maspeth.
Sponsored by AICF, appointments are necessary between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
If making mammogram visits, women must bring Medicare or Medicaid cards or almost any other healthcare insurance membership card. For more details about the NYC CSP, call 866-442-CANCER (2262).
If you provide MDS staff with previous mammogram films, a comparison radiological study will be done, which in some cases eliminates the need for additional testing.
STAVISKY ‘DELIGHTED’ WITH S.S. COLA: State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) joined the chorus of approval which greeted the reinstatement of the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) starting with January 2012 benefit payments, calling it “a step in the right direction”. Noting that she fought for reinstatement of the COLA when it was not granted in 2010, she explained:
“The COLA is tied to the rate of inflation, and even though the government said that inflation was flat in those years, anyone can tell you that the price of everything—food, housing, prescription drugs—is constantly going up. To expect seniors on a fixed income to make do with less money for more expensive goods is ridiculous and shameful.”
Stavisky also announced that after November 7, she and colleague Assemblymember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) will have more information about the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the federally funded effort which helps millions of low income households, particularly those with the lowest incomes, with financial aid to offset their winter heating costs. For information, contact Stavisky at (718-445-0004) or Meng at (718-939-1093).
Stavisky warned: “If you can’t afford to pay your home energy bill, you can face safety risks. Some people resort to unsafe methods to keep their homes warm.”
To get information on LIHEAP benefits call the National Energy Assistance Referral toll free at 1-866-674-6327 for information where to apply for LIHEAP.
MAKING BOX OFFICE SALES MORE AVAILABLE: In an effort to create full transparency ensuring people understand how many tickets are actually available at box offices, Councilmember Leroy Comrie (D–Jamaica) has introduced a bill to require that 15 percent of individual tickets be sold at the box office, as opposed to online and require vendors to provide information to consumers about how many tickets are actually available.
Comrie’s bill would require vendors to notify the Consumer Affairs Department and post on its Web site how many tickets will be held and how many will be available to the public.
M. WEPRIN ANNOUNCES FAIRWAY MARKET OPENING: Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) reports that Fairway Market is set to open a store in Douglaston at 242-02 61st Ave., in the lower level of the Douglaston Plaza Shopping Center on November 16. Fairway will occupy the site being vacated by Waldbaum’s, Weprin said. The new Fairway will be a 56,000 square foot market.