GOP Snatches Victory From Defeat, Takes State Senate Helm
The deal by state Senators Dean Skelos, a Republican, and Jeff Klein, a Democrat, to run the senate jointly for the next two years, got hit from the left and right last week, but it’s a done deal and a huge blow to that body’s Democrats who rightfully won senate control on Election Day but got outflanked and sabotaged by a small clique of their own members.
One reaction to the unholy alliance brought charges from black senators and were enunciated by Al Sharpton. They say the new senate leadership is all-white and leaves blacks out in the cold, which means they feel they won’t have a chance to get appointed to committee chairmanships which would give them some power and some extra financial remuneration.
From the right, state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said the new deal was bad—for the Republicans—because some liberal oriented legislation is going to get passed, including the state’s minimum wage. Skelos and other senate Republicans have blocked it in the past, but Klein, The Bronx Democrat, favors it strongly, so he’ll push it through, according to reports out of Albany.
Governor Andrew Cuomo also favors the increased minimum wage, which also increases chances of its passage. Bottom line, though, Long is threatening the Republicans that if the minimum wage increase and other liberal legislation gets approved, the Conservatives will run their own candidates two years from now, denying the GOP the support it must have to win any election.
The Skelos-Klein tandem has not responded to Long and the Conservative Party, but Albany reports say they will try to blunt the complaints from Sharpton and other black leaders.
Sources report that the new Republican senate leaders planned to bring blacks into the fold and, in fact, would do it by naming freshman Senator James Sanders, a black lawmaker from the Rockaways, to a task force looking into the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort.
Also, as part of that deal, another Queens senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., would be offered a spot on the same task force as he is from the Howard Beach/Ozone Park area. It will be interesting to see whether Democrats will allow themselves to be bought off in order to relieve the criticism from the new Republican leadership after it snatched that powerful post from them.
GOP MAYORAL CONTENDERS? While Democrats have been pushing and elbowing to get their party’s nod for next year’s mayoral nomination, and there was little talk about who might be the Republican contender, it appeared last week the MTA Chairman Joe Lhota was taking a serious look at making the race.
And in short order, a second possible Republican mayoral hopeful, millionaire supermarket chain owner John Catsimatidis, announced he was seriously considering the Republican nomination.
Catsimatidis has for years been talking about running for mayor, but that was more than a dozen years ago, before another millionaire— Michael Bloomberg—suddenly appeared as the Republican standard bearer and then overstayed his welcome and no other Republican was foolish enough to challenge him for 12 years.
If Catsimatidis is serious and he does seek the GOP line, it would make it tough for Lhota because he’s been hesitating because he hasn’t got access to the money that’s needed to finance a mayoral campaign. Or he might be scared off by Catsimatidis and his deep pockets.
But Lhota is attracting lots of attention because of how he’s running the MTA, especially through Hurricane Sandy. And his former boss, ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, injected Lhota’s name into the subject and has followed it up giving Lhota lots of credibility. He’s even got the New York Post on his side, so if he can get it together, maybe a promise or two that the money can be found, it might also push Catsimatidis out of the race and help Lhota because he won’t have to spend any money to win a primary.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is still considered the front-runner against Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu and former City Comptroller William Thompson.
Quinn got blasted by actor Alec Baldwin last week, who charged she handed Bloomberg the chance to run for a third term three years ago and is “very untrustworthy”. That might encourage Thompson to revive the issue which he used against Bloomberg.
Quinn might be headed for some problems if she goes through with sponsoring a change in campaign finance rules and weakens the city Campaign Finance Board, which has been considered an asset to local elections. Some prominent city organizations reportedly favor Quinn’s legislation.
DEMOCRATS REACH HIGH RANKINGS: Last week, following Congressmember Joseph Crowley’s election to the fifth highest position among Democrats in Congress, the Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney was elected to serve as the highest ranking Democrat on the key Joint Economic Committee.
Maloney was also elected as the New York City Regional Whip and to also continue to serve on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set caucus priorities.
In other Democratic Party moves, joining Congressmembers Louise Slaughter (Upstate) and Nydia Velazquez (Queens/Brooklyn) as the current ranking Democratic members of the House Rules and Small Business Committees, respectively, will be Congressmembers Nita Lowey on Appropriations and Eliot Engel (Bronx) on Foreign Affairs.
“I am thrilled to see that New York has achieved such a level of leadership that’s really unprecedented in my time here,” stated Maloney. “I am also humbled and honored by the vote of my colleagues in the delegation electing me to be the New York City Regional Whip, and by the caucus at large voting me as the Joint Economic Committee Ranking member.”
LIU PROTESTS ‘DEHUMANIZING’ PHOTO: In the December 4 edition of the New York Post, there appeared on the front page a photo of a man clinging by his finger tips to the subway platform edge as a subway train approached. Subsequently killed by the onrushing train was Ki-Suck Han, of Elmhurst, who minutes earlier was engaged in a quarrel with another passenger before he was pushed off the platform and eventually lost his life. The other person was arrested by the NYPD.
City Comptroller John Liu last week strongly objected to the New York Post’s photo saying, “As a New Yorker and a human being, I am outraged that the New York Post chose to plaster on its front page a dehumanizing photo of Ki-Suck Han in the last desperate seconds before he was crushed to death by a subway train. The distress the publication of this photo has caused Han’s widow and daughter, who buried Han Thursday morning, is heartwrenching.”
Liu conceded the Post has the First Amendment right to publish what it wishes… but as New Yorkers we have an equal right to register our disgust and dismay at the Post’s editorial judgment. This horrific image of a man’s impending doom hurt his family and blighted our city. It disgraced the cover of the publication that proudly calls itself the nation’s oldest continually published daily.
Liu called upon the newspaper to apologize to Han’s family and to donate substantially to the fund established by his widow and daughter.
GIANARIS REVISITS 10-DAY POWER BLACKOUT OF 2006: Offering help to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who’s investigating the state’s utilities, state Senator Michael Gianaris has submitted his report on the 2006 Queens blackout to the investigatory commission appointed by Cuomo.
Gianaris, a longtime advocate for improved public utility service, submitted his report from the Queens Power Outage Task Force, which he led following the 10-day power blackout in Western Queens. The report, which made a series of recommendations to improve utility services, was sent to the Moreland Commission created by the governor. Gianaris said he believed his task force report could be a useful tool, as the Moreland Commission conducts its own probe of the utilities.
Following Superstorm Sandy, the governor established the commission to investigate the response, preparation and management of the state’s power companies, which dealt with numerous power failures during the recent storm, vastly inconveniencing thousands of state residents.
“The failure of utilities’ response efforts is a recurring problem that cries out for reform,” declared Gianaris (D–Western Queens). “Many of the issues raised by Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts are identical to those experienced by Western Queens in 2006. The inability to quickly restore power to so many homes and businesses is dangerous to people’s health and devastating to our economy. I am hopeful this commission will bring about the necessary reforms many of us have advocated for years.”
In 2006, Gianaris recalled, the 10-day blackout caused by failures in Con Edison’s Long Island City network, harmed residents’ lives and caused vast business losses.
The lawmaker’s Queens Power Outage Task Force identified problems with the state’s energy policy which led to the lack of accountability over utilities, Gianaris said. Similar to the present Moreland Commission’s current probe of recent failures, the 2006 task force examined the possibility of revoking utilities’ franchises, Gianaris said, and also highlighted the need for utilities to invest in infrastructure improvements and modernizing equipment. The report recommended mandating enhanced oversight of electricity distributors and increased competition throughout the industry to ensure more reliable electricity distribution, Gianaris said.
SEEK TAX BREAKS FOR ‘SANDY’ VICTIMS: Hurricane Sandy victims rebuilding their storm destroyed homes and businesses would receive tax savings from the federal government to help cover the costs of rebuilding under a law introduced last week by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D–N.J.).
Schumer stated, “This legislation will make it easier for families and small businesses affected by the storm to marshal more of their resources for recovery.” He also said the bill is modeled after one which was enacted in 2005 to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.
The legislation provides that victims rebuilding would be able to deduct much of the cleanup costs on their tax returns and would also suspend a 10 percent penalty that normally applies to early withdrawal of funds from a retirement account.
Additional tax exemptions would:
•Go to any individual who provided free shelter for at least 60 days to anyone displaced by the storm.
•Would extend tax credits to whoever continued to pay wages although their business was closed.
•Increase limits on deductible charitable deductions.
The benefits under the Schumer-Menendez bill would apply separately from any financial aid received from the $60.4 billion package announced by President Obama and now being considered by Congress, they said.
CROWLEY ON SAME SEX MARRIAGE CASES BEFORE S.C.: Commenting on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to rule on same-sex marriages, Congressmember Joseph Crowley issued the following statement:
“Both DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Proposition 8 (in California) have been declared unconstitutional by courts, and now the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to do the same. Sexual orientation discrimination has absolutely no place in the laws and policies of this country, and I hope the Supreme Court will ultimately decide to make a ruling on these cases. Marriage equality is a fundamental right for all families and I will continue to fight to ensure that all Americans are afforded equal protection under the law.”
DROMM CO-HOSTS DACA LEGAL CLINIC: On December 8, Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) and several other groups held a free legal clinic offering free legal consultations on eligibility information on the latest updates, and guidance on collecting the necessary documents for application filings for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The meeting was in connection with President Obama’s announcement on June 15 of a new DACA policy. Under it, deferred action would be offered, as well as work permits for qualifying undocumented youth. Dromm explained that, while DACA does not grant lawful status, it does grant temporary relief from deportation and a two year work permit.
MORE PUBLIC HEARINGS ON REDISTRICTING: On December 4, the New York City Redistricting Commission, which is drawing up new City Council district lines in time for next year’s elections, withdrew a redistricting plan it had sent to the council for approval or rejection, and set new public hearings to allow the public an additional opportunity to inspect and comment on the plan.
The new hearings schedule will be announced in January, the commission said.
The commission’s action brought out a comment from Councilmember Dan Halloran (R–C–Whitestone), calling it “a step in the right direction”. He said he hoped the new hearings “will lead to the restoration of Northern Flushing to the 19th District so that the single-family homeowners in the area will continue to have a voice in the council and not be disenfranchised”.
PERALTA TO SPEAK: State Senator Jose Peralta (D–Jackson Heights) will address the JFK Regular Democratic Club on Thursday evening, December 20 at the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills, 71-25 Main St., Kew Gardens Hills.