Mayor Revs Up Gun Control Debate
The wanton killing of 20 school children in Newtown, Connecticut last week has brought the gun control issue back into the headlines again and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, perhaps the most ardent advocate to get the weapons out of circulation, took to the airwaves on December 16 and took aim at President Barack Obama, charging he has done nothing to deal with the deadly issue.
Later that day, the president was in the little town where the latest blood bath was unleashed to offer condolences to the victims’ families and he admitted “we’re not doing enough” about the recurring massacres occurring around the country and “we’ll have to change”.
If the president was trying to tell us he’s ready to do something meaningful about gun control, there’s a good chance he’ll get the opportunity to fight for legislation attacking the gun menace because many Washington legislators say they are fighting mad and ready to do something about it. But it all seems to have a hollow ring to it.
“He calls for action, but he called for action two years ago”, and there was no follow up, the mayor said. He added, “If he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns.”
The mayor’s statements on the news show reflect anger with Obama’s actions earlier in his administration, signing legislation allowing people to carry guns in national parks and Amtrak trains. But now, with his second term victory behind him and pressure again building following the heinous crime that took 27 lives, including the helpless 20 schoolchildren last week, the president’s positions could change.
Most people seem to agree that the path to take is to fight to outlaw the deadly weapons that can fire numerous rounds in a matter of seconds, and other legislation to get the weapons out of the hands of anyone with mental illness. There’s been support expressed by many lawmakers, including U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and also U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein of California.
These are changes that the president should support and get out front on. Doing whatever possible to get assault weapons banned. The assault weapon ban should be every lawmaker’s priority because there really is no conceivable necessary use for them so everything should be done to ban them.
PAUL VALLONE TO SEEK CITY COUNCIL SEAT: Last week, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. announced he will run for Queens borough president in next year’s election. Now we’ve learned that Peter Jr.’s younger brother, Paul, plans to run for the City Council against Councilmember Dan Halloran, the Republican incumbent from Whitestone.
Paul Vallone, 45, who’s part of the Vallone family law firm based in Astoria, sought the seat in 2009, but lost the Democratic primary to Kevin Kim, who lost the general election to Halloran. Following his lost chance to run then, Vallone set out to build a stronger political base in the community in the Clinton Club of Northeast Queens. He says he will formally announce his candidacy on January 8.
KOCH SUPPORTS KATZ: In the crowded Democratic field seeking the Queens borough president’s seat, former Mayor Edward Koch last week endorsed ex-legislator Melinda Katz in the race.
In a statement released by him, Koch declared: “I am supporting Melinda Katz for Queens borough president. She is the one candidate in the race that raises the level of conversation about balancing economic development with the community in Queens. As chair of the City Council’s Land Use Committee she achieved that balance citywide. It is why I supported her for city comptroller in 2009 and why I am supporting her now for Queens borough president in 2013.”
Also in the Democratic field besides Katz and Peter Vallone Jr. are state Senators Tony Avella (Northeast Queens), Jose Peralta (Jackson Heights) and Councilmember Leroy Comrie (Jamaica).
IMPRESSIVE RECEPTION FOR VALLONE’S ENTRY INTO QUEENS BP RACE: Following up on last week’s Gazette front page, that was quite an impressive turnout the evening of December 11 to celebrate and cheer Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s announcement that he will run for Queens borough president in next year’s elections.
Among the guests were: mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate and former City Comptroller William Thompson, both Democrats; and MTA chairman Joseph Lhota, who may be joining the mayoral field as a Republican candidate.
Also local legislators and supporters state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, from Astoria’s Democratic ranks, and Assemblymember Michael DenDekker, a Jackson Heights Democrat.
City council colleagues joining the festivities were Mark Weprin, Elizabeth Crowley, Annabel Palma and Maria del Carmen Arroyo, all Democrats; and one Republican, Dan Halloran.
LIU REJECTS BLOOMBERG’S CAB PLAN: City Comptroller John Liu and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are at it again, this time quarreling over the mayor’s Taxi of Tomorrow plan. Liu has formally rejected it, telling Bloomberg that the contract involved in implementing it may violate the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and lead to many lawsuits that will cost the city lots of money to settle.
However, the talk around City Hall is that Liu is way off base and just playing it for some headlines. The comptroller, under city law, must register the contract before it can be implemented, but he refuses to do that.
But the mayor, according to reports, is not bound by Liu’s assessment and will just ignore it and go ahead with the plan. It could wind up in court.
In informing the mayor that he has rejected the plan, Liu stated: “City Hall’s refusal to provide wheelchair-accessible cabs for people with disabilities is inexplicable and we believe it violates the ADA. We should not go ahead with a so-called Taxi of Tomorrow that perpetuates a shamefully separate and unequal cab fleet for another decade.”
Liu added that the plan has been “met with outrage” and objections and is currently the subject of a lawsuit that seeks to block it from being implemented.
Siding with Liu on this issue are Councilmembers Dan Halloran (R–C–Whitestone) and Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights).
Halloran said the plan “must consider the future of all New Yorkers including those with disabilities”.
Dromm said, “I support taxis for all, not just taxis for some. We need a fleet that serves all New Yorkers. Halfway measures are inadequate.”
GIANARIS BLASTS SHOOTING AT RAVENSWOOD: State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Western Queens) issued this statement following another shooting incident at the Ravenswood Houses:
“The recent shooting at Ravenswood Houses is the latest deplorable incident of gun violence in our neighborhood and further proves the need for more sensible gun laws. We must be vigilant in our efforts to ensure the safety of families making a home in our community, starting with enacting measures making it more difficult for illegal guns to fall into the wrong hands.”
CROWLEY REPORTS SEWER UPGRADES: Councilmember Elizabeth Crowey (D–Glendale) announced last week that city agencies have agreed to move up installation of new combined sewers on Penelope Avenue in Middle Village from 2015 to 2014. The change was made following two major rainstorms that caused extensive flooding and damage to nearby residents’ homes. Crowley requested an accelerated timetable to prevent further damage to homes.
The lawmaker stated, “The storms in August and September showed that this area’s sewers are not equipped to handle major storms. It was simply unacceptable to ask residents to continue waiting before something was done.”
Crowley said the acceleration of the Penelope Avenue project ensures construction will overlap with the installation of sewers on Calamus Avenue, which will begin this summer. Both sewer lines are part of a main system that drains at LaGuardia Airport. The planned work will improve sewer capacity by 80 percent, Crowley said.
BRAUNSTEIN BILL SIGNED BY CUOMO: Assemblymember Edward Braunstein (D–Bayside) reports that Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law the lawmaker’s bill to increase the charge for unlicensed practices of law from a misdemeanor to a felony.
In signing the bill into law as of next November 13, the governor stated: “We have no tolerance for scam artists who pose as lawyers and deceive New Yorkers in need of legal help. This new law will help keep accountable individuals who defraud New Yorkers by offering services they are not licensed to provide. I thank the bill’s sponsors for their efforts on this important legislation.”
Braunstein said he introduced the law after hearing many immigrants fell victim to persons posing as lawyers and taking money from them without getting help.
MENG TO ATTEND HARVARD FOR ‘NEW CONGRESSMEMBERS’ COURSE: Approximately 50 new members of Congress attended Harvard University’s Institute of Politics for a bipartisan conference focusing on exercising leadership in Congress and Congressmember-Elect Grace Meng (D–Flushing) was among them.
Meng said the Institute of Politics “has been a helpful resource for many new members of Congress, and I was pleased to take part in this year’s event”.