Forest Hills H.S. Grad Nominated Treasury Head By Obama
Some years later he found himself in our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., where he started his career in the office of legendary Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill in the late 1970s. From there, he moved into the administration of President Bill Clinton, helping to formulate three budget surpluses.
Lew’s most recent bit of financial wizardry was guiding President Barack Obama through the perils of the fiscal cliff battle to a successful conclusion.
The reward for the Queens native, Obama’s chief of staff, was to be appointed by the president as secretary of the Treasury Department. Lew will no doubt face a tough series of grilling from GOP senators during confirmation hearings, but is expected to weather the storm and be confirmed to head the U.S. Treasury Department.
As for Lew, he took the nomination in stride, saying, “I look forward to joining the Treasury Department, whose people are legendary for their skill and knowledge. It’s a team that I have collaborated with closely over many years and have come to respect greatly.”
If confirmed, Lew would succeed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who held the strategic post throughout Obama’s first term. During that period, Lew was head of the Office of Management and Budget and previously in charge of international economic issues at the U.S. State Department.
WEPRIN’S BILL ATTACKS MAYORAL SCHOOL CONTROL: With Mayor Bloomberg in a major battle with public school teachers over the issue of teacher evaluations, which could endanger the city’s receipt of $450 million in state aid grants, he has been given something else to worry about—a bill filed in Albany seeking changes in the mayor’s signature school control plan which he guided to passage in his first term in office.
The new bill to water down mayoral school control was introduced by a former Bloomberg foe, Assemblymember David Weprin (D–Little Neck). Previously, Weprin served as a councilmember and chair of the influential Finance Committee. From that pulpit, he became the chief protagonist against the mayor’s string of high increases of water charges for thousands of homeowners, many of them from Queens. Weprin was unsuccessful in blocking the mayor’s increases, but he certainly got a headache rebutting Weprin’s criticisms.
Now as a state lawmaker, Weprin feels the current mayoral school control law gave Bloomberg too much power and created “lots of frustration for parents of school kids and school activists, who feel he has run the schools like an autocrat”.
He added, “Before the school control system was enacted, we had strong, working school boards with active parent participation, which doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been replaced by constant frustration with running battles between the Panel on Education Policy, the successor to the Board of Education Policy, the successor to the Board of Education and parent and community groups. There’s got to be a way to give parents more say in their children’s education, which they don’t have now.”
Weprin said with his bill, the Panel on Education Policy would be changed and the mayor, who now appoints eight of the 13 members, would have only four appointments, each borough president would appoint one and the City Council would appoint four. Also, said Weprin, the new board, not the mayor, would appoint the Chancellor.
The present mayoral control law is up for renewal on Jun. 30, 2015, so Weprin’s bill he stated, “could start the discussion about whether we want to change the law. It’s very appropriate also, because we’ll be electing a new mayor this year, and our education system will surely be part of the campaign.”
He said the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) agrees these discussions about his mayoral control bill can be very helpful at this time.
As for the teacher evaluation system, each of the state’s 700 school districts must submit a teacher evaluation plan by tomorrow and the mayor and teachers must agree on the submission, but there is strong teacher disagreement with the mayor’s proposed evaluation plan and there are only a few days for both sides to agree or the $450 million in state aid and grants that would go to the city if its plan is accepted is in danger of being lost.
STAVISKY CONGRATULATES LEW: Lew was congratulated by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) upon his appointment. She stated: “Secretary-designate Lew represents the best of Queens. With his extensive background in budget and finance, along with his exemplary record of public service, I know that Mr. Lew will join the likes of Alexander Hamilton and Henry Morgenthau Jr. as another great treasury secretary from New York.”
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN MAYORAL RACE: Over the past week, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who leads the small knot of Democrats seeking the mayoral nomination, picked up women’s support from Emily’s List, which supports women candidates with financial backing.
But the financial implications are just part of the benefit Quinn will derive from Emily’s List. She also benefits from becoming “the” woman candidate in the contest, which automatically boosts her women’s support in the contest.
Quinn is opposed in the Democratic primary by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu and past City Comptroller Bill Thompson.
On the Republican side of the mayoral race, supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, who had said he wouldn’t make a decision whether to go after the Republican nomination until Joseph Lhota made his decision to go in or out, surprisingly announced he had decided he would go after the GOP nomination. He made the declaration during a visit to this newspaper’s publisher Tony Barsamian and also revealed that he had filed paperwork with the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB).
Catsimatidis’ wealth already makes him a threat over Lhota, who has been seeking sources of financial support for the past three or four weeks, but has not given a clue as to whether he’s been successful or not. Also, it could develop that the fight for the GOP nomination will eventually pit Lhota against Catsimatidis, period, because the only other person considering running in the GOP primary was former Democrat-turned-Republican Adolfo Carrion, and he has the inside track on securing the Independence Party line while pursuing possible support from Republican county leaders.
According to sources, Queens party chairman Phil Ragusa and the Manhattan GOP leader are backing Catsimatidis, while the Republican leaders in The Bronx and Brooklyn have chosen to go with Carrion. Meanwhile, the Staten Island GOP boss is behind Lhota.
Who the Republican county leaders finally decide to back of the three is up in the air, but political leaders are generally swayed by a candidate with the bucks, so Catsimatidis has got a good chance to get their attention.
GRODENCHIK SEVENTH DEMOCRAT SEEKING BOROUGH PRESIDENT’S SEAT: Barry Grodenchik, a former state assemblymember who has served under two former Queens borough presidents, announced last Tuesday that he is running for that office in this year’s election. The Hollis Hills resident became the seventh Democrat in the field, assuring a lively party primary election to decide who will be the party’s candidate in November. There has been no indication at this point who will be the Republican candidate for the seat held by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. The job pays $160,000 a year.
Grodenchik currently serves as director of Community Boards under Marshall before he steps down to run for borough president. He had also served as deputy to Marshall.
Previously, he was chief administrative officer when Claire Shulman held the office. Grodenchik also was a legislative aide to former Assemblymember Nettie Mayersohn, now retired. Grodenchik also served in the assembly for a short period. At another point, Grodenchik served as a Queens regional representative under Governor Mario Cuomo.
Grodenchik, who made the announcement of his candidacy last Tuesday at Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, is married to Dr. Debra Grodenchik. They have a son, David, who is a junior at Benjamin Cardozo H.S. in Bayside.
Grodenchik joins the following Democrats who have announced they are running for Queens borough president: Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. of Astoria; state Senator Jose Peralta, Jackson Heights; Councilmember Leroy Comrie, Jamaica; state Senator Tony Avella, Bayside; former Assemblymember Melinda Katz, Forest Hills; and Jerry Iannece, Bayside Hills.
Last week, Vallone submitted a resolution calling on the federal government to pass U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s bill that would make witness intimidation a federal offense. Schumer’s bill, named the State Witness Protection Act, would also increase the maximum penalty for attempted murder or the use of force against a witness to 30 years in prison and establish a maximum of 20 years in prison for other types of witness intimidation. That crime is currently illegal in New York City, enforceable by the NYPD.
“Every time a witness is intimidated it allows for more violence in our community,” Vallone stated. “Anyone who tries to give a ‘snitch’ a stitch should get a bed from the feds.”
Peralta issued a statement after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address last week, praising him for his call strengthening New York’s assault weapons ban and other gun control changes, and announcing his support for his positions.
“Making it harder for criminals to get guns and keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill are essential steps in the fight against gun violence,” said Peralta. He also criticized Senate Republicans for their “failure to do anything about assault weapons”.
MENG APPOINTED TO FOREIGN AFFAIRS PANEL: Freshman Congressmember Grace Meng (D–Flushing), following her appointment to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, last week, said she was “honored to have been awarded a spot on one of the most important and influential committees in the House of Representatives”.
Meng explained: “For most members of Congress, foreign affairs is an international subject. But here in Queens, foreign affairs is a local issue. The borough is a snapshot of the world. It is the most ethnically and culturally diverse county in America, with people from across the globe speaking dozens of different languages.”
In another matter, Meng said she plans to attach an amendment to the upcoming Hurricane Sandy relief bill that would allow local houses of worship to receive disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Meng pointed out that several houses of worship sustained damage from the hurricane, but the government has not included them for FEMA assistance in any legislation, although other nonprofits are included. Houses of worship should be included because “many neighborhoods depend on them for things such as child care, food pantries and other programs”.
KOO NAMED CHAIR OF WATERFRONTS COMMITTEE: After he was appointed to head the City Council’s Waterfront’s Committe, Councilmember Peter Koo (R–C–Flushing) thanked Speaker Christine Quinn for the assignment “and their confidence in my ability”. He noted the committee covers over 500 miles of the city’s waterfront areas, including but not limited to, economic development, storm preparation and protection, pollution, infrastructure, transportation, commerce and security.
CONSTANTINIDES ENDORSED IN CITY COUNCIL ELECTION: The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU) has announced the endorsement of Costa Constantinides, who is seeking the 22nd district council seat covering Astoria, Long Island City, Woodside and Jackson Heights in the November election.
In thanking the union for its support, Constantinides said he and the union “share the same progressive values critical to building a stronger and more sustainable middle class here in Astoria and New York City. I will be a strong advocate in the City Council for good jobs with a living wage”.
Constantinides, the Democratic Party 36th Assembly district leader in Astoria, was previously endorsed by the Working Families Party, the Progressive Caucus Alliance and the UFCD Local 1500, the largest supermarket union in the city. He is seeking the seat held for the past 12 years by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., and before that by Peter Vallone Sr., who was the council’s first speaker.
GIANARIS BLASTS SHOOTING AT RAVENSWOOD: State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Western Queens) issued the following statement after 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 Crowley (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 penalty for the unlicensed practice 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 that many immigrants had fallen 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 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”.