2013-04-17 / Political Page

Vallone Wins Poll At C of C Debate

There were opinions exchanged freely by six candidates—all Democrats—for Queens borough president last Friday evening at a forum sponsored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, but at the end of the event, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said he came away with the best news of the night.

During the forum, a poll was taken of the approximately 140 spectators, mostly business people and members of the chamber, and in response to two questions—“Who do you think has the best chance to win the race?” and “Who were you most impressed by at the forum?”— Vallone won on both counts.

All six candidates running to succeed incumbent Helen Marshall took part in the forum. Besides Vallone they are state Senators Jose Peralta (Jackson Heights) and Tony Avella (Northeast Queens), Melinda Katz, Barry Grodenchik and Councilmember Leroy Comrie (Jamaica).

The poll was taken by St. John’s University Literature Professor Brian Brown, a university professor, and the respondents tweeted or e-mailed who made the arrangements for the Queens business group to hold the debate, when asked why he held the impromptu poll, answered:

“I thought it would be interesting to get a raw sample of how the people there judged the candidates… an unscientific sampling.” He also said he follows the borough’s political races, and politics “in general”.

The Chamber President, Jack Friedman, confirmed that his group had no part in staging the poll, but he didn’t know how many of his members participated in it.

Vallone said he was surprised at how the evening turned out.

“As the only candidate in the race with real business experience, I believe the audience responded to my understanding of their issues. We need to reduce the burdens on our small businesses in the borough to create jobs and make it easier for middle class families to make a living. It again goes to show that people from all walks of life are responding to my candidacy based around keeping people safe and keeping our businesses strong.”

Vallone added, “The snap poll of victory of important members of the Queens business community is another sign of our surging campaign. A recent independent poll showed us with an 11- point lead over our closest challenger.”

The candidate has already raised over $1 million, “more than any other candidate in the race”, he noted.

Vallone’s numbers in the poll, which weren’t revealed by Brown, may have been attributed to his response to a question about a bill recently introduced in the Council.

Under the legislation, a company would be barred from using credit-checks as hiring criteria or when making employment decisions, Vallone said. A company found to be in violation could be sued for compensatory damages and would have to hire the applicant as well.

Vallone, in opposing the bill, said not only does he feel the “punishment to be outrageously harsh, but as a small business owner, he does not believe the city should further regulate an employer’s hiring process.

The Council or the city “should stop telling business people how to do business”, Vallone declared.

Taking issue with legislation, he stated: “First it was employment status, and now it’s credit history— what’s next? We can’t look at someone’s criminal record? This is just the latest in a long line of proposed legislation—mostly introduced by elected officials with no business experience, which harms our small businesses.

“Soon employers will have to hire anyone who walks in their door or face a lawsuit. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, so we need to stop straining them before we throw our own back out.”

On another issue, Vallone has called on the state to require police departments to provide security measures for non-public schools equal to those provided to public schools. “Every kid is created equal, so they all deserve equal security in school,” he said. “The type of school a student attends should have no bearing on the level of protection their government provides them.”

PERALTA GETS LABOR UNION ENDORSEMENT: The Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 78, AFL-CIO, a 4,000-member union representing asbestos, lead and hazardous waste handlers in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey, has endorsed state Senator Jose Peralta in the race for Queens borough president.

Peralta, who welcomed the support, said the union plans an aggressive outreach program to communicate with their members in Queens to recruit volunteers for the campaign.

Edison Severino, the union’s business manager stated, “As a member of the Assembly and state senate, Peralta has spent the past decade fighting tirelessly to pass legislation critical to creating jobs, improving public education and protecting and expanding the rights of immigrants.”

In the senate, Peralta has introduced a bill to repeal a tax credit received by businesses that employ teenage minimum wage workers. Peralta says that the credit encourages national chain stores, like Walmart, to get rid of older workers.

AVELLA, GRODENCHIK ENDORSED: State Senator Tony Avella (D–Northeast Queens), and Barry Grodenchik announced endorsements last week. Avella was given the endorsement of The League of Humane Voters of New York City and New York state. Grodenchik was endorsed by Mark Green a former New York City Public Advocate. Both are seeking the Democratic Party nomination for Queens borough president.

Avella, who was cited for his past avid animal rights advocacy, was also cited for speaking out against animal mistreatment. The League said Avella also has “an outstanding record of supporting animal protections through his sponsorship of bills”.

In endorsing Grodenchik, a former deputy borough president, Green stated, “Given the explosion of political corruption,” in recent weeks, “Barry Grodenchik has just the integrity and character Queens and the city now need. He is deeply experienced, reform-minded, immediately likeable— so I’m proud to throw my full support behind his candidacy.”

DEM SQUABBLE GROWS IN NORTHEAST QUEENS: Even before Councilmember Dan Halloran, a Republican, got caught up in the corruption fiasco that landed him in the federal net that also scooped up state Senator Malcolm Smith and now ex-Queens Republican official Vincent Tabone, he looked beatable in this year’s election. Solid proof of this observation was that Democrats were tripping over themselves making it known they wanted to run for the 19th Council District seat.

At this point, with Primary Day in September about five months away, there are four announced candidates and one more who’s taking a close look and likely to enter the race. The four already in the contest are Paul Vallone, former Assemblymember John Duane, Paul Graziano and Austin Shafran; and the latest pol looking over the field is reportedly Kevin Kim of Bayside, who ran and lost the seat to Halloran in 2009.

You’ll recall that Kim was an aid to then Congressmember Gary Ackerman, now retired, and when the 2009 Democratic primary rolled around, a bristling intra-party fight developed. Kim emerged with the Democratic nomination against Halloran. But with some Dems still scarred by the earlier battle, Kim didn’t have enough support to hold off Halloran, and he was a surprise Republican winner in a heavily Democratic district.

Some elements of the same scenario of 2009 are developing again. The Democratic (side) of the equation has a field of eager would-be candidates ready to go and one will eventually be declared the winner after the primary.

On the Republican side, Halloran was preparing to run for re-election, but with a cloud hanging over him and a possible indictment, the prospects don’t look good for him and there doesn’t seem to be much hope for his Republican replacement if one comes forward.

In this scenario, it only remains for the Democrats to avoid another party split to assure a victory in November without much trouble. Up to this point not too much has developed in the various campaigns of Paul Vallone, Duane, Shafran or Graziano.

But the ball will start rolling soon. In fact, it may have already, with the announcement from the New York Central Labor Council, AFC-CIO, a major supporter, that it has endorsed Austin Shafran in the 19th Council District, which covers Bayside, Whitestone, Douglaston and College Point.

Shafran most recently served as the public information official of the state senate, and to our knowledge has never run for any public office. Duane served in the Assembly, but Vallone and Graziano are also, like Shafran, first time starters.

CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL ENDORSES LARGE SLATE: Besides Shafran, the Central Labor Council has endorsed seven other City Council candidates—all Democrats—and that organization’s Sean G. Mackell tells us they will issue five more endorsements for the city council in the primaries and general elections in November.

The seven other city council endorsements went to: Julissa Ferreras, (21st district/Corona); Costa Contantinides (22nd district/Astoria); former Assemblymember Rory Lancman (24th district/ Fresh Meadows); Daneek Miller (27th district/ Jamaica); Karen Koslowitz (29th district/Rego Park, Forest Hills); Elizabeth Crowley (30th district/Glendale); and Donovan Richards (31st district/Springfield Gardens).

Ferreras, Koslowitz and Crowley are running for re-election, and Richards is running for the seat previously held by James Sanders, who moved up to the state senate.

Other endorsements that are still to be announced by the Central Labor Council are districts: 23 (Little Neck), held by Mark Weprin; 25 (Jackson Heights), held by Daniel Dromm; 26 (Sunnyside), held by Jimmy Van Bramer; and 25 (Jamaica), held by Thomas White. All are Democrats and are expected to be endorsed by the huge labor organization.

According to Mackell, the Labor Council has 300 affiliated unions, including teachers, construction workers, sanitation employees and both public and private unions, totaling 1.3 million union members.

In describing the large number of endorsements already made by the Labor Council and those that will be made shortly, we have dealt with 12 of the 14 seats that are held by Democratic incumbents and/or new members that are to be elected.

There are also three Republican-held seats. They are the 19th district, Halloran’s seat; the 20th district seat in Flushing, held by Peter Koo, and the 32nd district seat covering Ozone Park and the Rockaways, held by Eric Ulrich.

CROWLEY BLASTS REPUBLICANS’ ‘FAILED LEADERSHIP’: This past Monday, the 100th day of the 113th Congress, Congressmember Joseph Crowley sharply criticized the “failed leadership” of the House Republicans.

“The 100th day into a new Congress,” said Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), the vice chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House, “is usually time to talk about all that has been accomplished. Unfortunately, under this Republican majority, the 100th day is not a cause for celebration.”

The reason for the GOP’s failure, Crowley continued, is “because the Republican majority has prioritized creating man-made fiscal crises ahead of creating economic certainty and stability for American families.… has focused their energies on stripping away the fights of American workers instead of putting people back to work and creating jobs. And that’s because the Republican majority has been caught up in finding ways to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, instead of making needed investments in America’s small businesses and hard-working families.”

Crowley declared, “Without a vision for building a stronger America, the Republican majority’s short-sighted agenda is failing the American people. It’s not too late to reverse course, and come together to get the job done. That’s what the American people deserve, and that’s what this Congress should give them.”

MALONEY APPLAUDS HUD: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney praised the announcement made last week by U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan that homeowners with federally-backed mortgages who suffered damage to their homes during Superstorm Sandy will be granted an extended forbearance.

The lawmaker, joined by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, explained that when the current forbearance period expires at the end of this month, these families will be able to sign up for a “streamlined mortgage modification” that allows them to make manageable payments over the next year.

Maloney said the policy statement shows “extraordinary vision” from the Obama administration and Donovan, and added:

“I was thrilled by the President’s selection of Secretary Donovan to direct the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force because, as a native New Yorker, we could not ask for a stronger advocate during the difficult recovery process.”

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) explained, “Extended forbearance will bring relief to homeowners who have experienced financial hardship since Sandy. So many people lost their homes, possessions or jobs, entire communities were destroyed and in some tragic cases, people lost their lives.”

The lawmaker said nearly 300,000 people will benefit from the new policy that “will allow homeowners to pursue a customized path to financial stability while they are rebuilding their homes without dealing with the usual red tape”.

Maloney again thanked Donovan “for his leadership and compassion during what has been a difficult five months for many New Yorkers”.

LIU’S BUDGET PROPOSAL: City Comptroller John Liu has called for the hiring of 5,000 more cops, 100,000 units of affordable housing and city tax cuts for city dwellers and businesses in his budget plan for fiscal year 2013- 14.

Speaking before the Association for a Better New York, Liu declared that his “People’s Budget”, a comprehensive four-year plan, would generate revenue and create cost-savings that would produce nearly $15 million in new resources that “can be directed toward tax relief and new investments”.

And, he added, “The investments in communities, schools and housing would also create a significant economic benefit in the form of 35,000 jobs… The way things are right now, the New York City Dream is under attack.”

Liu said, “personal income tax reform would bring in more than $1.2 billion from the city’s top one percent of filers making more than $500,000”; tolls for non-New York City residents on the East and Harlem River bridges would generate $410 million, and eliminating the insurance industry’s exemption from the General Corporation Tax would raise $310 million.

Meanwhile, cost savings would occur by “bringing Information Technology (IT) work inhouse to save the city $73 million; collect $150 million more in Medicaid reimbursement; and charge charter schools to use city facilities, yielding $80 million more”.

ADDABBO BACKS GOV’S ANTI-CORRUPTION STAND: Reacting to Governor Cumo’s proposals last week to address Albany corruption, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–South Queens) stated:

“It shouldn’t take a number of recently arrested elected officials to wake up the Legislature to enact tougher ethics and anti-corruption laws. In Albany it’s long overdue. I commend the governor for proposing to improve the bribery statutes in relation to public officials, making it easier for prosecutors to go forward with an investigation, and forcing other elected officials to inform authorities if they have knowledge of any wrongdoing.”

FERRERAS BACKS ‘RAPE IS RAPE’ BILL: Councilmember Julissa Ferreras (D–Corona) came out in support of Assemblymember Aravella Simotas’ “Rape is Rape” bill and introduced a resolution calling on the Assembly and state senate in Albany to pass it and for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign it into law.

“Public safety and true justice for rape victims is imperative,” Ferreras stated. “This resolution will provide greater protection to the public by punishing those who perpetrate these dangerous, vicious and abusive crimes.”

Ferreras explained that currently, under New York state law, getting a conviction on a rape charge requires proving sexual intercourse has occurred which, she says, is an “inherently difficult thing to prove as the legal definition is limited only to vaginal penetration”.

But under Simotas’ bill, Ferreras said, “If passed, the ‘Rape is Rape’ bill would redefine rape to include anal sexual conduct and oral sexual conduct in addition to sexual intercourse.”

Ferreras quoted Simotas as saying, “The importance of calling rape by its name cannot be understated. By denying this fact, by calling rape something different—predatory sexual act or criminal sexual act—society fails to validate the victim’s experience and trauma. The awareness bred by calling rape by its name not only provides survivors with a sense of justice, it is preventative.”

Joining Ferreras as a co-sponsor of the resolution was Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria), chairman of the Public Safety Committee and a former prosecutor. Ferreras quoted Vallone: “These two heinous acts are rape, and whoever commits them deserves to be labeled a rapist and punished as one, as well.”

To further assist her effort to have support, to call the governor and legislative leaders’ attention to her resolution, Ferreras created an online petition called Causes.org. She said as of this date, the petition has garnered 23,270 signatures and it is accessible through the following link: www.causes.com/actions/1730352-pass-the-rape-is-rapebill in-new-york-and-stopabuse/utm-campaignsearch widget.

HALLORAN’S PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING PROJECT: In view of Councilmember Dan Halloran’s recent arrest in an alleged bribery attempt, organizations such as Community Voices Heard (CVH), the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center (CDP), and the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP)—the groups leading the participatory budgeting project in New York City—released the following statement:

“Last week, 1,170 residents of Councilmember Halloran’s district took part in participatory budgeting, casting a vote for how they’d like to spend $1 million of their taxpayer money. For the past eight months, dozens of these residents also put in hundreds of volunteer hours to propose, develop and refine the capital projects that were on the ballot. In the wake of the councilmember’s arrest and the stripping of his powers to participate in this process, we call on Speaker Quinn and Chairman of the Queens City Council Delegation Leroy Comrie to ensure that these residents’ votes still count. Halloran’s arrest should not impede the participatory budgeting process and his constituents should not be punished, especially when participatory budgeting is a proven method for injecting transparency, accountability and democracy into the budget process and can ward off the risk of corruption that plagues the member item system.”

DROMM ADDRESSES JAIL SEGREGATION: Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) announced he is introducing a resolution calling for the end of the practice of placing individuals returning to jail into “punitive segregation” to complete time owed from a previous period of incarceration. In another bill addressing solitary confinement in New York City jails, Dromm is introducing another measure which would require the “comprehensive reporting” of data on “punitive segregation, as the Department of Correction refers to it”.

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