2013-04-24 / Political Page

Weiner Shakes Up Field, Though Not In Yet

In the past several weeks since former Congressmember Anthony Weiner inched toward running for mayor this year, there has been much speculation on both sides of the aisle about how his candidacy would affect the chances of every Democrat and Republican.

Last Wednesday, the results of the first poll of Democratic contenders, including Weiner appeared, and it certainly had cause to undeniably confirm the jitters that the imminent candidacy of Weiner was causing.

That included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who for months has held a comfortable lead over former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, and incumbent city officials Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller John Liu, who was the only Queens pol in the race before Weiner started poking his head into it.

The poll taken by NBC News and Marist College showed Quinn still leading the pack. But the three originally behind her in all previous polls, had been pushed further behind Quinn, elbowed aside by the newly reinvigorated Weiner.

The poll figures were: Quinn 26 percent, Weiner 15 percent, Liu (another surprise 12 percent, de Blasio tied with Thompson, at 11 percent.

Quinn could have been expected to fall back slightly because of some criticism on legislative measures and more intensified hammering from her opponents. And de Blasio, Thompson and Liu could have been expected to tail behind the leader of the pack, although we were frankly surprised that Liu had overtaken de Blasio and Thompson, despite the incumbent comptroller’s headaches with his fundraising woes as two of his fundraisers’ trial opened.

But Weiner was a real surprise—or was he? There had been that flash of publicity in the media as word started to spread that he intended to run, but without him taking the official step or even just announcing it.

However, he didn’t have much to beat, besides Quinn. Yet there had been the speculation about his running, capped by The New York Times story that he truly expected to announce his candidacy. And yet these stories played up the fact that he had recovered from his fall from grace two years ago and revived the stories of his spectacular first-time run for mayor in 2005, when he overtook Fernando Ferrer to set up a primary runoff match between him and Ferrer.

He created some good will as he backed off from the runoff to build support for Ferrer’s run against Mayor Bloomberg, which Bloomberg won. But Weiner emerged from his first mayoral campaign candidacy as the most popular Democratic pol with lots of support assured for the 2009 election, which all went for naught as his congressional career and any further political career talk was suddenly—and startlingly— swept away by the sexting scandal.

So now everyone is awaiting his official entry into the mayoral race and a titanic clash with Quinn in the Democratic primary in September, only four months away. Quinn’s got a hefty treasury and Weiner has a start on building a war chest, with about a $4 million start up he already had in the till.

If Quinn vs Weiner does materialize, in due course, as Weiner warms to the battle, he potentially will have all the fight tools he had previously shown to make his presence felt.

As Weiner’s probable entrance into the Democratic field continues to grow, his prowess on the battlefield is being recalled with feature stories in all the major newspapers, and the verdict is that if he brings his scrappy, pugilistic style back with him, he will surely acquit himself well. He’s brainy and well versed on the issues, aggressive and quick-witted, according to former opponents, both Democratic and Republican.

The big question is will the sexting scandal let him be comfortable on the battlefield. Surely his opponents won’t let him forget it. Will it hurt his effectiveness if his three primary opponents constantly pound away at him? The big test should be coming soon.

VALLONE APPLAUDS CANADATO ASTORIA POWER LINE: The approval of a 1,000 megawatt transmission power line from Canada to Astoria by Governor Cuomo and the State Public Service Commission has won the plaudits of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria). The line will bring Canadianproduced hydro and wind energy to New York City and ease the burden on Northwest Queens, which currently supplies over 80 percent of the power for the five boroughs.

Vallone, a member of the Environmental Protection Committee, has been a leading voice against the proliferation of power plants in his district. A lawsuit which he filed led to the closing of the Charles Poletti power plant in Astoria in 2010—one of the worst polluters in the state.

“This will provide a huge boost to the people of Northwest Queens, who have been unfairly subjected to the negative effects of power plants for decades. I want to thank Governor Cuomo and the state for approving this commonsense project, and I look forward to the day when New York City doesn’t have to rely on power plants located in Queens.”

MORE CITY COUNCIL ELECTION ENDORSEMENTS: In last week’s column, we reported that the powerful New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO had endorsed eight Democrats seeking election to Queens City Council seats for the term covering 2014-2017.

This week, the huge labor entity completed its endorsements for Queens five more seats, including Councilmember Peter Koo, a Republican, in Flushing’s 20th district.

The others endorsed are Queens Democrats, including: Mark Weprin (23rd district Oakland Gardens); Daniel Dromm (25th district/Jackson Heights); Jimmy Van Bramer (26th district/Sunnyside); and Stephen Levin (33rd district/Ozone Park).

All but Levin in this grouping are incumbents running for re-election. Levin will be challenging Councilmember Eric Ulrich, a Republican, for the 33rd district seat covering Howard Beach and Ozone Park.

The Queens delegation currently consists of 10 Democrats and four Republicans.

PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING RESULTS: Councilmember Mark Weprin reported that a recent district-wide vote in in his Oakland Gardens district decided how one million dollars in the city budget will be spent. The vote was the end result of the Participatory Budgeting (PB) process in his district, a pilot program that Weprin initiated in Eastern Queens as part of this year’s budget.

Weprin stated, “Participatory Budgeting give residents an unprecedented opportunity to make decisions on how city dollars get spent in our community. I saw a tremendous interest in and a very positive response to this process.”

The adoption of the community budgeting process in various parts of Queens is also being seen as a way to prevent misuse of public funds by corrupt-minded city officials.

In the results Weprin referred to, the Participatory Budgeting meetings in his district recommended spending the $1 million on: emergency equipment for the Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps, roof repair for the Queens County Farm Museum, a technology upgrade at Martin Van Buren H.S., portable NYPD security cameras and enhancements of a picnic area in Cunningham Park and also a music stage there.

The community budgeting process was unveiled last fall by Weprin at a series of public meetings he held, called Neighborhood Assemblies. At the meetings, area residents offered hundreds of ideas, he said, about how to spend the million dollars. Then community members who volunteered to serve as “budget delegates”, worked in various communities for three months to turn the project ideas into full proposals that were vetted by the relevant city agencies before they were listed on a ballot. The ensuing public vote and the announcement of the winning projects were the culmination of the months-long process, Weprin said.

Weprin said PB was developed in Brazil and was then implemented in Chicago. The process came to New York City last year when four councilmembers initiated meetings in their districts. This year, the PB process was used in eight districts.

‘GIFTED PLAN’ LEFT UNCHANGED, CONSTANTINIDES SAYS: “This is what democracy looks like,” Costa Constantinides remarked after learning that Schools Chancellor Walcott had “decided to rescind his plan to alter the Gifted & Talented Program at P.S. 122.

“It’s an issue close to my heart,” said Constantinides, the local Democratic Party district leader and a candidate to secure the Democratic Party nomination to run for the 22nd district City Council seat, presently held by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria). Vallone is running for Queens borough president instead.

Constantinides said that besides himself, many community members, including public officials, advocated for “preserving the school we all knew was, and continues to be, world class”.

He added: “It’s an issue close to my heart, as I was a graduate from the P.S. 122 G & T program more than 20 years ago.” He also graduated from P.S. 84, Bryant H.S., Queens College and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.

STAVISKY SUPPORTS PASSAGE OF ‘TOUGH ETHICS REFORM’: Stating, “New York has always been a leader on reform,” state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) has urged immediate passage of the senate Democrats’ new government ethics package aimed at reforming state government and combating the ongoing corruption issues facing New York state.

Stavisky said in a release that she also supports Governor Cuomo’s ethics package, called the New York Trust Act, which would increase penalties for bribery and public corruption.

Stavisky, now the Assistant Leader of the Democratic Conference, declared, “New York has always been a leader on reform, and we cannot afford to let that mantle slip. The recent allegations against elected officials do not represent those of us with a true commitment to service. Anyone who believes government must be for the people and not for personal gain, should join me in supporting this set of bills.”

The senate Democrats’ ethics reform package of bills would:

Retroactively strip pension benefits from any state or local officials convicted of a felony.

Outlaw the use of campaign money for criminal defense.

Strengthen regulations regarding use of campaign money.

Require elected officials to post campaign information on their Web sites.

And establish a public financing system for state campaigns.

ADDABBO ALSO BACKS CUOMO ETHICS REFORMS: Reacting to Governor Cuomo’s proposals to address Albany corruption, state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Southeast Queens stated:

“It shouldn’t take a number of recently elected officials to wake up the legislature to enact tougher ethics and anti-corruption laws. In Albany, it is 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.

“I am hopeful that the state legislature expands on these proposals and explores other means of addressing the issue, such as passing campaign financing reform, along with other pending legislative measures. I believe these steps are a necessity to bring credibility to our state government and to fight back against any future corruption.”

CONSERVATIVES SAY CUOMO’S ETHICS CURE MISSES MARK: Last week, the state Conservative Party Leader Michael Long charged the governor’s ethics proposals would do little to combat elected officials’ corruption. If the governor believes the State Board of Elections is part of the problem, then “change the structure there instead of creating an independent enforcement unit that would cost taxpayers untold thousands of dollars”, Long said.

As for suggesting changes in the law allowing non-members of a political party to allow ballot endorsements of that party, Long said that particular law “has been upheld in numerous court challenges throughout the years”.

Long added, “It is evident that the lack of integrity is the core issue of corruption, certainly not the law designed to ensure the integrity of the political party.”

Previously, commenting on campaign financing proposals made by Democrats, the Conservative Party reminded them that the “New York City model of campaign financing has not resolved corruption, rather it encourages the abuse of public funds”.

They cited a report that said over a 10- year period, $14 million was spent by the city Campaign Finance Board merely to investigate alleged campaign funding expenditures. The far right political party concluded, “Public funding of campaigns is a bad idea… candidates keep much of their donation money off the books.”

GOLDFEDER URGES ‘KEEP CITY WATER RATES AFFORDABLE’: Continuing his effort to keep water rates affordable throughout the state, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) has urged Commissioner Carter Strickland of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the NYC Water Board to protect hard-working middle-class families in Queens against proposed water bill hikes, especially in neighborhoods still recovering and rebuilding the damage from Hurricane Sandy.

“A higher fee for water is the last thing our community needs right now as our neighborhoods recover from Sandy,” Goldfeder said. “Water rates are at an alltime high and the proposed rate increase would only hurt our Queens families. I strongly urge DEP and the city Water Board to step up and help protect our hard-working communities.”

Goldfeder said that starting July 1, the typical single-family homeowner will see a spike in rates from $939 per year to $991 for all water bills, an additional 5.6 percent total increase. The lawmaker has reintroduced legislation to cap annual water rate increases at four percent per year. He took the action when the city DEP proposed increases last year by nearly seven percent, hiking water rates by more than 84 percent since 2005.

ADDABBO REPORTS ON ENVIRONMENTAL FUNDING: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. reported recently that the approved 2013-2014 budget contained additional funding for the state Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), and among these are “new ‘green’ opportunities for New Yorkers, including the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit”.

Under the Cleaner Greener New York Act, an additional $19 million will cover the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit and “provide tax incentive to those who are installing electric vehicle recharging stations… and for alternative fuels”, Addabbo said. Funding was provided to the EPF by redirecting unclaimed bottle deposit receipts to it, the lawmaker said.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated, “The Environmental Protection Fund has been increased by $19 million to safeguard New York’s land, air and water, and there is nothing in this budget to advance hydrofracking and its accompanying environmental and public health risks.”

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