Liu Gets Major Endorsement From City Workers’ Union
City Comptroller John Liu, whose campaign for mayor has been unable to catch fire thus far, finally got a hopeful sign recently when he was endorsed by District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union which has the reputation of getting out the vote on Election Day.
The huge 120,000-member labor organization’s Executive Director, Lillian Roberts offered the promise of campaign aid when she announced the union’s endorsement of Liu several weeks ago.
“I am proud that our delegates voted unanimously to endorse John Liu for mayor,” Roberts declared. “I will be in the field for him and I urge members to volunteer to help get out the vote in the September 10 primary by calling the Political Action Department.”
Roberts’ comments and promises appeared in this month’s issue of the Public Employee Press, the union’s official publication. Also published were quotes from several members of the Delegate Assembly, which voted to endorse Liu unanimously. Enthusiastic quotes included: “Retirees in all five boroughs will be out there to elect him,”… “if we get out there on the street, we can put him over the top”… and “with our support he can win, yes he can”.
Roberts pointed out several of Liu’s actions as City Comptroller that showed several of Mayor Bloomberg’s contracted-out programs had fizzled and cost the city billions of dollars but Liu’s audits won millions of dollars in return for the city.
One such audit found the contracted-out CityTime payroll project was $1 billion over budget and a decade late due to fraud and waste. Ultimately the contractor was forced to return $500 million to the city and the mayor agreed to transfer the work to city employees, Roberts said.
Another of Liu’s audits found Bloomberg’s project to upgrade the city’s 911 emergency call system seven years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget. Presently, Liu commenced another audit into what may have caused the same system “to crash repeatedly in recent days”.
Liu stated in announcing the audit on June 11, “The E 911 system’s problems comprise an even greater management debacle than the scandal surrounding CityTime. Taxpayers were billed for CityTime, but the $500 million was recouped eventually.”
But the difference in the 911 system failure, Liu pointed out, “would have far more disastrous consequences. How can it be that $2 billion has bought an E 911 system that must resort to pen and paper?” Liu asked.
Roberts recalled that Liu also charged that Bloomberg’s labor policy “abdicated his responsibility” by leaving hundreds of thousands of public service employees without pay increases for many years while handing outside contractors annual cost-of-living increases of three to seven percent while leaving city taxpayers “deep in the red with personnel costs that should have been addressed a long time ago”.
Liu addressed this same issue at a recent (May 16) mayoral forum, saying, “For eight years Bloomberg has put off negotiating contracts and retroactive pay.” Liu called for new labor contracts with retroactive pay raises for city employees, tax reforms so the wealthy would “pay their fare share” and reining in wasteful contracting out”.
Liu’s campaign has been hobbled from the start by federal court cases against two of Liu’s campaign fundraisers who were found guilty, but Liu was never charged.
The DC 37 endorsement breathes some life into Liu’s campaign and has some meaning in a race with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former City Comptroller William Thompson and former Congressmember Anthony Weiner.
In other developments in the race recently, Quinn picked up the endorsements of nine state legislators, all Democrats. They are Assemblymembers Aravella Simotas (Astoria), Catherine Nolan (Ridgewood), Margaret Markey (Maspeth), Andrew Hevesi (Forest Hills), Francisco Moya (Corona), Edward Braunstein (Bayside), Michael DenDekker (Jackson Heights), David Weprin (Little Neck) and Michael Simanowitz (Flushing).
The endorsements were made at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa) dragged Weiner’s wife into the race. He asked Huma Abedin, an aide to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton whether she also did any consulting work, for which she was paid, while still on the Department of State payroll, and whether she provided any client information at that time.
Abedin did not reply to the query, but the next day her husband did, saying… “she has done everything completely above board and with the approval of the State Department.”
Another day later, Weiner announced that his wife would soon be joining him on the campaign trail.
VALLONE HEARING ON PURCHASES OF COUNTERFEIT GOODS: Last Thursday, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and his Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on a bill making it illegal for anyone to purchase counterfeit products; such as a handbag purported to be a high-priced product designed by a fashionable designer.
For many years, similar goods have been offered for sale in Canal Street shops at much lower prices than from legitimate manufacturers of high priced goods who complained.
Under the bill introduced by Councilmember Margaret Chin, purchasing counterfeit goods would be classified as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Vallone commended Chin for “shining a light on a serious problem”, saying that in 2003, it was estimated that $23 billion was spent on counterfeit goods in New York City, with profits funding criminal activity, including money laundering, organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorist groups.
However, while Vallone (D–Astoria) admitted that very few people are unaware they are purchasing counterfeit goods, he said he believed putting them in jail for a year was “excessive”. But he also said he “does feel that monetary penalties for shoppers, one year in jail for purchasing large amounts of counterfeit goods or stiffer penalties for people who sell the products may be more realistic punishment”.
“Buying counterfeit goods is more like a hostage exchange now, with people picking out pictures of items and making shifty exchanges in dark basements and alleys,” Vallone explained. “It’s a serious issue, and people obviously know what they’re buying is fake, but a year in jail is excessive. Let’s look at some realistic deterrents.”
During the hearing Vallone also announced he would draft legislation which would increase penalties on landlords of storage facilities who knowingly harbor counterfeit products.
CROWLEY ‘EQUAL PAY IS… EVERYONE’S ISSUE’: In marking the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which required employers to give women and men equal pay for equal work, Congressmember Joseph Crowley issued a statement emphasing: “Equal pay is not just a women’s issue—it’s everyones issue.”
Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) continued: “On the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, we must renew our commitment to ensuring all workers are treated equally. I’m proud to support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which strengthens the Equal Pay Act and helps to ensure women everywhere will earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. The fact that women continue to make on average 77 cents for every dollar earned by men is simply outrageous.”
At the time the Equal Pay Act was signed into law on Jun. 10, 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, women were paid 59 cents for every dollar earned by men, Crowley observed. Today, 50 years later, Crowley repeated, women on average make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Crowley called for “immediate enactment” of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which strengthens and closes loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, by providing effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work and by protecting employees from retaliation for sharing salary information with their co-workers.
Crowley noted that in 2008 and again in 2009, the Democrat-led House succeeded in passing the bill, but unfortunately in both Congresses, Senate Republicans were successful in blocking the measure. Crowley is a cosponsor of the bill, which was reintroduced in January of this year.
ASSEMBLY OK’S NOLAN’S ‘PLAYGROUND SPACE’ BILL: The state Assembly has passed Assemblymember Catherine Nolan’s bill which provides that whenever playgrounds space near a school is lost or potentially lost, the school should do its best to provide other open air playground space or an alternative.
Nolan (D–Ridgewood), chair of the Education Committee, said, “School playgrounds or schoolyards are critical to the health, well-being and academic success of our children. Students who are physically active learn better, behave better and in the end succeed.”
The veteran lawmaker noted that physical activity is very important in combating childhood obesity so it’s important that our schools provide both physical education and recess to keep children healthy. Her bill, she said, builds on previous legislation passed in 2011 which required that the New York City Department of Education compile a report of the inventory of playground space.
“Space is a premium in New York City which is why we need to recognize the importance of outdoor play space and protect schoolyards and playgrounds for our children to ensure that they are active and healthy,” Nolan explained.
CONSTANTINIDES ENDORSED BY PLANNED PARENTHOOD, MORE UNIONS: Costa Constantinides, who has built up an impressive list of support groups in his bid to succeed Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. as Astoria’s representative in the City Council, has announced he has received additional endorsements to further his cause.
Constantinides, the 36th AD Democratic Party district leader and community activist, said he has annexed the endorsements of local 1199 SEIU, the largest union in New York City, and of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU Local 1181-1061), which represents school bus drivers and related employees.
In addition, Constantinides has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC), which provides health, family planning and reproductive care services to adolescent and adult women.
Constantinides is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the 22nd Council district nomination in the September 10 primary election. It is expected he will be opposed in that election by John Ciafone, a local attorney. In the November election for the seat, the Green Party is supporting Lynne Serpe for that office.
ADDABBO BILL EYES ILLEGAL DRIVER, VETERAN BURIALS: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. said he is pushing for legislation that would “significantly increase penalties” for motorists who knowingly drive with invalid driver’s licenses and are then involved in accidents.
Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) stated, “People who know that their drivers’ licenses have been suspended or revoked simply shouldn’t be behind the wheel. They are willfully breaking the law and putting the lives of others at risk with their reckless behavior. If, during the course of their illegal driving, they seriously injure or take the life of another person, they should face appropriate punishment.”
So under the legislation Addabbo has sponsored, and which recently was passed by the state senate, people who know, or have cause to know, that their licenses are suspended or revoked, and are involved in serious accidents resulting in injury or death, will face felony charges or vehicular manslaughter in the second degree. These charges are presently only brought against motorists who lost their licenses as a result of drunk driving and who seriously injure or kill others while illegally operating motor vehicles.
Addabbo pointed out, “Licenses don’t get suspended or revoked for any reason. People who fail to answer a traffic summons, or who don’t pay a required fine, or who have their insurance lapse—the state Department of Motor Vehicles responds in kind by ending their driving privileges. To keep driving around without a license is more than thumbing your nose at authority—it’s a real danger to other law-abiding people.”
Addabbo noted that after being approved by the senate, the bill is now under consideration by the state Assembly’s Codes Committee.
As regards Addabbo’s efforts to ensure proper burial of a veterans’ remains, the lawmaker is seeking approval of a bill which he cosponsored which would permit qualified veteran’s organizations to arrange for the proper burial or cremation of a veteran’s remains that have been abandoned or are otherwise unclaimed by a friend or relative within a certain period of time.
Addabbo said the legislation was approved by the full senate already and explained, “I am pleased that my senate colleagues took this important step toward ensuring that the remains of veterans are provided with a final, dignified resting place if, for whatever reason, they cannot be brought home by a family member or friend.
“I cannot think of anyone better to carry out this special mission than the brothers- and sisters in-arms of veterans who lost their lives. Fellow veterans have a unique understanding of the mission, sacrifices and needs of other former servicemen and servicewoman.”
Addabbo, who serves as the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Standing Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, noted that the unclaimed remains of deceased veterans have been held by funeral homes, hospitals, prisons, crematoriums and other facilities. Under the proposed legislation, unclaimed remains could be transferred to a veteran’s organization for final disposition after 120 days, as long as diligent efforts have been made to identify family members and friends of the deceased veteran. New Jersey and Illinois already have similar laws in place.
The Howard Beach lawmaker concluded, “It is heartbreaking to think that the final remains of veterans who served their country so bravely and so well would be left sitting unclaimed and forgotten in funeral homes and other facilities when their loved ones cannot be located. I hope that my colleagues in the Assembly will also see fit to provide these former servicemen and servicewomen with the dignified and respectful final resting place they deserve.”
The legislation has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions for consideration.
VAN BRAMER PLEASED WITH PARK RESTORATION: Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer issued a statement last week expressing his satisfaction that “work is currently underway to fully restore Andrews Grove Park in Long Island City”.
Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) explained, “Immediately after Hurricane Sandy hit, my office took action, working closely with local residents and the Parks Department to help expedite this process and get our beloved park, known to so many local children and residents as Shady Park, back open.”
The lawmaker added, “Once the project is finished, all amenities, including the swing set, safety surfaces, fencing as well as both play areas will be accessible to community residents this summer. With the $10,000 grant that I have secured from our community partners, JetBlue and Warner Bros., we will replant new trees and begin the process of restoring the shade that was lost after the hurricane drastically damaged the signature trees which once called the park home.”
In conclusion, he said he wanted to thank Friends of Shady Park, as well as their cofounders, Sheila Lewandowski and Caroline Paul, “for all their hard work and assistance in helping make this restoration possible”.
PROPOSES LANDMARK STATUS FOR FOREST PARK CAROUSEL: Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale) proposed landmarking the Forest Park Carousel at the recent Landmark Preservation Commission public hearing.
Crowley said, “Preserving our history strengthens and enriches the character of our communities. The significance of the Muller horses, which were carved more than 100 years ago, is without question, and the carousel has been a centerpiece of Forest Park for 40 years. I strongly believe that landmarking the carousel will increase visitors and ensure it remains preserved and operational for future generations.”