2013-07-03 / Political Page

Weiner Still Confounding The Opposition

In an amazing bit of campaigning, Anthony Weiner—just a month after returning to the political wars after being hounded and resigning in shame from Congress—surged to the top of the Democratic mayoral primary field, displacing the former frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Then the following day, it was reported that the previous day’s poll results were no fluke as Weiner finished a close second to Quinn in a new poll. In this counting, Weiner trailed Quinn by just two points, 19 to 17 percent.

In either of these polls, there was no startling event or hugely negative report that might have accounted for Weiner’s spurt and Quinn’s fallback. Except that a report in last Wednesday’s Daily News that a $1.5 million advertising campaign by an anti-Quinn group called the New York City is Not for Sale PAC, appeared to be throwing her campaign off stride.

As for whether there was any major reason why Weiner might be suddenly vaulting past the opposition, that didn’t seem to be the case. Actually, it appeared it might just be a case of the 49-year-old former Forest Hills resident just being himself and suddenly catching on with Democratic voters.

You might recall, during the 2001 Democratic primary race, for most of the race, Weiner was trailing frontrunner and favorite Fernando Ferrer, but as they approached the end of the campaign, Weiner was getting even closer. When Ferrer won the contest, Weiner had finished close enough to force a runoff because Ferrer didn’t get at least 40 percent of the vote.

Then, unexpectedly, Weiner decided not to go into the runoff, conceding Ferrer the Democratic nomination and a chance to run against Republican unknown Michael Bloomberg, making his first run for public office. Bloomberg won easily, by close to 250,000 votes.

Getting back to the present race, as Weiner entered the race, most of the talk was about his sexting scandal and how it would be the albatross that would weigh him down and kill all chance in the race. His opponents adopted a “silence” strategy regarding his scandal and resignation from the Congress.

The first polls had him and Bill de Blasio, William Thompson and John Liu trailing Quinn by a good margin as the three original challengers had been doing from the start. But soon after, Weiner quickly moved into the second slot behind Quinn, clearly ahead of the others.

But in the poll published last Thursday, conducted by The Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist, it came as a mild shocker that Weiner had vaulted past Quinn by a 25 to 20 percent margin. In the poll previous to it a month before, Quinn had led Weiner by 11 points, so compared to the Marist etc. poll, Weiner had gained 16 points on Quinn.

Among the reasons given for Weiner’s stunning move was how well received he was on the campaign trail and the “almost universal name recognition” he benefited from. Another positive factor was the confidence Weiner showed traveling around the city and partaking in debates.

Joe Lhota, the leader in the Republican primary field, announced quickly that it was time to take the gloves off and end the free ride Weiner had been given, as regarding his sexting past. He tried it, and it wasn’t especially effective.

The day following the Marist poll, Quinnipiac came out with its poll and the results found a virtual three-way contest with Quinn leading at 19 percent, Weiner second with 17 percent, and Thompson, apparently benefiting from his teacher’s union endorsement, a close third at 16 percent.

Some pundits assured that it would surely mean a runoff since it seemed likely no one would achieve a victory by getting at least 40 percent of the vote. Others predicted Thompson would continue a steady climb because “he’s always underestimated”, as one put it.

No one characterized how Weiner would fare going forward, but we say you can’t discount chances that Weiner will continue to improve position as the campaign continues its march toward Primary Day on September 10, just a bit more than two months away. At this point, Weiner and Thompson could also benefit from having run in citywide races—Weiner in the 2001 primary against Ferrer, and Thompson against Bloomberg in the 2009 mayoral race. We don’t like Quinn’s chances much at this point.

CATSIMATIDIS BACKS MAYOR ON ANTI-POLICE BILLS: Declaring he is “the candidate in this race who will stand up for Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD”, Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis blasted the City Council for voting two anti-police bills out of committee last week so they can be brought up for a full vote, possibly today.

Judging by the 41-8 vote in favor of bringing both bills out of committee, it would appear they have a good chance of being passed by the full council. However, Mayor Bloomberg, judging by his strong opposition, will probably veto the measures, but it remains to be seen whether the bills’ supporters have enough votes to override a mayoral veto.

The bills emerged out of the charges that the NYPD targets too many blacks and Hispanics for stop and frisk searches. One would create an Inspector General for the police department; the second would allow racial profiling lawsuits.

The mayor and Kelly charge this would hamper police operations and even damage the city’s anti-terrorist operations.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a can- didate for mayor, is in favor of the bill and led the effort to vote the controversial bills out of the Public Safety Committee when its chairman, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. refused to hold a vote to discharge them from his committee for a vote.

Catsimatidis didn’t mention Bloomberg by name in stating his opposition to the bills, but there’s no mistaking he’s on Bloomberg’s side on the issue. He stated that he stood “behind the men and women of the NYPD and all of New York City’s law enforcement community in opposing the Community Safety Act”.

“The terminally misguided city council is once again putting special interests and politics above the safety of our citizens,” he charged.

In another rap at the city council, Catsimatidis declared, “It is beyond comprehension that bills like this are taken seriously, let alone passed. But this is what happens when professional politicians meddle with our city’s public safety.”

CROWLEY, MENG COMMENT ON VOTING RIGHTS IMMIGRATION BILL PASSAGE: Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision which, according to Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), “calls into question critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965”.

Crowley said the Supreme Court ruled that one key provision, Section 4, which determines the states and localities that require federal monitoring of elections, “cannot be enforced unless the U.S. Congress establishes a new formula that reflects current trends”.

Another provision in question, Section 5, which requires those with a history of voting discrimination to seek approval of the federal government before making any changes in voting laws, was not overruled in last week’s decision, although its application will depend on how the issues with Section 4 are resolved.

Commenting on the aforementioned issues raised by the court’s decision, Crowley stated:

“Despite today’s Supreme Court decision there’s no doubt we have a continued need for critical protections like those in the Voting Rights Act. That was evident just in this past election cycle, when far too many efforts were made to suppress voter participation across the country.

“I will continue the fight to ensure that every voter, no matter where they live, is able to participate in our democracy to the fullest extent, and I hope my colleagues in Congress will join me in this effort. When the fundamental tenets of our democracy are at stake, we cannot settle for anything less.”

Also commenting on the court’s decision, Congressmember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) stated: “The Supreme Court’s decision is extremely disappointing. It guts the Voting Rights Act and sets back decades of progress.”

But, she added, “Although this decision is a setback, it will not end our efforts to combat discriminatory voting practices. We will keep up the fight.”

Meng urged Congress “to pass legislation that would revamp this law. With today’s attack on voter rights, Congress must act to ensure that all Americans are afforded the right to vote.”

Also commenting on the U.S. Senate’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform, Crowley stated:

“Today, the tireless efforts of immigrant families and advocates around the country paid off with a truly historic vote. I applaud the 68 Senators who recognized the importance of comprehensive reform and helped us move one giant step closer to a real solution.

“Although the bill is not perfect, today’s vote shows that productive movement on this issue is possible. Now, it’s time for my Republican colleagues in the House to join Democrats and answer the American people’s call for genuine reform.”

Meng also applauded the Senate’s action. She stated:

“The vote in the U.S. Senate is a great victory for those of us who have long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform. Passage of the bill represents the first realistic chance in years to fix the nation’s broken immigration system, and finally overhaul the dysfunctional immigration laws that have failed to work for the American people for far too long.”

Referring to the bipartisan coalition of Senators that sparked the victory in passing the bill, which was led by New York Senator Charles Schumer, Meng stated her thanks “for all their tireless work and for the difficult job they’ve endured in reaching this critical moment”.

Meanwhile, Meng joined with her fellow Democrats in criticizing House Republicans’ “piecemeal approach to immigration reform”. This coincided with reports out of Washington that the GOP House majority would support many changes to the Senate’s bill and make a final reform bill’s passage doubtful this session.

QUINN, VAN BRAMER PRAISE SPEED CAMERA LEGISLATION: City Councilmembers last week praised the state legislature’s passage of a speed camera pilot program in New York City, which originated in the council where Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer had sponsored a home rule message to Albany to pass his bill.

Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) thanked the state legislators for passing the bill, saying, “It will protect New York City’s pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as motorists.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also alluded to the dangerous aspects of NYC’s traffic saying more New Yorkers are killed in fatal crashes. Quinn added, “Speed cameras will reduce speeding, protect our schoolchildren and save lives,” and she urged Governor Cuomo to sign the bill.

STAVISKY SAYS SESSION ENDED ON DOWN NOTE: State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky expressed disappointment that the state legislative session ended recently without passing the Women’s Equality Act, public campaign financing and anti-corruption bills.

Stavisky (D–Flushing) stated, “It’s upsetting that politics as usual derailed good legislation that would have protected women from pay and housing discrimination and enacted tougher penalties for human trafficking. These basic protections for women are long overdue and to have them abandoned is an affront to the women of New York.”

Similarly, Stavisky was also upset by the legislature’s failure to enact public campaign financing.

She said, “For years, senate Democrats have been pushing hard for campaign finance reforms and stiffer penalties for public corruption. It’s a shame that both measures failed again this year. Especially after a rash of scandals, it’s more important than ever to institute public campaign financing and anti-corruption measures as basic means to restore the public trust. As representatives of the people, we should be accountable to the people.”

Stavisky promised, “This isn’t the end of these issues. Women’s rights, public campaign financing and anti-corruption measures are too important and I and my Democratic colleagues will not give up on them.”

MENG BLASTS GOP FOR LETTING STUDENT LOAN RATES DOUBLE: As of this past Monday, the rates for Stafford loans for college students doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Congressmember Grace Meng blasted House Republican leaders for letting it happen, saying the sharply increased cost for students’ most popular loan choice will only make it harder for students and middle class families to afford higher education.

“The lack of action by the Republican leadership… is a cruel and heartless attack on our nation’s students and their families. An affordable college education is an essential tool for them to succeed in today’s competitive job market, and it’s critical for the future health and prosperity of our nation. I urge GOP leaders to reduce this unacceptable spike in interest rates as soon as the House reconvenes July 8, and to ensure that the reduction is retroactive to July 1.”

Meng estimates the more than seven million students and their families will be affected by the new rates.

The 3.4 percent student loan rate was enacted in 2007 for a four-year period, and was extended through 2012-2013, and expired last Monday.

ADDABBO BILL RESTORES CUTS: The state senate last week gave final approval to state Senator Joseph Addabbo’s bill to restore the $90 million that had been cut from the 2013-2014 budget allocation for developmentally disabled adults and children.

“If we had not been able to restore this funding,” Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained, “children and adults in need of services would have suffered, along with their families. Programs would have closed, putting people out of work and depriving developmentally disabled people of support and vital resources. In short, we would have made it much harder for those who are struggling every day and who need our help to live up to their highest personal potential.”

NOLAN BILL TIGHTENS RUNAWAY COSTS: Faced with costs skyrocketing to $2 billion annually, both the Assembly and state senate have approved Assemblymember Catherine Nolan’s bill which would mandate audits of every special education services program provider for preschool children with disabilities in the state. The bill is awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature presently.

Nolan (D–Ridgewood), who chairs the Education Committee, explained the legislation will “increase the oversight on special education services and programs for preschool children with disabilities”. More specifically, she said, the bill would require a Committee on Pre-School Education (CPSE) that recommends placing a child in an approved program which conducted an evaluation to indicate in writing that such recommendation is an appropriate placement for the child. They would also have to provide notice to the state education commissioner, Nolan added.

Nolan emphasized: “This bill strengthens the oversight of these programs and ensures that the students are receiving the appropriate services that they need. This bill is good for students, providers and the hard-working taxpayers of New York state.”

The lawmaker also explained the bill would require the state comptroller to audit expenses of each of the providers of 4410 schools as reported to the State Education Department (SED) at least once before Mar. 31, 2018 and inform the governor and state legislature of those findings. Nolan said SED would also be required to study the feasibility of adopting alternative cost reimbursement methodologies for funding the 4410 (special education services) schools.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who proposed the bill, applauded Nolan for sponsoring it. He said oversight of the schools had to be “greatly strengthened… and to improve transparency and accountability of funding”.

DiNapoli stated, “Numerous audits by my office have found widespread fraud and abuse in the program, costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year, and depriving children of the resources intended for them. I urge the governor to sign this important legislation to ensure that special education dollars are used for their intended purpose.”

Nolan, in turn, commended the leadership of DiNapoli and also urged the governor to sign the bill into law.

PROTECTING STUDENTS’ PRIVACY: Legislation that allows parents of students and students aged 18 or older to opt out of the state Education Department’s disclosure of personal identifiable information to a third party has passed the Assembly under the sponsorship of Assemblymembers Phillip Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) and Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood).

“It’s inexcusable that our schools would release any information relating to our children but particularly upsetting that parents were not offered an opt-out option before sensitive information about students is shared,” Goldfeder declared.

Nolan noted that she, as well as many parents, had serious concerns about the security of storing such information.

Nolan stated, “Before sensitive information about students is shared, parents must be given the chance to say no. In this day and age, with the rampant growth of technology and information flow, it’s vitally important that families are given the right to keep their children’s information from being released to for-profit companies and potentially compromised.”

New York state recently agreed to share confidential student information with inBloom Inc. (formerly known as the Shared Learning Cooperative). A database will compile student information on behalf of the state Education Department.

Both lawmakers noted that they as well as many parents, have serious concerns about the security of storing the information because it could include names, Social Security numbers, fingerprints and other sensitive information used to identify students.

WEPRIN’S DOWN ZONING PROPOSAL PASSES: Proclaiming that “this rezoning safeguards the homes in these communities and ensures that the neighborhoods are not threatened by overdevelopment,”

Councilmember Mark

Weprin announced that the City Council had voted to authorize the rezoning of Bellerose, Floral Park and Glen Oaks in his Northeastern Queens district.

Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) said he had “worked collectively with the community, local civic associations and the land use committee of Community Board 13 Q” in formulating the down zoning proposal, which “reinforces the predominant suburban character of these Eastern Queens neighborhoods”.

Weprin explained that the new zoning replaces theformerR2zoningwiththe“morerestrictive R2A zoning”. He said that the change was formulated in response to concerns from the community, local elected officials, local civic associations and CB 13 Q that “outdated zoning did not reflect the neighborhood character and was resulting in larger, new development that was often inconsistent with the surroundings”.

He added, “The plan protects residential blocks from commercial intrusions and ensures that future development will be consistent with existing building patterns. Commercial overlay zones will be narrowed from 150 feet to 100 feet, and some commercial overlays will be eliminated where only residential uses exist. The rezoning will help maintain the residential character of this wonderful community.”

VAN BRAMER HAPPY LIBRARY FUNDING IS BACK IN BUDGET: Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside), a self described “lifelong lover of libraries”, stated he was “absolutely thrilled with the complete restoration of funding for vital services and funding” for city libraries before the city budget for 2014 was passed.

Van Bramer said in a statement, “As chairman of the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries, it has always been my goal to restore every cent of the $106 million in cuts to libraries and the $65 million in cuts to culture and the arts. With the leadership of Speaker Quinn, and the staunch support of my colleagues, I am thrilled to announce that all $171 million in funding has been completely restored.”

Van Bramer explained that the “record restoration” saves over 1,500 jobs, prevents libraries from closing and allows five and six day service to continue citywide. Beyond that, he said, cultural organizations and institutions will maintain all of their funding, allowing them to continue to draw millions of tourists, educate millions of children and inspire us all.

“The truth is you can’t have good neighborhoods without libraries and New York City would be a barren place without the arts and our cultural communities,” Van Bramer said.

“Fortunately, as a result of this budget,” he summed up, “We won’t need to close libraries or museums and we will continue to be the cultural capital of the world.”

SIMOTAS OPPOSES BIKINI BAR AT STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY: Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides, and representatives from Congressmember Joseph Crowley’s office and the public spoke out against licensing proposed bikini bar, “Racks” at a public hearing at the State Liquor Authority on Tuesday, July 2. Simotas was responding to an outpouring of community opposition to the proposed adult establishment which would feature scantily-clad women offering pole and lap dances within the proximity of local parks, residences and schools.

Congressmember Grace Meng (D-Queens) issued the following statement on June 26 hailing the Supreme Court’s decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 (Prop 8):

“The Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 are great decisions, and huge wins for marriage equality in America.

“I am proud to stand in support of equal rights for all Americans, and I cannot be happier to celebrate today’s historic decisions that finally provide same-sex couples with the equality they deserve.”

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