2013-07-10 / Political Page

Spitzer’s Comeback; Lhota Tackles Future Storms

It seems that now Eliot Spitzer—still seeking a public career at age 54 and perhaps encouraged by Anthony Weiner’s attempted comeback—made the surprise announcement over last weekend that the former governor was entering this year’s race for city comptroller.

Given the circumstances, Spitzer—on the sidelines for the past five years after resigning in the midst of a prostitution scandal—has chosen to run for a post somewhat lower than one might otherwise imagine.

But all things considered, it’s a respectable reentry choice, involving billions of dollars in investment funds and being the watchdog over another billion dollar pot—the city’s budget—and assuring it is spent properly. We think there’s no question he has the background to get the job done. The larger question is, can he get elected to do the job.

Spitzer was never what you would call a “regular party guy”, politically speaking, surely not a clubhouse regular. So he now enters the picture as a challenger or insurgent, going up against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who also had higher aspirations at the beginning of this political season, to become mayor of New York City.

Stringer and Spitzer, seeking to run for a citywide office, must submit 3,750 valid signatures to get on the Democratic primary ballot. No doubt, Stringer must surely have submitted his nominating signatures already, given his political organization as a sitting office holder.

For Spitzer, and others of his financial station, coming from a wealthy family and having headed a small army of political followers, he should have no trouble securing the 3,750 valid signatures and getting on the ballot. He’s also capable, with his past experience, to bring together a campaign organization to wage a creditable campaign over the next 62 days coming up to the September 10 primary.

The question is how will the electorate treat him. No problem, we think. Spitzer had a prostitution habit, not any involvement in the trade. Comparing him to Weiner’s situation, it’s about the same, we think, and Spitzer’s past shouldn’t hinder him in attempting a comeback.

But he will face major problems if he makes it getting on the primary ballot and then having to face Stringer and any other challengers. Stringer has had time to organize a campaign, raise funds, and round up volunteers and endorsements. The endorsements will add many thousands of government union volunteers to push the campaign and get the vote out on Primary Day.

Spitzer has the finances to buy the services he needs, the same as Michael Bloomberg had to do in all his elections. But will Spitzer, or would he, go the same route as Bloomberg and to the extent that Bloomberg did in spending money? Spitzer’s father has always been Spitzer the office seeker’s money source, so we won’t know if Spitzer the candidate will have the funds to spend and the will to spend them against Stringer.

At a guess, we would say “yes” on both counts, availability of funds and will to spend them. Why else would he be making a comeback in 2013 running for a citywide office. Its not exactly do or die, but at 54 Spitzer’s choices for a public career are narrowing with each passing day. His sights will always be trained on the highest targets, but those are always the hardest goals to reach.

The city comptroller’s job is attainable and would put other goals, higher goals perhaps, within reach. So expect a hard, bitter fight from Spitzer if he gets into the comptroller’s race, and put emphasis on the “bitter” because that is the only way Spitzer has fought throughout his political career.

LHOTA CALLS FOR CHANGE IN STORM PLAN: How to prepare for and deal with future storms will be one of every future mayor’s greatest concern. We haven’t heard much specific—or general—talk from any of the mayoral candidates, Democratic on Republican until now.

Now, Republican Joe Lhota, has proposed an addition to Mayor Bloomberg’s “comprehensive storm resiliency plan”, calling on the state to mandate electrical power companies operating in flood zones to shut off the power prior to expected storm surges to prevent raging fires, such as the one which obliterated Breezy Point in the Rockaways during Superstorm Sandy.

Lhota, a former Deputy Mayor under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was sorely tested during 9/11, said in releasing his proposal, that the Breezy Point holocaust destroyed 110 homes, consumed one by one as the fierce winds swept through that community.

Lhota said the fire started as a “result of saltwater interacting with live electrical systems, a dangerous combination that ignited a blaze firefighters were unable to combat due to severe flooding”.

Residents of the torched area have filed a lawsuit against the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and National Grid (NG) for failing to shut off power after Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a state of emergency and evacuation orders were in place. In contrast, Lhota says LIPA did “preventably shut power” on Fire Island, where homes were spared from “the same fiery destiny”.

Lhota, whose main opposition is grocery store mogul John Catsimatidis in the GOP primary, stated: “It’s hard to find the words to adequately describe the devastation Breezy Point residents suffered. We must make sure that the proper procedures are in place to try and prevent this from ever happening again.

“It’s common sense that power should be shut off in these coastal areas prior to a large-scale storm. Preparation is the key to getting through any disaster, and, as mayor, I will urge the state to adopt this recommendation so that all affected areas have a consistent policy.”

Lhota also cited the effect such a move would have on evacuation compliance.

“People who are considering defying evacuation orders,” he said, “are going to think twice if their power is shut down. This is a win-win safety measure and will go a long way toward minimizing the damaging effects of a future storm.”

Former Congressmember Bob Turner, a longtime resident of Breezy Point who lost his home in the storm, stated, “This is an excellent suggestion from the practical hands-on executive that Joe Lhota is. (He is a former chairman of the MTA.) This has been overlooked for too long and we must not allow another tragedy like the one my fellow residents experienced after Sandy.”

MARSHALL’S GUN BUYBACK NETS 30 GUNS: Queens Borough President Helen Marshall reports that nearly 30 guns were surrendered during the gun buyback event which she and the NYPD sponsored on June 29 at the New Jerusalem Baptists Church in South Jamaica.

According to Marshall’s office, the NYPD said the returned weapons included 17 revolvers, eight semi-automatic handguns and one rifle. Three of the surrendered weapons were loaded, they said.

The June 29 event followed a similar event held by Marshall and the NYPD last year that netted 55 guns.

Summing up the night’s activity, Marshall stated: “Today we succeeded in getting 29 dangerous weapons off our borough’s streets.” She pointed out, “Our haul included eight semi-automatic weapons, which are the most problematic in terms of street crime. While we obtained fewer guns this year than last, we still succeeded in reducing the chances of Queens residents being killed or wounded by firearms. Who knows what we will end up preventing.”

Marshall also explained that she allocated $50,000 from her office’s discretionary fund to pay for the buyback. A $200 bank card was paid for each eligible handgun or assault rifle, and a $20 bank card was issued in exchange for each eligible shotgun or conventional rifle.

The event was held in memory of D’aja Robinson, the 14-year-old student shot and killed on May 18 by a gunman who wildly fired shots into the bus she was riding in Jamaica. Marshall thanked NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Queens DA Richard Brown for their officers’ support and cooperation.

Marshall explained anyone can turn in a gun anonymously at any police station, Transit District or Housing Police service area station house and be paid for it. More than 8,200 firearms have been surrendered since the NYPD program to buy back guns started five years ago. And Marshall also said that if you know someone who is carrying, selling or using handguns illegally, you can call anonymously and receive a $1,000 reward. Call 866- GUN STOP (866-486-7867).

DENDEKKER: NON-UNION BUILD SITES MORE DANGEROUS: Commenting on a report that found “72 percent of all construction worker fatalities between 2008 and 2012 occurred on non-union construction sites [in New York City],” Assemblymember Michael DenDekker proposed that the problem might be minimized by “increased training and continuing education”.

DenDekker (D–WFP-Jackson Heights) said he learned of the safety shortfalls at a forum sponsored by the city Central Labor Council to discuss construction safety and a report card on the subject presented by the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA).

Zeroing in on the report, DenDekker said it revealed that of the 21 deaths that occurred between 2008-2010, the 13 workers killed were from companies that had 30 or fewer employees. Ten of the deaths occurred on Queens job sites.

Regarding his assertion that more training and education might save more lives, DenDekker explained, “This is the way we will help keep both New York City residents and the construction workers safe without being over-intrusive. Nonunion construction workers do not get the extensive training and safety education that the construction trade unions are currently providing.

“The city and state should also review construction company safety records and compliance before awarding public taxpayer-funded contracts for future construction jobs. There is an absolute obligation for developers, construction companies, contractors and sub-contractors to protect their workers from serious injuries and fatalities. Those companies that refuse to comply with industry safety practices must be held accountable or be barred from getting city or state funded projects.”

Also at the meeting, the lawmaker said, were representatives from leading construction worker unions to discuss what more the unionized workforce can do to prevent worker injuries. Continuing training and more license certification would continue to educate their already skilled workforce, DenDekker added.

CONSTANTINIDES, CIAFONE ENDORSEMENTS: Costa Constantinides, the Queens Democratic Party’s designated candidate for the 22nd City Council seat in the September 10 primary election, and Astoria attorney John Ciafone, who is opposing him, announced endorsements over the July 4 hiatus.

Constantinides was endorsed by municipal labor union DC 37, the city’s largest union, with 121,000 members and 50,000 retirees; and Ciafone got the endorsement of the National Latino Officers Association.

Constantinides also received the endorsement of the District Council SEIU, which joins DC 37 and many other municipal unions that have pledged their support for Constantinides in his bid for the nomination in the 22nd Council district covering Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Woodside and Jackson Heights.

Ciafone has been active in local school issues and other community problems for many years as well as in Democratic Party matters.

MENG SUPPORTS EGYPTIAN MILITARY ULTIMATUM: About a week ago, Congressmember Grace Meng (D–Flushing), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, issued a statement on the Egyptian military’s ultimatum to their country’s President Mohammed Morsi, warning that it would take action if Morsi did not resolve that country’s political crisis within 48 hours.

Meng stated, “I strongly support the decision by the Egyptian military to intervene in the country’s political crisis if President Morsi is unable to resolve it within the 48 hour deadline given to him by military leaders.”

As the situation played out, Morsi did not voluntarily step down and was removed by the military.

QUINN, BRAUNSTEIN ON FUNDING FOR POOL: In an announcement that was especially welcome during the recent heat wave, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a mayoral candidate, and Bayside Assemblymember Edward Braunstein were successful in securing the funding to keep the Fort Totten swimming pool operating for the 2013 season.

During budget negotiations, there were indications that the pool funding might not be renewed, but Braunstein, reached out to Quinn, and when the budget was finalized, the funding was included.

Quinn stated that she was thrilled that she and her colleagues were “able to secure funding that will ensure all city sponsored outdoor swimming pools remain open for another full season”. Quinn also thanked Braunstein and Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) “for their efforts on the issue”.

Braunstein pointed out that the Fort Totten swimming facility was “the only city-sponsored pool in Northeast Queens… and is a tremendous resource to our community”.

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