2013-07-17 / Political Page

Vallone Files Election Petitions, Comrie Bows Out Of BP Race

Councilmember and Queens borough president hopeful Peter Vallone Jr. sounded all pepped up and raring to go as he announced—with 72 days to go until Primary Day—that he had submitted his election petitions to the Board of Elections—12,000 strong—four days before the filing deadline.

And those 12,000 petitions are 10,000 more than the required 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot, so there’s little likelihood that anybody is going to block him from running.

Looking forward to the next 72 days before Primary Day on September 10, Vallone declared, “My awesome volunteers and I have covered a lot of ground, but the work isn’t done yet. I will continue my fight to keep our streets safe and clean, improve our schools and stand up for small businesses.”

As for the signatures, Vallone said proudly, “These 12,000 signatures prove that the people of Queens share these simple priorities and that we are one Queens working together for a better future.”

With the petitioning chore behind them and the Vallone campaign team comfortable that they have enough signatures, their attention is on the last leg of the campaign over the next month-and-a-half plus.

Vallone said his team “has already begun ramping up field operations instead of planning additional petition drives”. Of the 12,000 signatures he said, a majority of them have been internally verified as registered Democrats in Queens.

As for the remainder of the field for the borough presidency, it has been reduced by one more, veteran Councilmember Leroy Comrie, the venerable pol from Jamaica who has been a fixture in the Council.

In stepping aside, he cited “personal reasons”, but also said he looks forward to serving the people of Queens in some capacity in the years to come.

Comrie’s exit now makes it a three-way contest for the Democratic nomination among city council bred pols:

Vallone, Melinda Katz, of Forest Hills and state Senator Tony Avella, from Bayside, another fertile vote hunting ground. No word yet from Katz and Avella on how they fared in the petition search.

Meanwhile, Vallone and Comrie were busy fighting against plans for a proposed mega mall next to Citi Field, the Mets’ home stadium. Comrie said, “The community has responded negatively. They don’t feel their needs are being kept in the forefront.”

Comrie is in a good position regarding the $3 billion, 1.4 million-square-foot development: he’s chairman of the council’s Land Use Committee.

Vallone says the plan falls outside the physical boundaries that were set by the council in 2008. “They’re not what we approved. You can’t change it after we approve it,” he said.

Also opposed to the mall plan is Avella. So that leaves Katz, the remaining borough president wannabe, but she’s not totally made up her mind and thinks there should be further talking about it.

Finally, Queens lost a major league soccer field which was proposed to be built in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, but was beat out by new interests who are set to build it in The Bronx.

Comrie explained, “The [Flushing Meadows] location doesn’t work. There was no real benefit for Queens residents to site it in that location.”

Park activists had opposed the Queensbased professional soccer stadium, opposing giving park space away for a professional soccer stadium when that park space is so important to residents living nearby, they argued.

MORE TALK ABOUT SIGNATURES: The deadline for nominating petitions last Friday was a time of celebrating for Republican mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis, who marched into the Board of Elections with 25,000 signed petitions to place him on the ballot on Primary Day, September 10.

Catsimatidis, who is being opposed by former MTA chairman Joe Lhota, was elated that about a third (9,000 signatures) of the 25,000 came from Queens, which figures big in his plans to win the mayor’s race. Queens led all boroughs in the signature race, said the billionaire grocery mogul.

As the Catsimatidis petitions were handed over to board clerks, he said, “These signatures are proof positive of the groundswell of support my campaign is receiving from rank and file Republicans throughout the city. My message of safe streets, schools that educate, the need to stop runaway spending and jobs, jobs, jobs for all New Yorkers resonates with the voters.”

SPITZER COMES UP BIG: Putting his money where his mouth is, comeback kid Eliot Spitzer, who had to get 3,750 petitions signed, sealed and delivered to get on the September 10 primary ballot as a candidate for city comptroller, dumped 27,000 signed petitions on Board of Elections tables on deadline day last Thursday.

With Spitzer’s late start to get into the comptroller’s race against fellow Democrat Scott Stringer, there were many in the press corps that expressed some doubt that he had time to find at least 3,750 eligible Democrats who hadn’t previously signed a petition. So the former New York governor took the rubber band off his bankroll and rounded up enough experienced volunteers to get the job done in a few days. Other candidates had started gathering their petitions early in June.

Sadly for Stringer, who virtually would have had a walkover to get the nomination and then victory in the ensuing election to lock up the comptroller’s job, he appears to have little chance of beating his highly recognizable foe in the primary.

Poll results released last Wednesday, five years after he resigned as governor, but only two days after entering the race, showed his trouncing Stringer by 42 to 33 percent—and that appears to be the end of that ball game. The Manhattan borough president just wasn’t in the same league with Spitzer, despite the ex-governor’s tarnished reputation.

VALLONE: RE-RE-NAME BRIDGE ‘QUEENSBORO’: Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. has begun drafting legislation which would return the Ed Koch- Queensboro Bridge back to its original name – the Queensboro Bridge.

The bill would also rename the Manhattan Municipal Building, located at 1 Centre Street, as the “Ed Koch Manhattan Municipal Building”, which was the compromise Vallone proposed before the bridge’s name was changed.

Despite overwhelming opposition from the residents of Queens, the city changed the bridge’s name in 2011. Vallone, who led the fight against the renaming, was one of only 12 councilmembers to vote against it.

“A landmark so closely linked to the history of our borough should never be renamed after anyone,” said Vallone. “The people of Queens have spoken, and they want their bridge back. Manhattan had no right to take the Queensboro Bridge away in the first place – I am just trying to correct this injustice.”

SCHUMER PUSHES KELLY FOR HOMELAND SECURITY HEAD: With Janet Napolitano resigning her post as Secretary of Homeland Security, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.) has recommended that the Obama administration strongly consider city Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as her replacement.

Schumer said in a statement, “The Department of Homeland Security is one of the most important agencies in the federal government. Its leader needs to be someone who knows law enforcement, understands anti-terrorism efforts, and is a top notch administrator, and at the NYPD Ray Kelly has proven that he excels in all three. As a former head of the Customs and Border patrol, he has top level federal management experience. There is no doubt Ray Kelly would be a great DHS secretary, and I have urged the White House to very seriously consider his candidacy. While it would be New York’s loss, Commissioner Kelly’s appointment as the head of DHS would be a great boon to the entire country.”

PAUL VALLONE ENDORSED BY POLICE GROUP: In his candidacy for the 19th District Council seat in Northeast Queens, Democrat Paul Vallone has picked up the endorsement of the Captains Endowment Association (CEA), which represents more than 2,100 active and retired uniformed members in the NYPD’s ranks of captain, deputy inspector, inspector, deputy chief and police surgeon.

In a statement from the CEA President, Roy Richter, he stated: “After an extensive vetting process, we have come to trust that Paul is the candidate who best understands the needs and concerns of the uniformed civil service rank of the city of New York.”

Vallone responded, “The quality of life we enjoy here in Northeast Queens is second to none, and preserving it starts with a commitment to safe streets. That’s why I am so proud to accept the Captains Endowment Association’s endorsement.”

Vallone noted that the CEA’s endorsement “further solidifies my standing as the clear choice of New York City’s law enforcement community in the race for the 19th City Council seat.”

Vallone pointed to previous endorsements, including those of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, the Lieutenants Benevolent Association and the New York City Fire Marshals Benevolent Association.

PRENTZAS ENTERS 22ND COUNCIL RACE: Better late than never, community leader and small businessman Gus Prentzas has entered the race for the Democratic Party nomination for the 22nd City Council district seat. He joins Costa Constantinides and attorney John Ciafone, who will be on the ballot in the September 10 primary election. The district covers Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Jackson Heights. It has been represented by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. for the past 11 years, but he is now running for the Queens borough president’s seat.

Prentzas has lived in the community for about 35 years, served on the local community and school boards and has also operated a business.

He stated: “Northwestern Queens has grown and flourished over the last 12 years. I believe I have the right balance of private and public sector experience to continue that progress and look forward to engaging and serving the community in the city council.”

Meanwhile, Constantinides announced he has submitted 3,346 designating signatures from Democratic voters in the 22nd district to get on the primary ballot. We have not heard yet from Ciafone and Prentzas. But Constantinides seems safe, since only 450 valid signatures are required to get on the ballot.

GOP COUNCIL CANDIDATES OPPOSE COMMUNITY SAFETY ACT: Seven Republican candidates for the city council in Queens came out last week as a unified force against the controversial Community Safety Act, which critics have charged would hamper the NYPD in frisking searches and create an inspector general for the department. They join Republican candidate for mayor John Catsimatidis in opposing the bills.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have strongly opposed both proposed laws, backed by the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and other law enforcement advocates.

The seven Republican council hopefuls pledging to block the legislation are: Scherie Murray (District 31/Southeast Queens); Dennis Saffran (District 19/Northeast Queens); Sunny Hahn (District 20/Flushing); Daniel Peterson (District 22/Astoria, Long Island City); Alex Blishteyn (District 24/Fresh Meadows, Jamaica Estates); Craig Caruana (District 30/Southwest Queens); and Councilmember Eric Ulrich (District 32/Ozone Park, Howard Beach).

Ulrich is the only present councilmember and is seeking re-election. He voted against both bills when they came up for a vote recently before the full council. At the meeting last week, when the Republican bloc announced its opposition, Ulrich stated: “Politics should never trump public safety. New York City is a better place today because of the great work of the NYPD. These bills are downright dangerous, not to mention a waste of the taxpayers’ money.”

Also speaking out against the bills at the unity announcement was candidate Murray. She directed her remarks at her would-be opponent for the 19th District seat, Councilmember Donovan Richards who, she asserted, voted in favor of the two bills.

Murray declared, “Stop, Question and Frisk is a great proactive crimefighting measure. I concur with the mayor that curtailing Stop, Question and Frisk would put the city at grave risk of higher crime rates. “She said she hoped the unified action announced to defeat the Community Safety Act would “help to open up a larger dialogue for better solutions with regards to public safety”.

Also speaking out against the Community Safety Act, which passed the city council last month, were Republican mayoral rivals Joe Lhota, a former MTA chairman, and grocery tycoon John Catsimatidis. Both vowed to bypass the IG’s office if it is created.

At a debate, Lhota suggested such action when he stated that if the position is created, “Don’t forget that IG’s gonna work for me as mayor and I’d make sure that IG does what I want it to do.” And Catsimatidis stated: “I’ll do everything possible to limit the [IG’s] authority.”

As for the other controversial bill expanding the definition of racial profiling becoming law, Lhota would challenge it in the courts, he said.

Meanwhile, as regards the GOP council candidates joining forces to defeat the racial profiling bill, Mayor Bloomberg and the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have launched a campaign against councilmembers who voted for the two bills. They hope to convince at least one “yes” voter to switch to a “no” vote to prevent the success of an override attempt if the mayor vetoes the bills, as he is expected to.

Consequently, they have singled out Councilmember Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) for special attention. But Weprin says quotas have been set for cops to do frisks and it’s wrong. He said the anti-frisk bill “is for the best interest of the city” and he will stick with his “yes” vote.

MENG BILL ON POLS’ SPENDING DISCLOSURE: Complaining strongly about corporations “secretly spending unlimited amounts of shareholder funds to influence elections throughout the country” without reporting them, Congressmember Grace Meng has introduced legislation that would mandate corporations to disclose all their political spending to shareholders.

Blasting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which Meng (D–Flushing) criticized for “opening the floodgates” for corporations’ secret campaign spending, the lawmaker explained her bill would: “Require publicly-traded companies to disclose all the money they spend supporting or opposing candidates for federal, state or local office, including all independent expenditures, electioneering communications and political donations over $10,000 made to outside groups.”

Meng’s bill, which has been co-sponsored by 19 other congressmembers, would force corporations to divulge: the name and political affiliation of each candidate a corporation’s independent expenditure supports or opposes; the amount of each expenditure; the public office that such candidate was or is seeking including the relevant state, city or district; and a statement of the corporation’s interest in and reason for making the expenditure.

In support of the bill, Lisa Gilbert, of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, stated: “Since the ill-fated 2010 decision of Citizens United, corporations have been able to spend money freely on elections, and often do so by giving funds to ‘dark money’ organizations not required to disclose the identities of their donors. But investors have a right to know how their money—a corporation’s profits—is being spent. The trouble is, there is no requirement that companies share this information.”

In the Citizens United case, the court ruled that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as American citizens to independently spend unlimited amounts of money, for or against candidates seeking public office, Meng explained.

BENGALI LANGUAGE AID FOR VOTERS: State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Flushing) and Assemblymember David Weprin (D–Fresh Meadows) held a press conference last week at the Queens Board of Elections office to celebrate the addition of Bengali as an official language option for Queens voters.

As of Oct. 13, 2011, they stated the Census Bureau had announced that Queens County was required under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to provide South Asian language assistance to voters. The translated ballots and language assistance, they said, will now help Bengali-speaking citizens, more than 60 percent of whom have limited English proficiency, to fully exercise their right to vote in this year’s elections.

Appearing with Stavisky and Weprin was Glenn D. Magpantay, Director of the Democracy Program at the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and other South Asian advocates.

MENG, CROWLEY HOLD QUEENS VETS FORUM: This past Monday, Congressmember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale) held a special forum for veterans who reside in Queens. The event included presentations by representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In a statement, the lawmakers explained, “This forum is designed to help veterans access the many benefits and services that are available to them through various government agencies. These services include: healthcare options, education and training opportunities, mental health counseling, disability benefits, home loan and housing programs, pensions, employment assistance, life insurance, new resources for female veterans, compensation benefits, assistance with transitioning from military to civilian life and much more.

CONSERVATIVE PARTY ANNUAL DINNER: The Conservative Parties of Kings and Queens Counties will jointly hold their annual American Heritage Dinner next Tuesday evening, July 23 at Russo’s On the Bay in Howard Beach. The annual event will honor Shaun Marie Levine, who has been an enthusiastic Conservative Party member for many years on its executive staff.

Queens party chairman Tom Long stated, “It is with great pleasure that we give her (Levine) some of the recognition she deserves.”

For more information and ticket purchases, contact Long at 718-474-3826.

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