2014-01-15 / Political Page

Gianaris: Senate Dems Ready For Nov. Election Battles

All signs point to a major re-election victory for Governor Andrew Cuomo this November, one that can draw Democratic voters to the polls throughout the state in record numbers and spark victories for Democratic candidates lower on the ballot. We see this scenario as being especially possible for Democrats to win back control of the state senate from the Republicans.

Not only are the signs great for the Democrats because of the prospects offered by the governor at the top of the ticket, but it is also likely that the Democrats will have the financial means to bolster their chances in tight races.

State Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Western Queens), who chairs the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, reported earlier this week that in recent months the committee paid off its remaining $665,000 debt, totally clearing away the $3.1 million debt it held in January, 2011. Which means any monies raised now can be used to finance the 2014 senate campaigns.

Gianaris, a wizard of a money manager, stated to an Albany political writer: “We managed to win four seats in 2012 with the debt still hanging over our heads. While we had success with one hand tied behind our back, we’re feeling great about 2014 now that our financial house is in order.”

REPLAY ON SPEAKER ELECTION: Mayor Bill de Blasio and Queens Democratic Chair Joseph Crowley appeared to have tied up any loose ends on the election of Melissa Mark-Viverito as the new City Council Speaker last Wednesday, but this past Sunday the two pols had to do a replay apparently just to get the local paparazzi out of their hair.

The mayor and Crowley attended a Three Kings Day celebration in Corona, and afterwards, they were approached by reporters and photographers and the press wanted to know if any bad feelings remained between them on the speaker issue.

“No” they answered and were photographed with arms around each other, assuring one and all there were no hard feelings. Crowley explained, “We disagreed on a political issue and now, we’re moving forward.”

Last Wednesday, as the voting approached for speaker, the mayor was supporting Mark-Viverito as he had been all along, and Crowley was backing Dan Garodnick (D–Manhattan). When it appeared Mark-Viverito could not be defeated, Garodnick withdrew his name, threw his support to Mark-Viverito, and she won by a 51 to zero count by the 51- member council.

On Sunday, after the mayor and Crowley left, Mark-Viverito showed up and, responding to questions, answered there were no problems with any of the major players and, she said, “I look forward to a… productive relationship.”

MALONEY URGES: ‘RESTORE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS’: Emergency unemployment benefits, which have expired for 110,000 New Yorkers and 1.3 million nationwide, must be restored, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney urged last week. The Queens/Manhattan lawmaker was joined by Organizing for Action New York and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler.

Still fighting for the restoration although the move has lost some support in the Senate, Maloney (D) declared: “Right now, for every job opening in the country there are nearly three people looking for a job. Even if every one of these jobs is filled tomorrow, there would still be far too many left without a job. The right way to reduce reliance on unemployment insurance is to create jobs—not cut benefits. These are hardworking Americans who have fallen on hard times and they need our support.

“Cutting this emergency support is not only cruel and callous, it’s also foolish. Federal and unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways to boost our economy and create the very jobs we’re hoping these people will fill, according to most economists. Congress must take immediate action to restore these benefits.”

Maloney explained that New York state will continue to provide up to 26 weeks of state-funded unemployment insurance, but this federal program, which had been providing an additional 47 weeks of coverage has expired.

Extending emergency unemployment benefits through the end of 2014 will lead to an estimated 200,000 jobs and a fifth of a point of additional economic growth, Maloney emphasized.

GOLDFEDER WELCOMES NEW CITY DOT BOSS: Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, a longtime advocate of improving transportation for his constituents in the Rockaways, last week welcomed Polly Trottenberg, the city’s new Department of Transportation (DOT) commissioner, to her new job and invited her to tour Superstorm Sandy-damaged areas in Southern Queens and the Rockaways.

In the letter, Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) thanked Trottenberg for her years of dedicated public service and contribution to transit issues nationwide and invited her to visit Sandy-ravaged areas such as Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel and Rockaway to meet with community leaders and local small business owners that are still struggling to recover from the storm.

“Transportation is the key to economic success and recovery and it will provide families in Southern Queens and Rockaway the tools they need to fully rebuild,” Goldfeder stated. “I have known Polly for a long time and she is the perfect choice for our city. Her experience and commitment to focus on outer borough transit access is welcomed news to families and businesses.”

Goldfeder has worked tirelessly to revitalize the Rockaway Beach Rail Line, eliminate the Cross Bay Bridge toll and keep the ferry service permanent. In addition, he has been in the forefront of creating safer roadways in and around schools and improving street safety in every neighborhood.

LIU’S PARTING GIFT TO RETIREES: Before leaving office on January 1, former City Comptroller John Liu sent a parting message to the city’s retirees about how their pension funds grew in the past four years under his control and investments. He wrote:

“When I took office four years ago, I was committed to upgrading the investment performance of the New York City Pension Funds by modernizing their management and reallocating assets to better absorb risks. Our work has paid off. Our pension funds together have grown 58 percent over the past four fiscal years, to $144 billion. These increased returns will annually reduce the city’s pension contributions over the next seven years and ensure the retirement savings of the city’s workforce are on a strong footing.

DENDEKKER WANTS FED, STATE PRIMARIES SAME DAY: Seeking to avoid confusion at the polls and encourage voters to vote in primary elections, Assemblymember Michael DenDekker has co-sponsored legislation to hold this year’s primary elections on the same day—the fourth Tuesday in June, or June 24 to be exact.

Primaries are elections held by a political party to choose a candidate for a specific office, DenDekker explained. Later on, the candidates chosen from opposite political parties run against each other in general elections, he said.

Explaining his legislation, he stated:

“Holding a single, June primary day would encourage voter participation, save taxpayers almost $50 million and make sure our troops have ample time to return their absentee ballots,” DenDekker explained.

Also this year will present a full ballot, including the elections of the governor, congressional representatives and the entire state legislature and judges.

Looking back, DenDekker (D–Jackson Heights) noted: “For voters, the 2012 election calendar—with the presidential primary in April, the federal primary in June, the state primary in September, and the general election in November—caused overwhelming confusion and a significant drop in voter participation.

“While it’s unacceptable for voting to be made more difficult than it needs to be, there is a much greater problem—this chaotic schedule hampers our troops from participating in the very democracy they defend and wastes taxpayer funds to have multiple, unnecessary and confusing election dates.”

DenDekker pointed out that the state senate, which is under Republican Party control, has not yet agreed to move the state’s primary to June despite all the reasons he has cited.

But he still maintains, “There is simply no excuse to waste $50 million or to try to block access to voting. I urge the senate to do the right thing when the legislative session begins this month and MOVE the primary!”

ADDABBO CALLS FOR RE-HIRING RACINO WORKERS: In the 27 months since the Resorts World Casino New York City opened in Ozone Park in October, 2011, on the site of the Aqueduct racetrack, relations with gamblers, the community and racino workers could not be better.

But things went sour and left a bad taste when the racino laid off 175 workers who operated a buffet which was recently raised to $40-a-plate, plus a 20 percent gratuity for the workers. Racino operators complained they might have guessed wrong on raising the price because at that level they were making zilch, so the buffet had to be shut down and the 175 workers had to go.

A racino spokesperson, Keri Lyon, said if they continued offering the $40-a-plate buffet, the continuing losses would have wiped out all of the benefits the racino was providing for the community over the past two years—including 1,600 jobs and $1 billion in revenue that goes to public schools throughout the state.

But state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach), whose district includes the racino, reacted to the firings with disappointment. He told a reporter:

“We always looked at Resorts World as a job generator and not a job killer. I saw the price (of the buffet) go up to $40 a plate. No one is going to pay $40 for a buffet.”

There were some complaints that the firings might have been connected to some workers having joined a union recently and getting a pay boost, but racino officials said it played no part in the firings.

LAWMAKERS GET $4.9 M FOR H.S., BAY CLEAN-UP IN ROCKAWAY: U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder announced receipt of $4.9 M in federal funds for a major repair of Beach Channel H.S. as well as an environmental cleanup of Jamaica Bay.

The school had been severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy, which included an oil spill that leaked into Jamaica Bay, they said. The grant from FEMA for the school reconstruction will be administered by the city School Construction Authority (SCA).

Schumer said, “These federal funds will be a tremendous help to Beach Channel H.S. and the entire Rockaway Park community in their ongoing effort to put the pieces back together in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.”

The N.Y. lawmaker recalled, “Beach Channel H.S. was hit very hard by the hurricane, and tremendous environmental damage was caused as a result of floodwater and heavy winds. This grant goes a long way towards helping defray the cost of repairs and will enable the school to get back to educating our youth.”

Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) declared, “This critical funding will go towards repairing Beach Channel H.S. which suffered terrible damage from Superstorm Sandy. Federal investment is vital to help clean up and restore Jamaica Bay and give our schools the need to rebuild.

Goldfeder (D–Rockaway) said that the high school, built in 1973, was one of dozens of schools across Southern Queens and Rockaway that was devastated by Sandy.

“This new funding will go a long way in helping Beach Channel H.S. move forward with its recovery and ensure our children continue to receive the quality education they deserve.”

Goldfeder praised Schumer and Gillibrand “for staying on the forefront of Sandy relief”, and said he would continue to work with them “until every school in Southern Queens and Rockaway make a full recovery”.

SIMOTAS’ BILL WILL PROTECT WOMEN’S RIGHTS: Legislation to protect the rights of New York women to make their own end of life decisions will be introduced by Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, she announced last week. Her action comes, she said, after a Texas case in which a brain dead woman’s directive to be removed from life support was overruled by the state due to the fact that she is pregnant.

Simotas (D–Astoria) declared, “A state should never be permitted to exercise such an extreme and inappropriate level of intervention as to deny a woman’s wish to die with dignity in order to use her body to gestate a fetus.”

The Astoria lawmaker added, “New York must stand up for the rights of women to have their personal and private decisions about their bodies respected and not simply cast aside in the event of a tragic accident or debilitating sickness.”

Simotas explained that in addition to Texas, more than 30 other states have enacted statutes prohibiting physicians from removing a terminally ill woman from life support if she is pregnant, regardless of her express wishes or those of her family. Current New York state law, she explained, is silent as regards pregnancy provisions in advance directives, potentially leaving such decisions up to the courts.

Simotas’ bill, the Advanced Directive Equality Act, will ensure that women’s decisions regarding pregnancy may be included in their advance directives and guarantee that their instructions will be followed, Simotas added.

The lawmaker concluded, “The rights afforded to individuals to make a decision regarding their end of life care should never be denied to women simply because of their capacity to become pregnant. Forcing a woman in a persistent vegetative state to remain alive and, possibly, in pain as an incubator for a fetus offends the very notion of personhood.

PERALTA, SIMOTAS COMMENT ON GOV’S ADDRESS: Following Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address last Wednesday, state Senator Jose Peralta (D–Jackson Heights) and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D–Astoria) made the following comments.

Peralta started out by summing up that, “The governor laid out an ambitious agenda featuring proposals that stand to provide important benefits to the state, city and my district.”

Among those highlighted by Peralta were improvements at Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports; ethics reform and campaign financing, educational opportunities, affordable housing and youth jobs.

But absent from the speech, Peralta said, was any mention of immigration. Peralta said he’s ready to support the governor on passing a DREAM Act law.

Simotas said she would support efforts to grow our economy, improving our children’s education, and ensuring equality and fairness for all New Yorkers—all topics which Cuomo highlighted.

She said, “The income tax rebate for New York City renters is a smart, commonsense idea that provides relief to an often ignored group.” She added, “We must also ensure that middle class homeowners are not left behind.”

Simotas agreed with Cuomo’s tax cuts for businesses, as well as renters. The proposed $2 billion in high-tech upgrades for schoolchildren was welcomed by Simotas, but only if equally allocated throughout the state.

Simotas wants a full Women’s Equality Agenda passed this year. Cuomo’s plan for medical marijuana is “an important first step” for patients with severe disabilities. And, “The governor’s goal to reduce the tax burden on state residents and property owners, commitment to universal pre-K, and continued focus on equality are laudable points of departure for the 2014 legislative session, and I look forward to working together to tackle these issues in the year to come.”

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