2016-01-27 / Political Page

I On Politics

FIRST PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY SET FOR NEXT TUESDAY: All eyes in the political world will be on Iowa next Monday, February 1, where the first balloting will take place as Democrats and Republicans declare who Iowans favor as candidates for the US presidency in this year’s election in November.

After virtually non-stop campaigning and debate through 2015, four leading prospective candidates have emerged: Donald Trump and US Senator Ted Cruz in the Republican Party, and Hillary Clinton and US Senator Bernie Sanders among the Democratic Party contenders.

Also appearing on the Republican ballot will be: US Senator Marco Rubio (FL), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, US Senator Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson; and Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor on the Democratic Party ballot.

As Monday’s balloting approaches, countless straw polls show Trump leading Cruz, and Sanders leading Clinton. But this quartet of top contenders and several other trailers from either party will continue campaigning tirelessly between now and Monday when balloting begins.

At the start of campaigning, the assumed leading candidates for the nominations were Clinton among the Democrats, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush in the Republican field. Clinton had been defeated narrowly by Barack Obama for the presidential nomination in the 2008 election, so she was the obvious leading contender for this year’s contest. As for Jeb Bush, he was made the favorite in the Republican field following in the footsteps of his father George H.W. Bush and brother, George W. Bush, who had held the presidency.

But in the Republican debates that started in the latter part of last year, Trump virtually took command of those events with his blustery personality, and Bush was pushed into the background and out of contention.

Clinton, meanwhile, started to fall out of the picture more gradually as her opponent, Sanders, a veteran pol at age 74, steadily started to climb in stature. A fiery speaker, his fundraising efforts were very successful and he steadily built a following with successful campaign efforts.

Clinton started out with a healthy lead over Sanders, based on several polls. But one of the most recent ones had Sanders ahead by percentage points in Iowa, and 27 points in New Hampshire. Several issues that caused that decline couldn’t be attributed to anything Sanders said or did in the campaign. Clinton’s decline resulted mainly from the seemingly never-ending revelations brought out by a Republican-led Congressional committee looking into Clinton’s dispatch of emails via her personal computer when she was Secretary of State. Some of the emails may have contained classified information, it has been charged.

Another reason for Clinton’s decline is traceable to Republican rival Donald Trump, who, if he ultimately becomes the GOP presidential candidate, would have been facing Clinton in the November election, if she won the Democratic nomination and became the favored candidate.

A third reason for Clinton’s demise as the leading Democratic candidate is her loss of favor from America’s women voters who were strongly behind her until Trump resurrected the Bill Clinton scandals, including his White House trysts with Monica Lewinsky. Hillary Clinton was dragged into the ugly mess for having supported her husband’s past efforts to separate himself from several affairs. Hillary helping her husband to undo his bad deeds was anti-women, it was charged, which seriously damaged her pro-women stature.

But Hillary can’t be counted out yet. She may lose Iowa and New Hampshire, but with hard work, could still be the Democratic Party’s choice going forward.

One of the earlier states with an early primary date is South Carolina, and a recent poll shows Clinton with a 60 to 38 edge over Sanders there, so if she loses Iowa and New Hampshire to Sanders, she can regain her stride in South Carolina and go on from there.

In the campaign meanwhile, Sanders has been battering Clinton with her “ties” to Wall Street and he has proposed a new healthcare plan to replace Medicare and Obamacare, which Clinton opposes very strongly since Sanders’ proposed plan would be very costly. Sanders explained his “Medicare For All” would cause a small tax increase, but save thousands in premium and prescriptions over private insurance.

Sanders gave voters a look into his background when he released a $2 million ad campaign. The Vermont independent pictured himself as a “fighter against injustice” and talked of his humble upbringing in Brooklyn. He also noted he attended Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington in 1963. The former mayor of Burlington, Vermont, a graduate of the University of Chicago, also described his activities in the civil rights movement. He also notes he opposed the Iraq War, which Clinton voted for the US to enter. Sanders has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party.

Presently, Trump holds comfortable leads over Texas lawmaker Cruz in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote. He burst into this race noisily in the first Republican debate, charging a female debate questioner with treating him unfairly, and he continued to raise questions along the way, keeping himself in a leadership position as he kept almost everyone else that threatened his lead at bay.

As he began his quest for the nomination, he called for the construction of a very high wall to keep would-be Mexicans out of the US and he proclaimed he “wanted to make American great again.” Later on he called for keeping all Muslims out of the US, creating a major furor, and as Cruz gained a foothold in Iowa and gradually surged past Trump in some polls, Trump ramped up his charges that if Cruz was elected president, he wouldn’t meet the mandate that only persons born in the United States could hold the office of president.

Meanwhile, Cruz is depending on the Evangelical community in Iowa to fuel his victory over Trump next Monday. Cruz has received several endorsements from clerics in Iowa, who have recruited their parishioners to support Cruz in Monday’s voting. Also involved in this aspect of Cruz’ campaign is his father, Rafael, an Evangelical pastor who has relocated to Iowa to assist in his son’s campaign as much as he can.

Iowa’s evangelicals are considered the “most influential bloc of caucus-goers in Iowa,” according to The New York Times.

Meanwhile, regarding Trump’s warnings that Cruz’ birth in Canada disqualifies him from holding the office of the president, Cruz, a lawyer, maintains that his mother was born in the US, which therefore categorizes him also as a natural-born American.

PERALTA BACKS CITY’S NEW PS 143 ANNEX IN CORONA: According to state Senator Jose Peralta, the Department of Education (DOE) announced approval of new plans for construction of a long-needed new, permanent annex to PS 143 during the Parent- Teacher Association’s monthly meeting on January 15 in a packed school auditorium

Peralta (D–East Elmhurst) couldn’t be happier with the news because, more than two years ago, he proposed a new, permanent annex to Corona’s PS 143, The Louis Armstrong Elementary School to alleviate chronic overcrowding at the facility. The school, at 34-74 113th Street, was built originally to accommodate 900 students, but it presently holds 1,800 Peralta said.

The elated lawmaker stated, “I am glad the city has agreed to build a permanent addition here. It appears construction is slated to start after the end of the next school year – 2016-2017. No child should be learning in a trailer, and my efforts will not stop until every student has a seat in a classroom. We must ensure that our students are educated in a decent environment and not in run-down trailers, like it has happened in the past two or three decades.”

Peralta continued: “This is a huge victory for parents because in just a few years from now, our students, finally, will no longer have to go to class and sit in a classroom trailer.

“I want to thank the parents for their continuous efforts demanding the construction of a permanent annex to the school. Right now students in trailers have to face frigid temperatures, and snow or rain when they go to their lunch period or just to use the bathroom. That is unacceptable.”

Under Senator Peralta’s proposal, the permanent addition to PS 143 would accommodate students from the mini-building, the six trailers (temporary classroom units) and the annex located at 98th Street.

“We, as parents, are very happy about the news that a permanent addition will be constructed. The new building will also improve the quality of education our children receive,” said Angelica Salgado, President of the Parent- Teacher Association at PS 143. I want to thank Senator Peralta for his tireless efforts and help. He played a key role in making this possible.”

CROWLEY SAYS PREVALENCE OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IN US SHOWS NEED FOR ‘NATIONAL STRATEGY’: Congressman Joseph Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, has revealed that a recent study on female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United States has “updated previous estimates” and found that 513,000 women and girls live at risk of the practice in the United States.

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), author of “Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM),” said he “welcomed” the recent release of the first study on FGM and urged the government to undertake such a study “as part of his call to develop a comprehensive, multi-agency plan to address FGM in the U.S.”

“What’s clear from the study is that FGM isn’t an issue that only affects the far corners of the globe; over 500,000 American women, right here in the US live in fear of this terrifying practice,” Crowley stated.

The lawmaker continued, “The numbers from this study are extremely troubling, and now, more than ever, there is an immediate need for my Zero Tolerance for FGM Act and a national strategy to end this harmful practice. This study was a critical first step – the more we know about the problem, the better chance we have to fix it. Now that we have the data, we must put forward a serious plan to raise awareness, direct resources to where they are needed most, and better help those at risk.

“If FGM happens to one girl, that is one girl too may. I urge Congress to take up my bill and put us one step closer to ending FGM once and for all.”

Crowley explained that the practice, which was banned in the US since 1996, is defined as “procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” The lawmaker describes it as a harmful practice carried out on an estimated 125 million girls and women around the world.

In 2012, Crowley said, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that acknowledged FGM as a violation of human rights and called for countries to develop national strategies to end FGM. The same year, Crowley recounted, the US Congress adopted the language of Crowley’s The Girl’s Protection Act, closing a critical loophole in US law that allowed families to transport minors overseas for the purpose of FGM, finally putting the law firmly on the side of girls.

Crowley said that in 2015, he and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D–TX) introduced the Zero Tolerance for FGM Act, legislation that requires the federal government to undertake a national study to provide data on and insight into the prevalence of FGM in the United States, and establish a multi-agency strategy to bring the practice to an end.

Such a strategy could include, Crowley said, the establishment of an emergency hotline for girls seeking assistance; the provision of resources to help those on the frontlines, such as educators, healthcare workers and law enforcement; implementation of a public awareness campaign; and appropriate funding to support these efforts.

VALLONE: ‘NEW MECHANISM TO RECORD RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS’: Councilman Peter Vallone has announced that for the first time, property owners and homeowner associations will be able to record existing restrictive covenants on properties throughout the city on the Department of Finance’s (DOF) Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS).
As a result of Vallone’s pending legislation and negotiations with city agencies, Vallone and the DOF agreed to establish a new two-step process to record restrictive covenants in the City of New York. The first establishes a new specific deed document type for properties with an existing restrictive covenant to be recorded at the time of sale or transfer of the property, making it easier to search specifically for restrictive covenants.
The second allows anyone to record an existing restrictive covenant with the newly created “Notice of Homeowner Association Restrictive Covenants” form. This document, once filed, will advise the public and the owner of the property, of the existence of the applicable restrictive covenant that previously was unknown or unrecorded. Also, the information will be publicly available and searchable online through ACRIS, Vallone said.
Vallone (D–Bayside) explained: “A restrictive covenant is a clause in a deed or lease to real property that creates property restrictions which are subject to a court’s enforcement. These private covenants, place certain important restrictions and limitations on properties but prior to today, the city never allowed a transparent mechanism for recording or protecting them. Where they do exist, such as in the Broadway-Flushing and Douglas Manor neighborhoods, they have been instrumental in preserving the residential quality of life that rarely exists anywhere else in the City.
“Prior to the creation of this process, there has never been any progress on preserving restrictive covenants either by elected officials or previous administrations. We took the community’s long-standing battle to City Hall and delivered exactly what we said we would,” said Vallone. Now the City will immediately recognize any newly filed restrictive covenants and allow every property owner, interested party, civic or homeowner association, the right to record and preserve them. We look forward to continuing our work with our associations to create additional layers of security against any over development and to protect our beautiful neighborhoods”.
“We are pleased that we were able to help Council Member Vallone and homeowners throughout the city by giving more transparency to land records for properties that have restrictive covenants,” said Samara Karasyk, Assistant Commissioner of External Affairs for the DOF.
Robert J. Hanophy, Jr., President, Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association stated: “The Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association gratefully acknowledges the efforts by Council Member Paul Vallone to enable the city of New York to acknowledge the existence and validity of restrictive covenants. For the first time, homeowner associations will be able to provide the Department of Finance with pertinent information, and the public will be able to access the information on ACRIS. We will continue to strive towards the ultimate goal of a coordination of efforts between the Department of Buildings and the Department of Finance, but the announcement today comes as another step towards a more positive outcome for future construction and renovation projects in neighborhoods like Broadway-Flushing with enforceable restrictive covenants.”
“The Auburndale Improvement Association, Inc. said it was pleased to learn that the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) has agreed to allow property owners and homeowner associations to record existing restrictive covenants, aka deed restrictions, into that agency’s Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS). Terri Pouymari, President of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said. “We thank Council Member Vallone for negotiating with the DOF and other city agencies and working on legislation that will make this type of registration a reality. This will allow all stakeholders to be aware of properties that have restrictive covenants on them and afford a greater degree of transparency when properties are sold.”
CROWLEY COMMENT ON FORMER MALDIVES PRESIDENT: Congressman Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, issued the following statement on the Maldivian governments temporary release of jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed:
“While I’m relieved that President Nasheed has been temporarily released for medical treatment, the reality is nothing has changed in the Maldives. This situation is far from over, and I will continue to closely monitor it moving forward. The fact remains, President Nasheed should have never been imprisoned like this in the first place.”
Crowley went on to say that, following international pressure, former President Mohamed Nasheed had been temporarily released from prison on Sunday to seek medical treatment overseas. Crowley said the Maldivian government is requiring Nasheed to return to the country following his treatment.
A long-time human rights activist, climate activist, and leader of an opposition party in the Maldives, “Nasheed has faced deeply unfair treatment and was sentenced to 13 years in prison earlier this year on trumped-up charges of terrorism.” The United Nations, United States, and others have called for Nasheed’s release, and Amnesty International has called his sentencing a “travesty of justice”.
Crowley has a long-time interest in the region, working to support positive democratic change in Burma, Bangladesh, and elsewhere. He has met with the former foreign minister of the Maldives and publicly called for Nasheed’s release.
DROMM’S STATEMENT ON CUOMO PROTECTING TRANSGENDER NEW YORKERS: Councilman Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) issued the following statement:
“As a Councilmember representing one of the largest transgender populations in New York City, I thank Governor Cuomo for helping advance transgender rights with these statewide regulations.
“Transgender New Yorkers deserve to live their lives free of fear, discrimination and violence. These regulations make it clear that New York state demands fair and equal treatment of all people, regardless of gender identity or expression. I will continue to work with my colleagues in government to strengthen protections and improve the quality of life for this traditionally marginalized community.”
FERRERAS-COPELAND, DROMM WELCOME MAYOR’S SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION FUNDS IN BUDGET: Queens Councilmembers Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D–East Elmhurst) and Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) issued the following statement:
“Mayor de Blasio’s inclusion of $868 million in additional capital funding for the School Construction Authority budget is a major boost to communities like ours,” said NYC Council Finance Committee Chairperson Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and NYC Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm, who together fought for this increase. They added:
“Because we represent the top two most overcrowded school districts in the city, this is welcome news. While we are very happy to see an increase of this size, we would like to caution the administration that in the future they release the capital plan on time so that we have an opportunity to analyze it. Moving forward it is our hope that these additional funds will be used to build schools in areas where the need is the greatest.”
VAN BRAMER PRAISES DE BLASIO’S BUDGET PROPOSAL: City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer stated last week that Mayor de Blasio’s Fiscal Year 2017 Preliminary Budget proposal contained “significant victories for all New Yorkers, particularly those in my Western Queens district.”
Van Bramer (D–Sunnyside) added: “I’ve fought alongside concerned parents in our community to address overcrowding in our schools. That's why I’m thrilled this budget expands school seats for our children with over $200 million for four new schools in Long Island City and Woodside.
Van Bramer explained, “In 2015 this Administration and the New York City Council made an historic investment in our city’s libraries to reestablish six-day library service. I welcome Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to baseline $21.8 million for our three library systems. While I encourage the Mayor to go further and baseline all of the funding added last year for libraries, this baselining represents a significant step forward.
Continuing, Van Bramer stated: “Just as libraries secured an historic funding increase in the Mayor’s preliminary budget, cultural institutions and organization’s deserve additional investment to ensure they are serving all New Yorkers. I look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to secure these funds in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.”
Van Bramer pointed out that Western Queens have benefited from aggressive efforts to implement Vision Zero. As a result, he said, in 2015, no New Yorker lost his or her life on Queens Boulevard, a street that for far too long was known as the “Boulevard of Death.”
The Majority Leader noted that the administration’s further investment of $29.6 million in area-wide improvements in Long Island City, in addition to the $100 million already allocated for Queens Boulevard, further solidifies “our commitment to ending tragedies on New York streets.
Van Bramer concluded, “I look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito and my colleagues to craft a budget that continues to build on our work of empowering more New Yorkers and ending inequality.”
ARAVELLA WELCOMES TRAFFIC SAFETY CHANGES ON SHORE BLVD.: Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas issued the following statement regarding traffic changes announced by the city Department of Transportation (DOT):
“For too long, the roads around Astoria Park have been unsafe for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists alike. The changes announced by the Department of Transportation and recommended by Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee will improve access to the Park and make our community safer. I am pleased that we reached a compromise on Shore Boulevard that calms speeding and dangerous driving and preserves vehicle access to the waterfront. I look forward to working with the community, my colleagues and the Department of Transportation to address our continuing traffic safety concerns around Astoria Park and throughout the neighborhood.”
Assemblywoman Simotas (D–Astoria) has made traffic issues around Astoria Park and the rest of her Astoria district a top priority.

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