2002-10-02 / Political Page

Vallone Jr. Opposes Property Tax Increase

by john toscano

Vallone Jr. Opposes Property Tax Increase

by john toscano

Persistent reports about a $5 billion budget deficit appear to have jolted Mayor Michael Bloomberg into changing his mind about a tax increase, which he opposed when the city council was interested in it last year. But the council, whose members face re-election next year, is not falling all over itself to get on the mayor’s bandwagon.

The mayor and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) chatted about the issue during their recent trip to Greece, the lawmaker said. On that occasion, he told Bloomberg he was opposed to a property tax increase.

"Property tax increases were one of the options that the mayor was putting on the table," Vallone Jr. recalled in a recent interview. "I made it clear I was opposed to it. He made it clear it was his last resort."

A property tax increase is the only tax that can be enacted without Albany’s approval, but that may not be the way the council would like to go, according to reports. Last year, the council’s big push was for reinstatement of the commuter tax, which Bloomberg opposed. Getting this tax back on the books is a major problem, however, since it requires the state legislature’s approval. That’s difficult because legislators from outside New York City don’t want to burden their constituents with it and then find themselves the objects of voters’ hostility in a future election. So it looks as if the property tax increase would have to be Bloomberg’s tax of choice, and he’ll have to work hard to get the council to go along with him.

CCRB HEARING: Vallone Jr. didn’t have have much time to relax after arriving home from the Greece trip. As chairman of the Public Safety Committee, he had to preside at a hearing dealing with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, frequently a source of controversy.

A former CCRB investigator who reported to Bloomberg in June that there was "a culture of bias" at the agency testified that the agency is too slow in hiring and promoting minorities, a committee spokesman reported, and that his former superiors made improper findings on cases he investigated.

After the hearing, Vallone Jr. stated, "While their [CCRB] work has significantly improved ever since [former] Mayor [Rudolph] Giuliani increased their budget, we also believe that these allegations are serious enough for us to have a hearing on them and to keep an eye out in the future."

STRONG ONORATO SUPPORT: Running for his 21st consecutive two-year term, state Senator George Onorato (D-Astoria) has received the endorsements of 12 major labor unions. Onorato, a bricklayers union president before being elected to the senate, was endorsed by the New York State AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the New York City Central Labor Council, DC 37 Civil Service Employees Association, the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York and Long Island, New York State United Teachers and United Federation of Teachers (UFT), among others.

Onorato said, "I am proud to have the support of New York’s working families and will continue to work towards improving the quality of life for working people across New York State."

Onorato is opposed by Republican Marie Lynch, of Kew Gardens and Ann Eagan, of Woodside Green Party.

HEVESI LEADS IN POLL: A recent Quinnipiac University poll found former city Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democrat, leading his Republican opponent, John Faso, by a comfortable margin in their race for state comptroller. Faso, a former Assembly minority leader, recently was endorsed by the Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association.

JFK EXPANSION TALK DISQUIETING: A bill passed by the House which permits O’Hare Airport in Chicago to expand and reportedly supported by the New York City delegation has aroused fears of a similar expansion at Kennedy Airport in a local aviation watchdog group.

After the organization, Flushing-based Sane Aviation for everyone (SAFE) spoke with local lawmakers about their position, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn) said he felt the organization misunderstood the O’Hare bill. Weiner pointed out the measure required congressional action because federal aviation agencies were involved in the project.

Personally, he said, "I don’t support the expansion of Kennedy and LaGuardia, but I don’t believe its my job to stand in the way of something they choose to do in Illinois."

Stating the SAFE position, member Bill Schwartzberg said that an expansion at O’Hare could set a precedent for expansions at other airports, which would bring more air and noise pollution.

McLAUGHLIN VICTORY: The United States Senate, controlled by Democrats, needed a Republican vote last week to pass a bill blocking the president from firing workers in a new Homeland Security Department. It was a victory for organized labor in general and for Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) in particular. McLaughlin doubles as a labor leader—he is president of the New York City Central Labor Council, a 1.1 million member organization. Last week, he wrote President George W. Bush, strongly opposing the president’s proposal "to allow Homeland Security workers to be anything but union employees." This was "an insult and an assault on the Civil Service Act," declared McLaughlin, and to deny workers that right was unconscionable, McLaughlin added. In the voting, Republican Senator Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island voted with the Democrats and provided the deciding vote.

WEINER’S RAPE KIT BILL ADVANCES: Weiner reported that legislation designed to end the rape kit backlog has passed the House. It passed in the form of an amendment to a Department of Justice funding authorization which requires Justice to conduct the first national survey of rape kit backlogs in every law enforcement jurisdiction in the U.S. and to report its findings to Congress.

Rape kits collected by police contain DNA evidence collected from rape and sexual assault victims. Testing the kits is expensive and lack of funding has left them untested across the country.

Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) also has proposed legislation to get the kits tested and to provide funding to teach police and medical personnel how to do the testing. Councilmember Helen Sears (D–Jackson Heights) has introduced a resolution asking Congress to act on the untested kit backlogs and women’s activist groups are also clamoring for congressional action.

Commenting on his bill’s passage, Weiner said sexual assault victims have to wait too long for justice and rapists are still walking the streets, but his bill is an important step in turning the process around.

LEFFLER TO FIGHT IF CHARGED: After first saying he would not fight campaign contribution-related charges if they were filed against him, former Councilmember Sheldon Leffler, of northeast Queens, has changed his mind and is ready to go to court to defend himself.

Leffler’s first inclination reportedly resulted from an anticipated $100,000 in lawyers’ fees, so he said he thought he would plead guilty to a misdemeanor, pay a small fine and have it behind him. But a former Harvard Law classmate surfaced and is offering to take a lower fee to defend the 59-year-old former lawmaker, so he’s decided to make a case of it.

The Manhattan District Attorney is reportedly investigating an alleged original intended $10,000 campaign contribution from one person in Leffler’s race for Queens borough president last year. It was subsequently submitted as 40 contributions of $250 each so the campaign could then get a $40,000 match from the city. No charges have been filed yet.

GOTBAUM IN OZONE PARK: Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum gave a talk last week at the Joe Addabbo Democratic Club in Ozone Park on Bloomberg’s proposed City Charter changes, including one that would no longer have the Public Advocate succeed the mayor if a vacancy occurred.

Gotbaum said New Yorkers should study the question carefully before voting, as well as another proposal to remove the Public Advocate as presiding officer of the city council.

CARROZZA’S OPEN HOUSE: Assemblymember Ann Margaret Carrozza (D–Bayside), who is running unopposed for re-election this year, is having an open house this Friday from 10 a.m. to Noon at her district office, 33-17 Francis Lewis Blvd., Bayside. Refreshments will be served.

MEMBERSHIP BREAKFAST: Democratic District Leader Chet Szarejko (24 Assembly District, Part B) said the Eastern Queens Democratic Club will hold its annual paid-up Membership Breakfast this Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Douglaston Manor, Marathon Parkway at Commonwealth Boulevard, Douglaston.

Szarejko’s Little Neck Club invites anyone, in or out of the district, to attend and become a member by paying the $15 annual dues. Membership must be paid by Sunday to join the club and the festivities. For information, call 225-4185.

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