2009-10-14 / Political Page

New Drug Law Stirs 2010 Election Battles

Queens Republicans and their Assembly colleagues signaled last week that they will make a major issue of the repealed Rockefeller drug laws in next year’s legislative elections.

Vincent Tabone, vice chairman of the Queens GOP county committee and Republican Assembly campaign committee issued blistering attacks on Governor David Paterson and state Democrats last week when Paterson hailed the start of the judicial diversion program, a key phase of the reformed drug law, at ceremonies in a Brooklyn courthouse.

Tabone, who doubles as 26th AD district leader in Bayside, also used his attack on Paterson to point out that his local Assembly representative, Ann Margaret Carrozza, a Democrat, had voted for the drug law reform which, he said, will clear the way for 1,500 drug felons now in jail to have their sentences reduced and some be let out of jail.

Tabone and other Queens GOP officials had already targeted Carrozza for a strong re-election challenge earlier this year when they charged she no longer lives in the district.

Last April, when Democrats in control of both houses before the state senate stalemate, the drug law reform bill was passed and signed by Paterson.

Paterson, reviewing the new law last week, said it restores judicial discretion by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and gives superior criminal courts the option of allowing eligible defendants with a diagnosis of drug or alcohol dependence to participate in a comprehensive treatment program. In addition, he said, “The new law relieves new offenders from some of the old mandatory sentencing provisions and provides opportunities for resentencing to some offenders who remain incarcerated under the old laws.”

Tabone retorted that Republicans like Senator Frank Padavan and prosecutors and police officers opposed the changes, to no avail.

As he and the Assembly GOP see it, more than 1,500 drug felons may be “hitting the streets soon”. Among those are criminals who “sold drugs to children or sold drugs on school grounds or operated meth labs”.

Tabone said the estimated cost of the new program was at least $50 million.

Paterson, citing no dollar figure, said, “The state has directed funds to support the implementation of the drug law reforms and related initiatives,” and will help to create or retain more than 400 new jobs or jobs that would have otherwise been eliminated.

There has also been strong media criticism of the new reform law. A recent editorial in the Daily News pointed out that among those that might be let out of jail or given soft treatment upon arrest are street corner drug dealers who are involved in community crime and addiction problems.

One local Democratic lawmaker who opposes the drug reform plan is City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria). The council Public Safety Committee chair said in a statement commenting on Paterson’s announcement, “Today, the Albany-approved jailbreak begins. The understaffed Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor now has to spend its limited resources on trying to prevent drug dealers from being released, while it will become harder for the NYPD to keep streets safe as ‘turnstile justice’ to a court near you.”

GAZETTE COUNCIL DEBATE: On Monday night, Vallone and his two challengers for the 22nd Council District seat in the November 3 election, Lynne Serpe (Green Party) and Gerald Kann (Populist Party), both of Astoria, will participate in a debate sponsored by the Queens Gazette. Publisher Tony Barsamian will moderate. It will be held at Riccardo’s By The Bridge, at 21st Street and 24th Avenue, Astoria, at 8 p.m. Vallone, the Democrat-Conservative candidate, is running for a third term.

Serpe, who works with high school students and young adults in a nonprofit Long Island City program, recently urged parents of Long Island City H.S. students to “opt out” when military recruiters came to the school to try to recruit students.

“Parents and guardians should decide who contacts their children. Giving the military preferential access to young people is wrong,” Serpe stated.

Kann, 48, a copy editor, is running for the fourth time. He wants term limits restored, elected community boards, and a majority of tenants on the Rent Guidelines Board. Kann also wants to end the recent sales tax increase and to raise income taxes one percent for those earning over $500,000 a year.

ONE-ON-ONE DEBATE FOR LIU: Through no fault of his own, Democratic/Working Families Party candidate for City Comptroller John Liu will engage in a debate with only one opponent facing him in the November 3 election, Salim Ejaz, 66, of Queens, from the Rent Is Too High Party.

Liu’s major opponent for the October 18 WABC-TV debate is Republican Joe Mendola, 47, a Greenwich Village attorney. But Mendola did not raise the required amount of money to qualify for city funds so he cannot participate in the Campaign Finance Board-sponsored debate.

MALONEY FUNERAL: Funeral services for Clifton H.W. Maloney, husband of Congressmember Carolyn Maloney were held in Manhattan last Saturday, with many prominent pols in attendance. They included former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, Congressmembers Anthony Weiner and Charles Rangel, and ex-Mayor David Dinkins. “Clif” Maloney, 71, an avid mountain climber, died on September 24 after achieving a long-held ambition to climb the 27,000-foot Cho Oyu mountain, the world’s sixth highest, on the Nepal-China border.

Accompanying Congressmember Maloney at the service were her two daughters, Christina, 29 and Virginia, 22.

REPORT GOV’S CASINO FLIPFLOP: The long-delayed search for a developer for the proposed Aqueduct Race Track casino continues to plod along. Several weeks ago, Governor Paterson, who, along with two legislative leaders, will make the final pick, ruled out the Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) because of problems with one of its partners, the New York Post’s Frederic Dicker reported.

That partner is Empowerment Development Corp. which was created by former Congressmember Floyd Flake of Southeast Queens.

Last week, the governor said AEG could still be in the running, despite Empowerment’s problems. Why the change of heart?

It seems someone forgot to tell Paterson that Flake has some high-powered local associates, including his congressional successor, Gregory Meeks, former state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and others.

Meanwhile, the delay in choosing a developer of the “racino”, which could bring the cash-strapped state many much needed millions, continues. Presently there are six major prospective developers seeking the nod, among them AEG and Las Vegas casino legend Steve Wynn.

ENDORSEMENTS: Jimmy Van Bramer, Democratic candidate for the 26th District City Council seat (Long Island City/Woodside), picked up two prestigious endorsements last week, from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–New York) and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

Van Bramer, who’s opposed by Angelo Maragos (R–C) and Deirdre Feerick (Independence Party), was lauded by Schumer for his commitment to better schools and libraries, more affordable housing, and a better quality of life. Schumer said, “During these challenging economic times, we need innovative leaders in government who can think outside the box and be responsive to the community’s needs.”

Marshall cited Van Bramer’s “impressive record of public service and proven commitment to the citizens of Queens”.

DEMOCRAT ENDORSES GOP’S KOO: Peter Koo, Republican/Conservative/Independence triparty candidate for Flushing’s 20th City Council District seat, has picked up the endorsement of Democrat Isaac Sasson in Koo’s battle against Yen S. Chou in the November 3 election. Evergreen C. Chou is the Green Party choice in this race to succeed John Liu.

Sasson, who was defeated by Yen S. Chow in the Democratic primary election, said he has known Koo for many years and served with him on Community Board 7. “I can attest to his distinguished and inspired leadership” on the board,” Sasson said. Sasson also cited Koo’s success as a businessman who owns a string of pharmacies, and added that Koo has shown that he can unite the area’s multi-ethnic communities.

Sasson said there were other Democrats supporting Koo.

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