2010-11-24 / Political Page

Mayor Getting Hassled On Black, Budget And Water Board

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve seen Mayor Michael Bloomberg under such fire and not just on his major problem concerning the Cathie Black appointment as schools chancellor.

But besides the furor raised over Ms. Black and the need to get her a waiver from the state Education Commissioner because she doesn’t have the requisite educational documentation, the mayor has another dust up brewing in Albany with a bill pending that could loosen his vise grip over the city’s Water Board; and still another bit of criticism arising out of his proposed 2011-12 budget and the long list of city worker layoffs.

Of the three issues, it seems to us he will prevail on Black’s appointment as chancellor because the Albany education powers let Joel Klein waltz in eight years ago under the same circumstances. In addition, the mayor has lined up plenty of support for Black, such as the three former mayors including Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani plus Oprah and some major women’s groups.

The mayor has another dust up brewing in Albany with a bill pending that could loosen his vise grip over the city’s Water Board. The mayor has another dust up brewing in Albany with a bill pending that could loosen his vise grip over the city’s Water Board. He’ll also survive the budget advice coming from Comptroller John Liu, a sometime Bloomberg critic on other matters.

But the assault on his control over the Water Board is being led by a familiar face out of the recent past, former City Council Finance Chairman David Weprin, now a state Assemblymember, who sponsored a bill, which has been passed, which changes the rules on board appointees, who are presently all appointed by Bloomberg and who usually do his bidding on water rate increases, which are very unpopular most of the time.

Weprin is presently exerting pressure to get the state senate to pass his water reform measure before the end of the year, and that may take some doing, because the mayor is sure to push back because he still has some Republican friends on the senate side.

Liu released a statement saying, “Layoffs and cuts to essential city services aren’t the only options for closing a daunting $1.6 billion budget gap.” Liu released a statement saying, “Layoffs and cuts to essential city services aren’t the only options for closing a daunting $1.6 billion budget gap.” The gist of Weprin’s bill is that where the mayor now appoints all seven members on the Water Board, under Weprin’s bill only three would be chosen by the mayor, three by the city council and one by the city comptroller. Then those seven would pick the chairman of the board.

Weprin and City Councilmember James Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows) led several fights against rate increases in water rates when Weprin was still in the council and they got nowhere against Bloomberg and his hand-picked board. But now Weprin has a chance to do something about it in his new job. He went from the council to the Assembly when his brother Mark quit the Assembly to run for the council and Dave filled the vacancy up there.

Dave Weprin says now, “It’s time to take the Water Board control from the hands of the mayor and put an end to years of unnecessary water rate increases.” He also says, “It’s imperative that the senate pass their version of the Water Reform bill before the year’s end.”

As for Liu, after the mayor released his plan to lay off firefighters, cops and sanitationmen to deal with a huge projected deficit, Liu released a statement saying, “Layoffs and cuts to essential city services aren’t the only options for closing a daunting $1.6 billion budget gap. “Especially now, there must be a concerted effort across city agencies to identify and trim any fat around city contracts.”

Liu also said that in Fiscal Year 2010, his office identified $157.4 million in potential savings through audits of city agencies

alone.

Liu offered to work with the mayor to seek additional savings, but in the coming weeks, said “We will issue our review of the mayor’s budget, including options to consider before resorting to service cuts and layoffs.”

MALONEY, CROWLEY BACK UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: After Republicans in the House voted to block extension of unemployment benefits, Congressmembers Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) and Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) blasted the GOP’s knee-jerk negative reaction to anything that helps the unemployed and the economy.

Deploring the failure to extend the benefit for hundreds of thousands jobless people beyond December 1, Maloney declared, “It’s unthinkable that Republicans continue to just say ‘no’ to any and all measures aimed at helping the economy.”

“To no surprise, the party of no has struck again, Crowley stated. “Today’s move by House Republicans is just plain shameful and irresponsible.”

Maloney added that the extended benefit would not only hurt millions of families who count on these benefits to make ends meet, it would also jeopardize our fragile recovery by cutting off the stream of funding during the holiday season and hurting large and small retailers.

According to Crowley, the three-month extension of the benefit to two million unemployed Americans was ironic. “The party [the Republicans] calling for extending tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans is denying much needed assistance to those middle class American families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

The Democrats could be trying to bring the measure back for another vote.

VALLONE INTROS 10-BILL PACKAGE: A package of bills dealing with widely divergent goals such as curbing gang violence to tax relief for parochial school parents has been introduced by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria).

The parochial school bill addresses a situation in which 15 parochial schools may possibly be closing. Vallone has long felt that the high tuition for these and other private schools are prohibitive for some parents because they also pay taxes to support public schools their children do not attend.

His call to the state legislature to provide tuition tax credits to families of parochial and private school students could be a stimulus to allow more students to attend those schools.

Most of the bills introduced by Vallone, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, deal with crime-related problems. One of the main ones is to combat gang violence by expanding the definition of second degree gang assault to include witness tampering and intimidation.

Others include:

•Increased penalties for certain assaults on auxiliary police, traffic enforcement agents and public employees in school safety or school security jobs.

•Additional measures include requiring a mandatory jail term for a conviction of a third misdemeanor within a 10-year period and enhanced penalties for unlicensed driving.

•Vallone also wants the NYPD to create a database for every incident involving emotionally disturbed persons to enhance police chances of anticipating certain circumstances before they arrive at a crime scene. Finally, amending the definition of a drug to include an inhaling abuse commonly referred to as huffing. Inhalants can be found in numerous ordinary household products, such as felt-tip markers, hair products, cooking products, butane lighters, paints and glues.

HALLORAN BACKS ALTERNATE— SIDE CHANGES: City Councilmember Dan Halloran (R–Whitestone) is lending strong support to a proposed law to change alternate-side parking regulations. According to Halloran alternate-side parking was adopted to ban parking on one side of the street while the other side was being cleaned up by the sanitation workers and originally banned parking most of the day.

But explaining the proposed changes, which would allow drivers to park on a street once the street cleaning was done, Halloran says drivers in his district often don’t have access to driveways and are forced to park on the street. “They have to adjust their lives around the next street cleaning [and] it takes people away from their jobs and family…and if they forget to move their car, they are hit with costly parking tickets,” Halloran said.

The lawmaker adds that his Northeast Queens district consists largely of oneand two-family homes and there are few public transit options. “There are no MTA subway stops in the district and most residents commute primarily by automobiles, he said, and our current strict alternateside parking regulations are a needless nuisance.”

ULRICH ALERT FOR UNSOLICITED CHIMNEY REPAIRS: After getting numerous complaints from residents of his Ozone Park district, City Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R–Ozone Park) is warning homeowners to watch out for companies making unsolicited offers to repair and clean chimneys and turn on furnaces.

“These companies operate under names similar to current or former utility companies to create confusion,” the lawmaker said, following an inspection, homeowners are then told they will be reported to the FDNY for violations if they don’t agree to pay for costly repairs.

The companies are trying to panic customers and scare them into getting costly work done unnecessarily. Homeowners should contact their utility companies before agreeing to have the work done, Ulrich said.

Ulrich has already alerted the police, Consumer Affairs and other agencies to the possible scams, he said.

CONCERNED ABOUT FIREHOUSE CLOSINGS AT NIGHT: Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent threat to close certain firehouses during the nighttime to save money by laying off some firefighters has Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale) worried that the closures would create a threat to public safety.

Crowley, who chairs the Fire & Criminal Justice Committee, stated, “Only five months ago the mayor made an agreement with the city council to keep all fire companies open and fully operational. We go through the budget process to lay out our priorities for the entire fiscal year that included the $37 million allocated by the city council to avoid closing fire companies.”

MENG: $5G GRANT TO REPAIR HISTORIC CHURCH SPIRE: Assemblymember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) reports that the New York Landmarks Conservancy has authorized a $5,000 grant to help repair the 45-foot wooden spire atop the historic St. George’s Episcopal Church in Flushing which was originally chartered by King George III in 1761.

The spire was severely damaged during last September’s tornado. Meng immediately contacted the Landmarks Preservation Commission for help in getting it repaired. The Landmarks Conservancy Sacred Sites program which made the grant, works throughout the state to ensure the continuous use of their buildings, Meng said. She thanked the Conservancy “for their commitment in restoring this important landmark structure”. The historic church has been an essential part of our community for hundreds of years, Meng said.

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