2013-08-07 / Political Page

Caped Vallone Fights For BP Prize

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. has often been cited as a bona fide crimefighter throughout his legislative career, and with just cause. Through his chairmanship of the Public Safety Committee, he has always taken a hard line on such issues as anti-graffiti legislation, calls for more foot patrol cops and more cops to keep the peace in city schools.

The lawmaker has also shown his combative nature anytime the borough of Queens gets what he feels is the short stick on an issue, like when the Triumph of Civic Virtue statue was proposed to be moved out of Kew Gardens—a fight he eventually lost, as the statue was moved to Brooklyn.

So it came as no surprise last week when Vallone, as part of his campaign to get elected as Queens borough president, sent out a campaign mailing picturing him as a superhero, dressed in the costume of a crimefighter in a blue garment with a red “V” splashed across the front of it.

“Queens has its own crimefighter—Peter F. Vallone Jr.,” was emblazoned across the shirt to hammer the point home. Elsewhere was a further reminder to make the point: “Police respect him… criminals fear him”, and Vallone is shown clutching an American flag.

Vallone said he was a little reluctant to send out the flyer, but in a statement from his campaign staff, they said, “That pretty much tells voters all they need to know.”

And Vallone explained that he thought some readers might not have his sense of humor, but his daughters urged him to go with the idea, so he did.

There were some reports that his opponents, former Councilmember Melinda Katz and state Senator Tony Avella, thought Vallone should stick to the conventional message pieces.

Vallone has been doing that also, speaking out alongside Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly against the Council approved bills to curtail NYPD frisking and to create an inspector general to oversee the cops’ activities. The mayor has vetoed both measures, but the council says it has the votes to override the vetoes.

Recently, civic leaders from the Bellerose, Glen Oaks and Cunningham Park areas of Northeast Queens came out strongly behind the mayor, and they cited Vallone by name as opposing the legislation.

Meanwhile, Vallone said last week he wants the city council to look into claims made by Department of Consumer Affairs Judge Michele Mirro that she was pressured by superiors to find business owners guilty in cases that came before her and to impose maximum fines.

Vallone stated, “These serious allegations made by a senior judge confirm what was uncovered from officials inside Consumer Affairs and what our businesses have been saying for years—that our hardworking business people, especially in new immigrant communities, have been targeted and used as ATMs for the city.”

TOPSY-TURVY DEM MAYOR’S RACE: When the Quinnipiac poll of the Democratic mayoral candidates came out in the Tuesday, July 29 newspapers and TV, all the emphasis was on Anthony Weiner’s flop to fourth in the field after having led the pack two weeks earlier in another Quinnipiac survey with 25 percent of the poll’s vote.

It appeared to be the right call by the editors of these media outfits, since everyone in the universe was scrutinizing the poll results to see if they would reflect the previous weeks’ stories that Weiner was still up to his old tricks of texting his bare torso to anyone on the Internet.

But although the bare results clearly told another story—that Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson, who had been trailing far behind front-runner Christine Quinn since the race started by daylight—the latest poll changed their status from “also rans” to “contenders” as regarded Quinn’s dominance in the contest.

Comparing the two Quinnipiac polls, Quinn had gained five points in the second poll, improving from 22 to 27 percent.

But de Blasio, who had been at his usual level of 10 percent in the July 15 poll, soared to 21 percent in the July 30 survey—an 11 percent gain that brought him up to the number two placement, six points behind Quinn and one point ahead of Thompson.

The same was true for Thompson. He increased his vote draw from 11 percent to 20 percent, a nine point gain which placed him third to Quinn, eight behind her, and one point behind de Blasio.

Actually, de Blasio showed greater momentum than Quinn or Thompson from one poll to the other because de Blasio was a distant fourth in the five-candidate field from the outset, but had now vaulted to the number two spot behind Quinn.

When one considers that Quinn was regarded as the dominant figure in the Democrats’ race from the beginning, the “frontrunner”, the “one to catch”, she is now not so elusive as de Blasio and Thompson are within reach of her. Although de Blasio, we must say, has more of the look of a competitor than Thompson. De Blasio appears to be much more assured of himself as a candidate than Thompson, according to a reading of the campaign coverage since the race started and especially in more recent weeks.

This coincides with Weiner’s fall out of the race; Quinn’s inability to separate herself from the pack; and Thompson’s fumbling, as the only black candidate on the “frisk” issue.

De Blasio, in comparison, has shown a steady and confident hand. You will always find him taking the expected position on an issue, expressed clearly and with enthusiasm and confidence; leading, not following, his opponents or the public. Strangely, these were the qualities that accounted for Weiner’s surprising lead in the race before he made his latest unforgivable error—again. We think the voters are aware of these sometimes imperceptible differences between the candidates, and it will affect the outcome as September 10 gets closer.

NEW LAW TOUGH ON JIGGLE JOINTS: Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law Assemblymember Aravella Simotas’ bill which will require bars seeking liquor licenses to specify on their applications to the State Liquor Authority (SLA) if they intend to have any kind of exotic dancing on the premises.

Previously, bikini bars didn’t have to tell residents living near their establishments that they were going to offer lap dances, pole dancing or other exotic forms of dancing.

Simotas’ legislation grew out of community resentment when they found out—too late—that a bar was going to feature those dances and the SLA license had already been issued.

Simotas stated, after the governor signed her bill into law, that the new law “makes the process more transparent, so that a community knows up front what kind of establishment is going to open”.

GIANARIS-SIMOTAS LAW PROTECTS KIDS AGAINST SUN POISONING: Governor Cuomo also signed into law a bill introduced by state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, both from Astoria, which will increase cancer prevention and reduce the dangers of sun poisoning for children.

The new law will strengthen existing regulations regarding the application of sunscreen in schools and summer camps to ensure that children are able to apply sunscreen when spending time outside, Gianaris said.

He also noted that the state Department of Education and the Federal Food and Drug Administration include sunscreen on their list of over-the-counter drugs, previously requiring a doctor’s note before a child would be allowed to use it during school hours. Summer camps also follow these guidelines.

But Gianaris’ new law will only require a note from a parent.

“Our first responsibility is to protect our kids, and we fail to do that when illogical regulations force schools to put our children in danger,” stated Gianaris (D). He said he was pleased the governor had signed the measure into law.

Simotas (D) also thanked the governor and stated, “As a new mother, I know how important it is to take every precaution to keep my daughter safe and healthy. Making it easier for our kids to safeguard themselves from the dangers of the sun is a commonsense strategy that I am glad to see become law.”

CROWLEY BLASTS GOP’S 40TH TRY TO KILL AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: Blasting Republicans in Congress’ 40th attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and failing again, Congressmember Joseph Crowley declared, “The GOP’s misguided focus on re-fighting old battles is impeding Congress’ ability to further strengthen the economy and create jobs.”

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) added: “This bill makes it clear, once again, that Republicans have no vision for America. They have no solutions for creating jobs, strengthening our economy or improving life for middle class Americans. Instead, for the 40th time they are attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Enough is enough—the political gamesmanship needs to stop.”

Crowley, who serves as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives and is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, explained:

“It’s incredible that even as the Republican majority defends special interest tax breaks, deductions for the owners of corporate jets and write-offs for big corporations moving jobs overseas, they would rather roll back tax breaks that the Affordable Care Act provides for American families to buy health insurance. I hope that the day will come when this Congress can start work on an agenda focused on jobs and the economy, but until then I will continue to fight against efforts that would penalize hardworking families just to score political points.”

The Republicans’ attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (H.R. 2009) would prohibit, Crowley said, the treasury secretary, or any delegate of the secretary—including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—from implementing or enforcing any provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA provided over $1 million in subsidies and tax credits to help middle class families and small businesses purchase coverage—all of which would be permanently blocked if H.R. 2009 became law.

Crowley pointed out that in New York, 1.5 million people with incomes up to $94,200 for a family of four will be eligible for these tax breaks beginning in 2014. These tax credits, the lawmaker said, will help reduce the cost of insurance premiums, making affordable coverage a reality for millions more New Yorkers. The Affordable Care Act also keeps insurance affordable by combating unreasonable rate increases and ensuring that premium dollars are spent on actual care, not bloated executive salaries, Crowley said.

MENG’S BILLS HELP VETS, BETTER PROTECT DIPLOS: Congressmember Grace Meng (D–Queens) had two bills reported out of committee last week. One would eliminate a backlog of disability benefit claims for Queens veterans; the other would better protect the lives of American diplomats, a response to the killing of a diplomat in Benghazi, Libya.

The Safe Embassies Act would increase accountability of State Department employees by providing the secretary of state with more power to discipline personnel who put diplomats in danger.

This bill was requested by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when she testified on the Benghazi attack before Congress. Meng was at that hearing.

On the disability benefit bill, there is presently a massive backlog of those cases in Queens and other cities, forcing a claimant to wait an average of nearly 500 days for their benefits, Meng said.

MALONEY APPLAUDS KID SEX SLAVES RING ARRESTS: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney applauded the FBI’s “Operation Cross Country” and the three-day anti-sex-trafficking sweep covering 76 cities where 105 sexually exploited children were recovered and 150 pimps were arrested.

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) cited the FBI for “its continuing work to combat the scourge of sex-trafficking of minors”… but lamented “sadly it is just a step” as an estimated 300,000 children in the U.S. are “at risk of being exploited through commercial sex every year”.

Resolutely, she declared, “We need to do more… and we can do more.”

The veteran lawmaker, who has been campaigning for many years to wipe out sex trafficking, referred to her and Congressmember Ted Poe’s bipartisan “End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act”, which would give law enforcement more tools to prosecute pimps.

“Despite the partisan battles consuming Washington, D.C., we should all be able to agree on this fundamental value: our children are not for sale. Not now, not ever,” Maloney stated.

The lawmaker pointed out that, according to Rights4Girls, as many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the U.S. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, she noted, “one-third of them are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography. The average age of first exploitation is 12-13 years old.”

Repeating “authorities need new and better tools”, Maloney again cited the Ending Demand for Sex Trafficking Act, which she and Poe (R–TX) introduced.

The lawmaker explained: “The bill would clarify for courts, prosecutors and law enforcement officials that buyers, the socalled ‘Johns’, can and should be prosecuted under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It would add the words ‘solicits or patronizes’ to the series of verbs that constitute a sex trafficking offense and make it clear that buying sex from children is a crime.”

MARSHALL HONORS HONEST MEN: Two men who worked together to return about $5,000 in cash belonging to a woman who had left it in a refrigerator that was mistakenly sold for scrap were cited last week for their honesty by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

The BP announced that Michael Downer, manager at Atlantic Recycling, an Ozone Park scrap yard, and Fred Alsterberg, a towtruck driver for the company, visited Marshall at Queens Borough Hall last Wednesday to be congratulated by the borough’s highest ranking official for their Good Samaritan deed.

Marshall presented them with Citations of Honor in recognition of their diligent efforts to recover the lost money and return it to its rightful owner. She stated:

“I commend Michael and Fred for their honesty and for their determination in making sure the lost cash was returned to the right person. They understand how important it was to return the money and were willing to make the extra effort to find it and locate the woman who lost it. They deserve our praise and admiration.”

The saga over the missing money began almost three weeks ago, when a relative of Magda Castillo brought an old refrigerator from Castillo’s home to Atlantic Recycling for disposal, not knowing the $5,000, Castillo’s life savings was hidden inside of it.

When Castillo realized the refrigerator was gone, she went to Atlantic Recycling and told Alsterberg what had happened. Alsterberg searched the scrap yard but could not find the old refrigerator until Downer arrived and knew where it was, but Castillo had already left, leaving no contact information. The men searched for her to no avail, but reported the incident and Castillo returned to the scrap yard to reclaim her treasure.

CATSIMATIDIS PUSHES FOR VOCATIONAL STUDENTS: Republican mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis said his education plan for New York City will not forget those “who want to learn skills for the future by following a vocational education path”. His plan for Career and Technical Education in New York City, he said, outlines an “innovative approach to reduce the dropout rate by increasing emphasis” on vocational training.

“We have an almost 40 percent dropout rate and an 8.4 percent unemployment rate in New York,” the millionaire grocery mogul noted. “We are failing our kids. My plan will increase the emphasis upon vocational education in our public schools so we can lower both the dropout and unemployment rates.”

The successful businessman and independent GOP candidate emphasized:

“By mastering a trade, these students will become the backbone of a stronger, more competitive and capable workforce in New York City.”

Catsimatidis continued: “The bottom line is we don’t want dropouts. Today’s vocational students are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, small business owners and job creators. These future plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters, nurses, wood workers, electronic and computer technicians, auto mechanics, health technicians, cosmetologists and aviation mechanics are our hope for the future— the very ones who will grow companies, hire workers and create good, high-paying jobs for the next generation of New Yorkers. We need to give all our kids hope. If I can make it, they can make it too.”

STAVISKY BACKS SHARK FIN BAN: State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Flushing) applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing of legislation that makes the possession, sale or distribution of shark fin illegal in New York state.

“I thank the governor for his support of this legislation, which cracks down on this dangerous environmental practice. Sharks are a critical species to maintaining a vital ocean ecosystem and I am glad that New York state can join governments around the country and around the world to stand up against this extremely harmful practice.”

Stavisky noted that shark fin is the main ingredient in shark fin soup, a traditional Chinese delicacy sometimes served on special occasions. She said an informal poll of Downtown Flushing restaurants performed by her office turned up no restaurants with shark fin soup on their regular menu. Stavisky added, “I would also like to thank the patrons and owners of Chinese restaurants in Flushing for their part in stopping this practice and protecting shark populations around the world.”

The lawmaker pointed out that under current law, it is illegal to “fin” a shark, a catchand release tactic that usually results in the shark’s death from suffocation or blood loss. The new law also criminalizes possession and distribution and aims to remove New York state from international shark fin distribution chains.

MORE ENDORSEMENTS FOR CONSTANTINIDES: As the September 10 primary elections near, Democratic hopeful Costa Constantinides, seeking the 22nd City Council seat in Queens, announced endorsements from the Council of School Administrators (CSA) and the Muslim Democratic Club, whose members come from all five boroughs.

Constantinides said the CSA is made up of 6,200 principals, assistant principals, supervisors and education administrators who work in the New York City public school system and city-funded child care centers. It also includes 9,000 retired supervisors.

CSA President Ernest Logan stated, “As a neighborhood activist and organizer, Constantinides has been supportive of our members and the children and families they serve. We look forward to working with him in the city council.”

Speaking for the Muslim Democratic Club, President Linda Sarsour stated, “We believe that Costa Constantinides will not only represent these values [quality education, good-paying jobs, access to healthcare, secure neighborhoods and civil rights for all] and that he’ll help advance every single community in New York City, including Muslim Americans.”

Also seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the 22nd council seat in the primary are Astoria attorney John Ciafone and Gus Prentzas. The district covers Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

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