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Weprin jump-starts re-election campaign

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City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) did not have anyone challenging him for his northeast Queens seat until a controversial vote landed him an opponent earlier this month.

Weprin voted in favor of a package of Council bills in June that aimed to reform the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices by creating an inspector general under the city Department of Investigation as well as setting up a means for potential profiling victims to sue the department. His position on the matter brought his then-uncontested race for re-election into the spotlight, spurring retired NYPD Capt. Joseph Concannon to begin campaigning as a Reform Party candidate.

“Stop-and-frisk is an effective tool, but needs to be used properly,” Weprin said in defense of his vote. “There is no reason a cop cannot stop people with suspicion, but this should not be used based on ethnicity or religious backgrounds.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly opposed the stop-and-frisk vote and promised to veto the legislation, but the Council’s position was validated earlier this month when Manhattan District Judge Shira Scheindlin appointed an independent monitor to oversee the NYPD’s reforms to the policies she ruled unconstitutional.

In the days since, the four-year councilman said he stood by his position on stop-and-frisk and also hoped voters in the 23rd district would still consider his record beyond the one particular issue.

Since being elected in 2009, Weprin said he was proud of his perfect attendance in the Council representing what he called one of the most diverse districts in the city. He said it was that same diversity that allowed for his office to deliver a broad range of services back to the areas he represents, which includes Hollis Hills, Queens Village, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Bellerose, Floral Park, Glen Oaks and Fresh Meadows.

In the four years since he was elected to the Council, Weprin said he has worked to preserve his district’s quality of life and downzone some parts of the neighborhoods to prevent overdevelopment. He also said his office has made outreach projects a top priority, particularly for his area’s senior citizen community.

Some other key issues the councilman said affect his pocket of northeast Queens centered around education and sustainability.

Under the current mayor, Weprin said his district’s schools suffered greatly because of standardized testing, which he said put a ceiling on learning and removed the joy from teaching.

Weprin also said one of his more rewarding accomplishments of late came when he saw the end results of his office’s year-long participatory budgeting process, during which neighborhoods in his district voted on how to spend $1 million in discretionary funding. The councilman said he hoped to see the process through again this year with even more community involvement.

In another term, Weprin said he would continue to serve as a staunch parent advocate for public schools, push for more public transportation in his district and fight to preserve funding for the two major parks in his district: Cunningham and Alley Pond.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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