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Political Action: 19th Council District hopefuls make cases at candidates’ night

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The Station Road Civic Association held a candidates’ night for City Council candidates recently. All six Democratic candidates from the 19th Council District were present as well as one Republican. They all seemed anxious to express their views and address the issues to the audience.

Two major subjects that were brought up by the moderator concerned term limits and campaign financing. Almost all the candidates favored term limits and were critical of Mayor Michael Bloomberg for keeping the city’s citizens from voting in a referendum, as they have twice before regarding the establishment of term limits on all elected city officials. Bloomberg chose to use the Council as a vehicle to abolish term limits, at least for the 2009 elections.

One of the candidates seemed to have a slightly different approach regarding the mayor’s office. Paul Vallone, who has been endorsed by Bloomberg, urged cooperation with the mayor and further indicated he and other Council members would be in a favorable position to work with the mayor’s office, especially pertaining to legislative matters.

As for campaign financing, most of the candidates favored some form of spending limits or a cap on campaign spending. There seemed to be a feeling among most of the candidates that special interests in the past have played too much of a role in influencing elected officials.

The one Republican candidate, Dan Halloran, who has made it a campaign issue to attack big government and dependence on government, indicated that candidates’ matching funds should be dropped from 6-1 to 4-1. He believed too much money was being given to the candidates through city public financing. He also added that candidates who did not have primary opponents were receiving about $40 million in public funds, which he opposes.

Of the six Democratic candidates in the 19th Council District competing for the seat of Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who is running in the Democratic primary for mayor, Jerry Iannece and Vallone seem to have emerged as the frontrunners in terms of the active campaigns they are running.

They both have achieved a wide range of endorsements from various labor and government employee unions. They also seem to have extensive field operations with active campaign headquarters. Iannece and Vallone have the most campaign posters on display in store windows, mostly in Bayside and Whitestone. Both have had extensive experience in political campaigns. Attorney Vallone comes from a family that has been active in politics and government for three generations, with his brother presently a Council member. He is stressing law and order issues.

Attorney Iannece, chairman of Community Board 11, has the support of a vast array of community civic leaders in northeast Queens. He has spoken about his experience in the community during the last 20 years, with the past five years as CB 11 chairman.

During this candidates’ night, a significant amount of time was spent discussing overdevelopment in the district from the standpoint of zoning changes and residential neighborhoods being confronted with developers putting up commercial dwellings. All the candidates opposed overdevelopment.

As for the other candidates, attorney Steve Behar, who has been endorsed by Avella, has indicated he will continue Avella’s fight against overdevelopment. Behar also spoke of discouraging the building of two- and three-family homes in place of one-family dwellings.

Candidate Kevin Kim is a member of U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-Bayside) staff. He has been endorsed by Ackerman. He has raised the most money from private sources of any of the candidates. He has emphasized getting young people more involved in the political process.

Thomas Cooke took a strong stand against developers, calling for fining them if they violate zoning regulations.

Debra Markell also stressed overdevelopment. On the education front, she believes in having an experienced educator leading the city public school system rather than an administrator. Like the other candidates, she favors more parental involvement in the educational system.

The 19th Council District campaign will probably be one of the most closely watched races in the city as we approach Primary Day, Sept. 15.

Posted 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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