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Dec 07 2012

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The Perfect Storm Is Upon Us

The battle for Queens Borough President  is shaping up to become the most exciting race in 2013 right next to the Mayor’s race. With big names and big politics at stake, some are even calling it “The Perfect Storm.”

It’s not even 2013 yet, but the heat is on in a wide open race where anyone could win. At the time of this post, 5 candidates have declared (or all but declared) including City Councilmembers Peter Vallone (expected to formally announce this Tuesday) and Leroy Comrie, State Senators Tony Avella and Jose Peralta, and Lobbyist Melinda Katz.

Campaign war chests are growing, however not everyone has filed.

Peter Vallone: $1,017,498.00

Leroy Comrie:  $61,151.00

Jose Peralta: $60,015.00

Melinda Katz: n/a

Tony Avella: n/a

Many theories and possible scenarios are floating among political circles, but we say with confidence that real party insiders tend to chuckle at our speculation. Point is,  this time there are too many variables in this race for any predictions worth consideration, so let’s look at some elements in the race we can verify. While it might be crass, (and reduce all us voters to mindless drones incapable of formulating an opinion based on issues) if we look at this race through the assumption that people tend to vote along ethnic lines, then the largest voting bloc in Queens i.e.the Rockaways and Jamaica will vote for City Councilman Leroy Comrie. And he’ll stand a good chance if he ran raise the money. Speaking of cash, City Councilman Peter Vallone so far has the largest war chest and he has the name recognition in Western Queens, but that’s not all. Peter has a lot of support in Howard Beach, Ozone Park, and Breezy Point, which has gone unnoticed in the press. An interesting scenario would be to see Peter endorse Leroy as his Deputy Borough President (party nomination notwithstanding), but that’s a story for another time.

In the northeast section of Queens, there will be two Vallone’s on the ballot as Paul (Peter’s brother) will be running for City Council in the 19th District. No one can agree if this is beneficial or not so we’ll just have to wait and see. I think one element to examine will be the layout of the ballot to predict if it will help or not. What we do know is that Peter Vallone is very popular in the Western and Southwest portions of Queens with a large pocket of support in the Northeast thanks to Paul’s activism and visibility in the community. This could give him the edge above the rest.

Everyone’s wondering who will Joe Crowley pick. The Party nod might go to Senator Jose Peralta and thus Labor support will also go with him. Also the very large, very active Democratic Clubs in Elmhurst and Jackson Heights will surely be on the ground campaigning for Peralta and should not be underestimated. Senator Avella on the other hand, who once ran for Mayor will not likely receive the Party nod, but he has experience and borough wide name recognition. It is possible Tony Avella could split Peter Vallone’s base of support and vice versa.

We can’t ignore Melinda Katz as a serious contender. She is popular in Forest Hills and is so far the only Jewish candidate in the race. And she has Curtis Silwa by her side. I wonder if this will help or not. But what we do know is that she will likely corner the Jewish vote, which tend to come out and vote in primary elections. Let’s not forget Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik which throws another curveball to this election. At the end of the day, we really can’t predict where this will go. There’s too many variables. However if we open the books of campaign strategy, this primary, like all primaries boils down to a pull operation. With the vote being tugged five different ways, a candidate’s win number is reduced, which could be advantageous in some cases.

In any case, the office of Borough President is what you make of it. The Beep is like a County Executive and it’s a coveted job. Some say the office should be abolished, but we say use it to make Queens a better place. As the steward of our county to lead us into an uncertain future, the BP should be like a magnate for attracting new industries and businesses. The ideal BP will play a vital role in economic development.  Slightly more than cutting ribbons, the office should be playing an active role in job creation.  The office is also a bully pulpit for the aspiring candidate. Some candidates will use it as a springboard for higher office, and the advisory role in the many facets of Borough governance gives the outspoken candidate the platform they so desire. The advocacy element is particularly beneficial when Queens needs a mouthpiece to compete with the other Borough Presidents clamoring for the same resources. But to fully understand the purpose of the office you have to understand the powers granted by the NYC Charter, which are explained as follows.

The Borough president has the responsibility for:

  • Appointing Borough officials and community board members
  • Recommending Borough Expense Budget Expenditures (allocating the borough’s share of 5 percent of “discretionary increases” in the city’s general fund)
  • Recommending Borough Capital budget Projects
  • Recommending legislation to the City Council
  • Review Borough Impacts of City Budget Policies
  • Monitoring City Contracts within the Borough
  • Chairing the Borough Board
  • Calling Perioding Public Hearings
Required to prepare or submit:
  • A Strategic Policy Assesment
  • Transcripts of all public hearings held.
Ok, that was a lesson adapted from grad school. I keep referring back to it because most people can’t explain what the Borough President actually does. On that note, I wonder if all the candidates will appear on TV for a live debate and if they do, if asked, will they be able to outline the charter granted powers of the Borough President? There’s a lot more to it then meets the eye. Anyway, this post is not all encompassing. There’s plenty of angles to examine on this race and surely the cannons of scrutiny will signal which direction it takes. Feel free to share your thoughts with us.
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