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Queens Chronicle

Stavisky reflects on Senate record

Incumbent to face opponent in Democratic Primary on Sept. 13

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:03 am, Thu Sep 13, 2012.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) is proud of her accomplishments and hopes voters will return her to Albany to continue those efforts.

Stavisky, 74, faces Democratic Primary challenger, John Messer, 41, of Oakland Gardens, on Sept. 13. Two years ago, she beat him in a three-way race, with Messer, an attorney, coming in third.

The newly formed 16th District runs from Woodside and Elmhurst to Oakland Gardens and parts of Bayside, Fresh Meadows, Forest Hills and Rego Park. It encompasses 60 percent of Stavisky’s old district.

As to her achievements in Albany, the incumbent points to working closely with the governor on bringing in an on-time budget that protected schools, healthcare and seniors, and serving on the Higher Education Committee.

She also served on a committee that determined to oust former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate from Corona after he was convicted of domestic assault in 2010. “We are working to clean up Albany,” Stavisky said. “There is a culture of corruption and I am a sponsor of an ethics bill.”

She is calling for a more transparent government and noted the importance of working with her colleagues. “I put a lot of effort into it,” she said of the Monserrate investigation.

On the Higher Education Committee, she helped prevent periodic spikes in tuition in SUNY schools, basing any future increases on the cost of living. She also successfully promoted low-interest rates on loans for college students.

Stavisky, who lives in a co-op, worked closely with area co-op and condominium leaders to resolve the property tax issue that nearly allowed the city to raise rates sometimes over 100 percent from the previous year in 2011.

She also favors raising the minimum wage to $8.50, based on the consumer price index.

A former teacher who worked for two years at Edison High School in Jamaica, she is no fan of mayoral control of public schools. “Schools don’t get the proper respect,” she said, “and closing failing schools is not the solution.”

She added that there’s no evidence charter schools do better than regular public schools and that what failing schools need are better resources. “Make the schools better with these resources and with people who know what they’re doing,” she said. “Teachers should be given the tools to improve their methods and if they don’t, be fired.”

She denied charges from Messer’s camp that she has funneled public money to benefit nonprofit groups that her son, Evan, lobbys for in his political consulting and lobbying firm, The Parkside Group. “My son doesn’t lobby me,” she said. “I funded any group that asked for money.”

Stavisky also knocked Messer for running “a totally negative campaign,” and is one of several female elected officials to decry his use of Dennis Gallagher as a consultant. The former Middle Village Republican city councilman resigned to settle rape charges against him more than four years ago.

Gallagher has been paid $76,000 by Messer out of his campaign funds and now is claiming that the rape victim was responsible for her own injuries and refuses to pay any civil damages. “Now he’s suing the victim,” Stavisky said.

The incumbent has the support of the Queens Democratic Party as well as former Mayor Ed Koch, New York U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and numerous labor organizations including the United Federation of Teachers, DC 37, and the State Federation of Labor. She has been in office for 11 years, having replaced her late husband, Leonard Stavisky, who died while in office.

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