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Queens Chronicle

Council candidate urges transparency

Also wants city job to be full-time

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Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:03 am, Thu Jul 18, 2013.

First-time Democratic candidate Austin Shafran, who is running for the District 19 City Council seat, is urging his fellow running mates to release their financial disclosure statements to the public and wants the job to be a full-time position.

Shafran, of Bayside, released a three-point manifesto on Monday to “clean up the council,” but the proposals got a ho-hum reaction from most of his opponents the Queens Chronicle was able to reach.

District 19, which includes Flushing, Bayside, College Point, Douglaston, Little Neck and Whitestone, has five Democrats and one Republican running for the seat being vacated by Councilman Dan Halloran. Halloran decided not to run for re-election after being indicted on bribery and corruption charges.

Shafran said he is the first of the candidates to publicly release his financial disclosure statement, which is only required to be given to the Conflicts of Interest Board and the city Campaign Finance Board. The pub-lic must go through a time-consuming Freedom of Information Law process to access the information.

Austin Finan, spokesman for Paul Vallone’s campaign, said Wednesday that his candidate will be releasing his financial disclosure form soon on his website and has already forwarded it to the Queens Chronicle.

Chrissy Voskerichian, another candidate, called it a nonissue and refused to comment further, while Paul Graziano, who is also running, said he has shown reporters his financial statement and sees no problem with full disclosure.

Shafran got a mixed review on his proposal to make the position full-time with those elected not allowed to have outside jobs. He believes that will help “root out the corrupting influence of outside business interests.”

Vallone, a lawyer, offered the following statement: “Outside business interests had nothing to do with the fact that our current City Council member disgraced himself and let down the people of Northeast Queens. Our community is not getting its fair share because of a corrupt City Council member who broke the public trust.”

In addition, Vallone is against preventing elected officials from maintaining a small business “that proudly and positively serves the people. ... It is not what anybody would call a wise economic strategy.”

Voskerichian, who previously worked in Halloran’s office and quit after his indictment, said if elected she will be there to serve and help her constituents “24/7. This is not a part-time position or even a 9-to-5 job.”

Graziano, a zoning consultant, says he has no problem with working in the council on a full-time basis. “I will not take any outside jobs in the five boroughs or likely in the state and I don’t anticipate accepting jobs elsewhere,” he added.

He believes some elected officials, especially in the state Assembly and Senate use their positions to generate outside income. “Dan [Halloran] was doing the same thing,” Graziano added.

Shafran’s third point deals with prohibiting lobbyists from lobbying family members of elected officials and he wants equitable district discretionary funding.

Alex Camarda, director of public policy for Citizens Union, a good-government organization, told the Chronicle on Tuesday that his group was in the process of evaluating District 19 candidates as it does throughout the city.

Regarding financial disclosures, Camarda said it’s a realistic proposal and should be done. “It would be a positive step,” he said.

On the full-time City Council plan, Camarda said it’s a long-debated issue on the state and local levels. “We support greater disclosure of outside interests,” he added. “The hours of outside jobs and membership on boards, especially nonprofits, should be reported.”

On the downside, however, Camarda said not allowing outside work might reduce the number who run for office. “It’s hard to give up a position for years because experience counts for outside jobs.”

Democratic candidate John Duane and Republican Dennis Saffran could not be reached for comment.

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