Elected officials from the borough say they want government to work in this new year and point to responsiveness and bipartisan cooperation as ways to get things done.
The Queens Chronicle reached out to several borough public officials to ask what they would like to accomplish in 2011 and to provide specifics on accomplishing their goals. Here are their answers:
“Government should act like any responsible working family does — not spend money it doesn’t have; cut wasteful spending; and protect the most vulnerable ones,” said Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing.)
Meng also wants government to be more accessible to the public to make it easier to receive services and benefits.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) says the most important thing is to restore the people’s faith in government. “As someone who has been a proponent of changing the way Albany operates and a sponsor of ethics and legislative reform, I will continue to work to rebuild faith in Albany with nonpartisan redistricting, budget reforms and requiring all legislators to submit a comprehensive financial disclosure form,” Stavisky said.
“We are not Democrats or Republicans, upstate and downstate, urban and rural,” she added. “We are one New York working for our citizens and constituents.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) agrees with Stavisky that it’s time to focus on restoring faith to the electorate by showing that the legislature can operate “in a professional and responsible manner.”
His main goals are to lower property and other taxes and put a cap on state spending.
He will introduce a bill that would expel a state elected official if convicted of a felony or for certain misdemeanors. In addition, Addabbo wants to start the process of creating term limits for state elected officials and an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission.
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) resolves to hold the mayor accountable on education and sanitation issues. “I will continue to keep the heat on the mayor when he threatens to cut Sanitation services” and promises to continue to pursue purchasing the Garden School yard to expand Travers Park.
He notes that schools remain overcrowded and he will fight to make sure all Jackson Heights residents are included in School District 30.
City Comptroller John Liu, who previously served as councilman from Flushing, hopes to see greater improvements in education, job creation and opportunity for all, and to maximize the functions of his office, which is responsible for audits, contracts, public finance and more.
Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing), who replaced Liu, said he is committed to finding ways to reduce taxes to give working families and small businesses a chance to succeed “and to eliminate the waste, mismanagement and fraud so prevalent in government.”
Koo believes that budget gaps should not be closed by taxing New Yorkers. One way he suggests to reduce it is by lowering the cost of doing business in the city.
“Fiscally irresponsible actions have forced the closings of small businesses which results in greatly diminishing our tax base and employment opportunities,” Koo said. “Small businesses have long been the backbone of our great city and in time of economic distress everything should be done to create a friendlier and cost-effective environment for innovative entrepreneurs to succeed.”
Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) will focus on getting his legislation passed that would require anyone who hires an individual without checking that person’s name against the Sex Offender Registry to be subject to punishment. “Last year, it passed the Senate and cleared the major hurdles in the Assembly,” Miller said. “The community supports it. It is time to make this bill a law.”
He will also work to enhance services for veterans.
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) says she will continue to provide excellent constituent services, “as my motto has always been that the constituents are my bosses.”
In addition, Koslowitz will focus on investigating the city’s “poor handling” of the December blizzard and working to pass her legislation that would mandate all public garbage pails have covers, and that penalties for dumping food waste down drains are strengthened.
Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) will focus on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs survive the recession and educating them about new resources that are available such as Credit Ready NYC, a City Council initiative to increase lending to small businesses.
Comrie will also work to ensure that more minorities have access to city services and that youth have the opportunity to attend specialized trade high schools and colleges.
City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) said his first priorities of the new year are tackling unemployment, bringing small businesses back to the community and ensuring that they stay.
Sanders is the author of Local Law 129, which is aimed at improving opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses, but he says it has been a “dismal failure,” since those groups, which make up 80 percent of the population, only account for 2.3 percent of businesses in the city.
“Something is terribly wrong, and we have to find out what that is and fix it,” Sanders said. “We just want an even playing field — no more, no less. There has been no oversight by the mayor’s office to ensure that opportunities are available for all people in New York City.”
Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said his first goal is to find out what went wrong during the city’s response to the recent snowstorm. “It is outrageous that some Queens residents had to wait four or five days for the Department of Sanitation to plow their streets,” Weprin said.
A schools advocate, he promises to work with the new chancellor, Cathie Black, adding,“I will continue to call on the Department of Education to reduce the emphasis on standardized test preparation in our public schools.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) would like to see progress and funding for repair to the crumbling Queensbridge Seawall and “I wish for our libraries and cultural institutions to be protected against potentially devastating cuts,” he said.
Mike Gianaris will be serving his first term as a state senator in Albany. “I will work hard to reform Albany and ensure people have faith in their government again,” Gianaris said.“The upcoming year is crucial as we have no time to waste in lowering the excessive tax burden and out of control spending on which Albany has relied for too long.”
Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) wants improvements made in the way the budget process operates.“We’ve been cutting vital jobs that protect people — fire, police and sanitation — while leaving pet projects and inefficient departments almost untouched,” Halloran said.“We saw the dire consequences of these cuts after the blizzard.And we’ll see it even more as FDNY response times increase due to firehouse cuts and crime goes up due to fewer cops on the street.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) will lobby in the City Council to help pass a law that will strengthen the city’s noise code ordinance. In an effort to protect the character and integrity of the community, Ulrich will also initiate a new zoning resolution for Ozone Park.