The Democratic primary for the 19th Council District was rather crowded four years ago. The field is thinner this year, but a familiar face from 2009 with a well-known last name entered the fray this month: Paul Vallone.
The attorney, son of former Council Speaker Peter Vallone and brother to borough president candidate and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), unabashedly wears his political heritage on his sleeve.
“I’ve always wanted to be a councilman,” he said. “I want to follow in the footsteps of my dad. I have a great teacher.”
And like his law-and-order touting brother, Vallone’s policy platform is colored by the prism of public safety.
“The one thing that’s changed me is the one that’s changed everyone, and that’s the Connecticut tragedy,” he said. “Now is the perfect time at looking at how to keep our children safe.”
His outlook on school safety changed after the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown Conn., in which a crazed gunman went loose on a school, killing 27 people in total, including 20 children.
Vallone now feels establishing a safe environment for children is a top priority.
His ideas include a panic button for every school principal, locking systems and cameras. Police officers stationed at schools, similar to the paid service offered to banks for $35 an hour, also offer a safe alternative.
“It doesn’t have to be as some people are making it,” he said. “A lot of people have some good ideas. For me, safety brings in police.
“[Officers] would be more than happy to add onto their list,” he said. “You’d be hard-fought to find anyone to say no to that.”
But as with all ideas that lead to new expenditures, the question comes back to funding.
Vallone looks back to his father’s era for guidance, suggesting the commuter tax be reinstated by Albany to bolster the city’s coffers. Getting the state to budge is another matter, and that’s where Vallone points to experience and knowing how to work the legislative floor.
“If you’re unable to negotiate those landmines at City Hall and the state level, then you shouldn’t be a councilman,” he said.
The same safety-first mentality informs Vallone’s view of “stop and frisk,” which he generally supports but admits can be improved.
“If you speak to any officer, they’ll tell you it’s essential to preventing any crime before it happens,” he said. “It can be made better.”
The key is a change in the perception of police officers, bringing them back to an era when kids looked up to the NYPD.
“I was brought up to respect and honor our police officers,” he said. “Children grow up with police helping them, seeing them. It’s an entire generation that has to reconnect with the Police Department.”
Vallone touts what he described as a “full plate” of experience: “as a father, as a husband, as an attorney, as a board member on just about every board there is.
“I think I bring a unique and important perspective to all the neighborhoods in this district,” he said. “I don’t see anyone else who can bring all of that.”
Vallone’s involvement in the community includes serving serving as President of the Bayside Whitestone Lions and the Clinton Democratic clubs, a member of Community Board 7, the College Point Civic, the St. Andrew Avellino’s parish council and the Auburndale soccer board. He’s also the father of three children and a soccer coach (though he admittedly never played the sport himself).
He said he has no regrets from his failed 2009 run for Council, which ended with the primary win of Kevin Kim and a victory of Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) in the general election.
“I loved that campaign,” he said. “I made 2,000 new friends. We didn’t go negative on anyone. I didn’t burn any bridges.”
As it stands, Vallone will face Matthew Silverstein in the Democratic primary, with other possible candidates mulling runs but not officially announcing. Vallone has $27,900 on hand for his race, according to his filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board. He promises to run a clean race with no negative ads. And should he win, he doesn’t anticipate being a legislator will be too difficult.
“If you can figure out how to manage 1,300 kids in a soccer club, City Council is a piece of cake,” he said.