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Queens Chronicle

Van Bramer’s honesty and alien voting rights

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Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu May 30, 2013.

It doesn’t say all that much for our political situation when it’s worth going out of our way to congratulate an honest politician. But that’s how it is.

“Shocker! Post finds honest NY politician” a New York Post page 2 headline blared last Saturday. That politician is Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who blew the whistle on a builder’s alleged efforts to bribe him.

Rather than take what Mike Wolfert allegedly offered to help expedite his Long Island City rock-climbing center project, Van Bramer reported him to the authorities. The city Department of Investigation then sent an undercover agent posing as a building inspector to see Wolfert, who allegedly gave him two cash payments. The first was allegedly the $94 that was all he had on him at the time, the second was allegedly $1,000.

“I didn’t do anything super or spectacular,” Van Bramer told the Queens Chronicle. “I was honest, which is my responsibility as a representative of my district.”

His modesty is as laudable as his honesty. But just as we did in high school English class, let us compare and contrast.

JVB is allegedly offered some kind of bribe and calls in the authorities.

Compare that with fellow Queens Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who allegedly spent months taking cash payments in furtherance of a bizarre scheme to rig the mayoral election. “It’s all about the f---ing money,” Halloran allegedly said to an undercover FBI agent.

Compare it to state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica), Halloran’s alleged partner in crime, who, according to the government, was bribing Republican Party officials in an attempt to be the party’s mayoral nominee, while promising some upstate village that he’d drop $500,000 in taxpayer money on a crooked road-building project.

Compare it to Assemblyman Vito Gropez (D-Dirty Old Manville), who allegedly couldn’t keep his hands off the pretty interns, and got Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to pay a couple of them $103,000 in our money to keep quiet. Gropez somehow thinks he’s going to run for a City Council district that includes a part of Queens. Please don’t.

Compare it to convicted criminal Queens pols Shirley Huntley, Anthony Seminerio, Jimmy Meng ... oh, this gets so tiring. Just compare and contrast a public servant who, whatever you think of his policies, is carrying out his duties with honor, to those who seem to have to entered office for the payoffs and the ripoffs and the things nobody saw.

Should legal immigrants vote?

Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) makes a compelling case for giving legal immigrants the right to vote in city elections — a more compelling case than those who have an immediate negative reaction to the idea might think. Dromm is the sponsor of a bill that would grant the franchise, in municipal voting only, to noncitizens who have been here at least six months.

There are two points in favor of granting voting rights to legal aliens that opponents must take into consideration: fairness and history. We’re talking here about taxation without representation, an abuse by those in power that was the very driving force behind the American Revolution. Legal immigrants pay taxes but have no say via the ballot box on how their money is spent. Who wants to take the opposite position on taxation and representation than that of the founders?

And there are more than a few examples in American history of legal immigrants having the right to vote. After the country’s founding, they did in many states, for decades. More recently, noncitizens living in New York were able to vote in school board elections from 1970 right up until those bodies were abolished in 2003. A few municipalities around the country still grant legal immigrants the franchise today.

United States law bars noncitizens from voting in state and federal elections, and Dromm’s bill would not try to change that —though you could certainly see its supporters making that case down the road.

Those supporters are legion in the City Council; 33 are listed as co-sponsors. The bill is before the Committee on Governmental Operations. The office of Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said this week that it is reviewing the testimony from a hearing held on the bill two weeks ago, and did not comment further on when or if it will be voted upon.

“It is my hope to get it out of committee and get it to the floor of the Council by the end of the year,” Dromm said. His philosophy on the issue? “I believe everyone who lives in our communities should be able to vote in our elections. People with green cards, asylum seekers — those are the people we’re looking to enfranchise.”

He acknowledges the bill would cost the city money, though he doesn’t know how much because it hasn’t gotten to the fiscal impact stage yet. And he acknowledges it could change the political balance a bit but says doing that is not his goal.

Dromm is proud to say he wants to be the Council’s most liberal member, and this is a liberal bill. But more conservative city residents can only oppose it if they agree there are times for taxation without representation. That should be a tough one for them.

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