THIS WEEK IN POLITICS

POLITICAL ARENA

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State Sen. Gustavo Rivera has set a goal to lose 20 pounds by October as part of a new health initiative he launched on Saturday with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.  

Bronx CAN (Change Attitudes Now) aims to promote healthier lifestyles by bringing together local schools, community centers, health organizations and providers, community groups and religious institutions. The initiative will run through Oct. 24. 

The initiative will allow Bronxites to set personal health goals and work toward achieving them. In addition to weight loss, goals can include eating healthier, quitting smoking, bringing down cholesterol levels or exercising on a regular basis.

Mr. Rivera said his own struggle with extra pounds, as well as the recently released County Health Rankings, which ranked the Bronx the unhealthiest county in the state, spurred him to action. 

“I’ve had issues with my weight ... I was a skinny kid. I really didn’t think about establishing long-term healthier habits,” he said in a recent interview. 

Mr. Rivera said he views himself as the “before,” and Mr. Diaz as the “after,” pictures.

Trimming the fat

“We would all like to look more like the borough president ... this is my role model. This is the guy I want to model myself after,” Mr. Rivera said.

“I am proud that my colleague, state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, is standing up for the health of his district and the entire Bronx by committing himself to becoming healthier over the course of this summer, and I wish him the best of luck in meeting his goals,” Mr. Diaz said in a press release.

Mr. Rivera plans to host a series of events within the 33rd district through October. For more information on participating organizations and events, go to www.bronxcan.com.

Espaillat cracks down

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s bill to crack down on Nutcracker drinks passed the state Senate last week by a unanimous vote. Nutcrackers — which are often made at home and sold at bodegas and barbershops — are sweet drinks made of fruit juices and hard liquor. They are popular in the summertime and, according to Mr. Espaillat, often sold to minors.

“The dangers of alcohol consumption for minors are even worse when they are sold sugary, colorful alcoholic beverages that are easy to drink but deceptively intoxicating,” Mr. Espaillat said in a press release.

Mr. Espaillat’s bill stiffens penalties for anyone selling the drinks to minors and adds harsh fines and imprisonment for repeat offenders. The bill would also punish barbershops caught selling alcohol to minors by revoking their licenses.

Dinowitz the consumer

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz was appointed to the chair of the Assembly’s Consumer Affairs committee on June 10, after years of serving as the chair of the Aging committee.

Mr. Dinowitz said he always wanted to chair the Consumer Affairs committee, but the position was occupied by Queens Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. Ms. Pheffer recently left the Assembly to become the Queens County Clerk, so her chair was up for grabs. 

“This is my thing, going after bad guys,” Mr. Dinowitz said.

He said he has a long list of “really interesting issues” he wants to look into, including child product safety, food safety, telemarketing scams, identity theft, scams targeting seniors, tow truck companies ripping off customers and cracking down on unfair practices in the debt management, credit card, mortgage and other financial services.

“I’ve always considered myself on the side of consumers,” he said.

Although he is leaving the Aging committee, he said it would not affect how he fights for seniors’ services. He mentioned his role in the recent budget battle over closing senior centers, which resulted in the restoration of funds for more than 100 senior centers in the city. He said that accomplishment would be hard to top.

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Joan Millman was appointed to take Mr. Dinowitz’s spot.

Bronx Assemblyman Jose Rivera was appointed to a new leadership position as Assistant Majority Whip.

Worth mentioning …

• Former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr.’s trial has been pushed back a month, from September to October. Mr. Espada and his son are charged with embezzling more than $500,000 from the taxpayer-funded Soundview Healthcare Network. Mr. Espada pleaded not guilty and has continually maintained his innocence.

• Northwest Bronx for Change and the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club will host a special meeting on Saturday, June 18, at the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club office, located at 304 West 231st St., from noon to 2 p.m. The discussion will focus on health care and the re-election of President Barack Obama. Tim Foley will speak on the Republican plan for Medicare and Medicaid and Kate Doehring, from Organizing for America, will speak on the first phase of Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.

• According to a document posted online by Capital Tonight, Rep. Eliot Engel’s campaign hired Empire Strategic Planning to lobby for redistricting reform. Mr. Engel wants redistricting done by an independent body, not by legislators.  

The firm he hired, Empire Strategic Planning, is run by former Republican state Sen. Nick Spano.

According to the document, Mr. Engel agreed to pay Mr. Spano’s company $60,000, effective from May 2011 to April 2012.

• The Assembly passed a bill to place a moratorium on hydrofracking until June 2012 while the process is studied further. Hydrofracking is the process of extracting natural gas from shale in upstate New York. Many citizens and politicians are worried the process will contaminate water supplies in the state.

“Until we have more facts, we cannot risk the safety of our drinking water and the environment,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said in a press release.

The battle over strengthening rent regulations is getting crazier. On Monday, Bronx Assemblyman Jose Rivera and Manhattan state Sen. Bill Perkins were arrested in Albany at a demonstration along with 12 other protestors, according to news reports. The two electeds blocked the enrance to the governor’s office. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat was at the rally, but left before any arrests were made.