THIS WEEK IN POLITICS

POLITICAL ARENA

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Ben Franklin Club occupied

The Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club voted last week to support the Occupy Wall Street protests and legislation related to it.

Though many Democrats have been uneasy about throwing their weight behind the protesters, two of the Ben Franklin Democratic Reform Club’s members, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Oliver Koppell, voted at a meeting on Oct. 26 to support the movement. Approximately 40 members of the club at the meeting voted in favor of the movement as well.

The club’s members also include Rep. Eliot Engel and state Sens. Adriano Espaillat, Gustavo Rivera and Jeff Klein, who were not at the meeting.

This is the first official support given to the protests by local electeds, though not the first instance of the groups coming together.

Recently, organizers of Occupy the Bronx joined the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition at a rally to support living wage legislation co-sponsored by Mr. Koppell. Local issues are starting to get folded into the amoebic Occupy movement, which began in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in mid-September.

At the meeting, members of the Ben Franklin Club spoke out against the expiration of the Millionaire’s Tax and expressed their concern over the growing disparity of wealth in this country.

 “I think that as a progressive political club, when something as important as I think it is, is happening, I think that we ought to express our support,” Mr. Dinowitz said at the meeting.

A resolution, written by Mr. Dinowitz and District Leader Bruce Feld, says the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club “applauds the efforts of those who are protesting the severe and growing economic disparities in this country.”

Part of the club’s resolution included support for extending the Assembly’s version of the Millionaire’s Tax, which would continue taxing those who make more than $1 million per year.

The club “supports adoption of policies and election of public officials who would address income inequality and protect and advance programs that support the middle class and poor, and create jobs,” the resolution reads.

 

Green meeting

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Councilman Oliver Koppell hosted an environmental town hall at Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale on Oct. 25.

Approximately 50 people showed up to the meeting to question the pols on issues (not all of which were about the environment).

Issues discussed included hydrofracking, Indian Point, airline traffic over Riverdale, recycling, tree removal, pesticides, wasting energy with cable boxes and a renovation for the parkland at West 239th Street and Henry Hudson Parkway West.
Non-environmental issues, including the Beeline bus, EMS stations and potholes, also came up.

Indian Point and hydrofracking were brought up more than once, with residents advocating for closure of Indian Point, a nuclear power plant in Westchester, and expressing their concern over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s stance on hydrofracking, natural gas drilling that requires the use of controversial chemicals.

Mr. Espaillat said hydrofracking “presents a clear and present danger to the quality of our water,” and said he was against it. Mr. Dinowitz and Mr. Koppell echoed his concern.

Community Board 8 Parks and Recreation chair Bob Bender asked the pols to look into energy being wasted from HD cable boxes. Mr. Bender said he read an article in The New York Times, which reported some HD cable boxes use more energy in the average household than refrigerators or air conditioners because the boxes do not have a sleep mode.

The Natural Resource Defense Council released a study in June concluding that residents pay $3 billion each year to power their cable boxes, $2 billion of which is wasted when the boxes are not even in use.

Legislation could be introduced to require new cable boxes to include a sleep mode.
“My mind is already working,” said Mr. Dinowitz as he scribbled down notes.

Similar legislation is already in the works. Manhattan state Sen. Thomas Duane introduced legislation in January that would require all cable boxes to follow federal Energy Star guidelines by July 1, 2016. Most recently, the bill was referred to the Energy and Telecommunications committee.

Election Day blues

Though this year’s election season is pretty boring (Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson is running uncontested on Tuesday, Nov. 8), next year’s is sure to be exciting.

Three state senate seats, currently occupied by state Sens. Gustavo Rivera, Adriano Espaillat and Jeff Klein, will be up for reelection, along with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz’s seat and Rep. Eliot Engel’s congressional spot.

“This is a great year for political junkies like me,” Mr. Dinowitz said.
Although redistricting could muddle things, it’s assumed that all five will be up for reelection. Mr. Klein and Mr. Espaillat’s names have come up for potential congressional runs, depending on how the district lines are redrawn, but it’s still too soon to tell.

Mr. Dinowitz said it would be hard for the Ben Franklin Democratic Reform Club to campaign as vigilantly for President Barack Obama as last time around because the enthusiasm for the president has waned.

Although its unclear if any of the five Democrats will be challenged in the primary, Jay Savino, head of the Bronx Republican Party, said there will be a full slate of Republican candidates running. So far, Anthony Mele announced his campaign to run against Rep. Eliot Engel again.

Last year, Mr. Mele finished with 21 percent of the vote, compared to Mr. Engel’s 68 percent. Mr. Mele boasted that his run cost him significantly less per vote in campaign spending than Mr. Engel.

Worth mentioning …

• Random pol tweet of the week, by state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, (@Adriano4Senate): “District Office being invaded by Trick-or-Treaters! Told them I’m wearing my Senator costume!”

• Councilman Oliver Koppell introduced legislation earlier this month requiring the replacement of trees unlawfully damaged or removed in a Special Natural Area District.
“This bill is especially relevant in my district. Trees have been unlawfully removed in the SNAD area despite the fine. Strengthening the penalty by requiring that the trees be replaced, will, I believe, serve as a added deterrent to this destructive behavior,” Mr. Koppell said in a press release. The current fine is $750.

• Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced new initiatives to help small businesses. The bill calls for easier access to market data to help storeowners better target their customers. Community Board 8 seems to be one step ahead. On Thursday, Nov. 3, CB 8’s Economic Development Committee will host a Census workshop at the Kingsbridge Library, located at 291 W. 231st St., at 7 p.m. Storeowners who want to better understand the demographics of CB 8 can attend the free workshop.