Candidates vie for votes in Councilmember Halloran’s district


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The six candidates running for City Council District 19 fielded questions at two recent debates.

The six candidates vying to replace scandal-scarred Councilmember Dan Halloran mapped out ways they would bring integrity back to the seat at a Flushing forum last week.

“There is such anger, and it’s justified,” said Paul Vallone at a forum hosted by the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “We need to reclaim our local council office. It’s been an embarrassment and it has hurt our entire district.”

Halloran pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges for his alleged hand in bribing GOP officials to get Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith on the Republican mayoral ticket.

He said he would not seek re-election this year, which leaves the District 19 seat open to be claimed by Chrissy Voskerichian, Austin Shafran, John Duane, Paul Graziano, Vallone or lone Republican contender Dennis Saffran.

Voskerichian, who quit her job as Halloran’s chief of staff shortly after his arrest, said she was “not going to apologize for being there.”

“I did work for Dan Halloran. I think I did a very good job,” she said. “I was disappointed and upset about what happened. If I didn’t have those three years in office, I probably would not be running for the city council today.”

Pitching ways to bring more transparency to the office, Shafran said councilmembers should ban outside employment and income, while Duane pledged to post all meetings on his website.

“You’re paying my salary. You’re the taxpayer,” Duane said. “You deserve to know exactly what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with.”

Graziano, who pushed for full public financial disclosures, said candidates should not accept money from real estate developers or lobbyists.

He, Voskerichian, Vallone and Shafran also want to eliminate the City Council Speaker’s power to allocate discretionary funds in order for each district to get its fair share.

“Discretionary funding should be per capita and not delivered by the Speaker as a favor or a reward for voting or not voting a certain way,” Voskerichian said.

Saffran said any legislator under indictment for public corruption should be suspended.

“Dan Halloran should not be receiving a public paycheck right now. It’s outrageous that he is,” he said.

Five of the six candidates then fielded preservation and storm readiness questions at a Bayside debate hosted by the Bayside Historical Society this week.

Most agreed the city should put power lines underground and do more to maintain older city trees that have become deadly.

Shafran said he supports requiring backup generators at gas stations and proposed mandating Con Ed to work with the city on storm plans.

Vallone, who did not show up, was comforting the family of his “good friend and mentor” Judge Joseph Risi, who had just passed away, a campaign spokesperson said.

His absence prompted contention from some of his rivals, who claimed he was dodging the debate purposefully due to a poor performance with the historic host group in 2009.

Graziano, at the end of the night, addressed the “deafening silence at the far end of the table” where Vallone’s namecard accompanied his empty seat.

“He didn’t have the courtesy to show up tonight,” Graziano said.

The candidates will debate for the last time before the September 10 primary at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center on August 27 at 7 p.m.

 

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