Tag Archives: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

City Council approves law to raise cigarette purchase age to 21


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Updated, Monday, November 4

They can drive, vote and join the Army, but 18 to 20-year-olds will soon lose the right to purchase cigarettes in the city.

The City Council voted October 30 to raise the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. It passed by a 35-10 vote.

“…Our city is sending a powerful signal to the tobacco industry and its allies that hooking our kids on nicotine will no longer be a viable business model,” said Councilmember James Gennaro, one of the law’s sponsors.

It will now go to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to be signed into law. Bloomberg, who has spearheaded measures such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants, supports the age increase.

New York will then become the first major U.S. city to have a minimum smoking age of 21.

Although the city has cut the smoking rate over the last decade, the rate among youths has remained consistent at 8.5 percent since 2007, according to the City Council.

Eighty percent of the city’s adults who become daily smokers start smoking before reaching the age of 21, according to the City Council.

Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, argues that it will still be simple for younger smokers to obtain cigarettes from older friends or family members and black-market sources.

The same day, the City Council also passed legislation which attempts to limit access to illegal tobacco products and strengthens enforcement against illegal cigarette dealers.

“The City Council is hoping they will all quit smoking the next day. The reality is they won’t,” Calvin said, pointing out the law only changes purchase age not use.

While illegal sellers will benefit, he said, licensed retailers will not only lose sales from tobacco products, but also from products that those buyers tend to purchase at the same time, such as coffee or magazines.

A clerk at Hi Life, a pipe and tobacco shop on Union Turnpike, right outside of the St. John’s University campus, expected his establishment and others in the area to lose a lot of business from students.

“I believe it will bring a loss–around 10 to 15 percent of business. The other products will still sell,” said an employee at the Continental Smoke Shop in Forest Hills.

At Dutt News, also in Forest Hills, however, a clerk predicted little effect since most of its sales come from 22 to 25-year-olds.

-With additional reporting by Nikki Djokovich

 

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City agrees to reduce restaurant fines


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Zachary Kraehling

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a deal to reduce restaurant fines that may make the grade with owners.

The City Council and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) said the joint agreement will reduce fines generated by violations of the city’s inspection system by $10 million per year.

“Restaurant letter grading was never supposed to be a way to generate additional fine revenue, especially since the Health Department discovered long ago that higher fines don’t by themselves result in better sanitary conditions,” Quinn said.

Fines will be set in specific amounts for each violation under the new deal.

Approximately 60 percent of violations will be set to the minimum $200 fine, including low-level violations such as not properly storing sanitized utensils, which was an average of $295.

Formerly, any violation could result in a fine of $200 to $2,000, depending on the inspector’s discretion.

“Every [inspector] has their own opinion on it,” said Pasquale Fabiano, manager of Il Vesuvio restaurant in Bayside. “They should come in and tell you what’s wrong and if you don’t fix it, they should fine you.”

Fines for the two highest levels of critical violations will be reduced from $349 and $420 to $300 and $350, respectively.

Also, fines for basic operating errors, such as operating without a permit, interrupting a health inspector or failing to post the grading card will set owners back $1,000.

An eatery will not have to pay a fine if it received a violation for a structural irregularity, such as a sink, but can prove that it had never been cited as a problem before. However, the irregularity must be fixed.

“Fantastic,” said Ellen Laperna, manager of Bourbon Street restaurant in Bayside. “They’re doing their jobs, but of course you want the fines to be lower.”

Councilmembers will also introduce five bills to improve the inspection system.

The bills will develop an inspection code of conduct, require publication of detailed data on the restaurant inspection process, have DOHMH establish a consultative inspection process, establish a Food Service Establishment Advisory Board and create an Ombudsman office within the DOHMH to tend to comments and complaints to the inspection system.

“At this point, moving to fixed fines will help give the system more predictability, and even with reduced fines, the grading system will continue to encourage restaurant managers to prepare food safely,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

Additional reporting by Zachary Kraehling

 

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Weiner falls to fourth place in latest poll


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

After losing his lead in the mayoral race in one poll last week, Anthony Weiner has fallen to fourth place in another survey of voters.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday Weiner received 16 percent of the likely Democratic primary vote, down from 26 percent in a July 24 Quinnipiac survey, where he placed first.

“With six weeks to go, anything can happen, but it looks like former Congressman Anthony Weiner may have sexted himself right out of the race for New York City mayor,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Pulling ahead of Weiner is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn with 27 percent, followed by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio with 21 percent and former Comptroller Bill Thompson with 20 percent.

Finishing behind Weiner in the poll were Democratic opponents Comptroller John Liu, who garnered 6 percent, and former Councilmember Sal Albanese who had 2 percent.

The poll also found 53 percent of Democratic primary voters believe Weiner should drop out of the race following the former Congressmember’s latest sexting scandal.

If Weiner does withdraw his bid for mayor, the poll showed Quinn would still receive the most votes in the primary, but a runoff would still be likely.

In a runoff between Weiner and Quinn, the poll found Quinn would come out on top. But if the City Council Speaker faced Thompson, then she would lose the primary.

 

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Anthony Weiner loses lead in new poll


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has lost support among voters after it was revealed he continued sexting following his resignation from Congress, a NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released today found.

In a June poll, 25 percent of registered Democrats said they would vote for Weiner and 20 percent said they would chose City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The new poll, conducted Wednesday, showed Quinn leading with 25 percent, and 16 percent of voters supporting Weiner.

In a runoff situation, Weiner is virtually tied with Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, who both are at 14 percent, according to the new poll results.

The poll also found his favorability rating has dropped from 52 to 30 percent since last month, and 47 percent of registered Democrats believe Weiner doesn’t deserve another chance, down from 59 percent in June.

 

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Bayside Beacon program saved


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A beloved Bayside Beacon program has survived yet another year of budget cuts.

The City Council fully restored next year’s funding to the after-school enrichment program at M.S. 158 Marie Curie.

It was slated for closure, just as it was last year when the Department of Youth and Community Development tried to shut down seven Beacons across the city.

“Our after-school programs are vital community resources,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, “and now Bayside’s children will be able to continue to utilize these valuable services.”

Martenia Miller, site director of the school’s Beacon program, called it a “support system” that has worked for 20 years.

She added it is the only such program within Community Board 11.

More than 100 students take part in the enrichment program daily.

“These cuts would have been detrimental to the safety and well-being of the children in my district,” said Assemblymember Ed Braunstein.

Beacon operates after school, on weekends, school holidays and throughout the summer. It provides help on homework along with leadership and skill growth for both youths and adults.

“We fought to ensure that our community was not short-changed,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “Together we will work to continue these invaluable services that every family deserves and make sure that our students’ education is always a priority.”

The Council maintained funding for the city’s 66 Beacon programs.

 

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Council enacts paid sick leave law with veto override


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

In a 47-4 vote, the City Council enacted the New York City Earned Sick Time Act Thursday, overriding Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the legislation.

The bill will eventually give paid sick leave to approximately one million New York employees who do not currently have it, and will protect them from being fired for taking a day off when they or their family members are ill.

“I was fired earlier this year when I got the flu and I took one sick day off. I have four children and it was very difficult to be out of work and have no way to support my family,” Emilio Palaguachi, a member of Make the Road New York and an Elmhurst resident said in a statement. “I’m so happy to know that, once this law goes into effect, what happened to me will not happen to any other worker in New York City.

Beginning next April, businesses with 20 or more employees will be required to give at least five paid sick days per worker. Starting in October 2015, businesses with 15 or more workers will have to do the same.

After opposing the original bill, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn helped broker a new deal and the Council passed the Earned Sick Time Act 45-3 on May 8.

“New York has traditionally been at the forefront of creating safe, fair working conditions for its people and I am proud for my colleagues to join me today in confirming this legacy,” said Councilmember Gale Brewer, the bill’s lead sponsor.

“This will greatly enhance the quality of life for the hundreds of immigrants and hard-working single mothers living and working in my district and throughout the city,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras.

New York joins several other cities across the country in adopting sick time policy, including Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon, according to Make the Road New York.

 

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NYC pilot to extend school day for sixth graders


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo by Johann Hamilton

The last bell will ring two and a half hours later for 2,000 of the city’s sixth graders starting this fall.

A pilot program will provide additional literacy training at 20 middle schools with high-needs students, including five in Queens, according to the Department of Education (DOE).

The schools are also part of a 40-school expansion of the Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI), which provides extensive literary instruction in grades six through eight.

“We are committed to ensuring that all students are prepared for college and 21st century careers, and the Middle School Quality Initiative has been central to this mission,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The Queens schools participating in the pilot are P.S./I.S. 116 William C. Hughley in Jamaica, Waterside School for Leadership in Rockaway, P.S. 043 in Far Rockaway, Queens United Middle School in Springfield Gardens and Village Academy in Far Rockaway.

The $6.2 million for the MSQI expansion comes from the City Council and DOE along with contributions from the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit that helps fight poverty, and other groups.

“We are confident that a daily dose of extra tutoring for students struggling with English language arts will significantly increase students’ ability to comprehend at [their] grade level across all subjects,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

However, Patricia Simmons, a school aid at P.S./I.S. 116, believes money can be allocated in better ways.

“If they’d just give the schools the supplies they need, then they wouldn’t need to extend the time,” she said. “So many classes don’t have enough textbooks or workbooks.”

Another faculty member was concerned about the age of the students in the program.

“For the little kids, it’ll be too much, but the older ones will be able to handle it,” said a teacher who wanted to remain anonymous.

Tedric Simpson, a former student, also agreed the pilot might be taxing on the sixth graders.

“It’s too much school for one day. They could maybe do it from Monday to Wednesday, but not every day,” she said.

For parents, the benefit went beyond learning.

“Some parents can’t afford babysitters, so the extra hours could be good for them,” said Jean Elie.

With additional reporting by Johann Hamilton

 

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Queensbridge Park Seawall restoration breaks ground


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the NYC Parks Department

Local officials, community groups and residents gathered to break ground on the restoration and improvement of the Queensbridge Park Seawall last week.

Along with reconstructing the seawall, the $6.65 million project will include a six-foot wide waterfront promenade with benches and plants as well as a small pier at the north end.

“The much-anticipated repair of the Queensbridge Park Seawall will provide additional storm protection for the Long Island City community, while also improving their access to the waterfront,” Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White said during the Friday, May 10 event.

The seawall protected Queensbridge Park in Long Island City from high tides and covered some of the mechanisms and underwater cables that keep a number of subway lines in order. It is currently blocked off by a chain-linked fence due to deterioration.

“For too long, the only view of this waterfront has been through a chain-linked fence,” said Congressmember Carolyn Maloney. “Queensbridge Park will now be a gateway to the waterfront instead of a dead end.”

Restoring the seawall will serve recreational purposes for residents. It is also designed to guard against natural disasters such as Sandy.

The project, managed by the NYC Economic Development Corporation, will reconstruct the seawall using large rocks. They will protect the shoreline by absorbing and deflecting waves while lessening the effect of erosion, the Parks Department said.

The restoration and improvement is funded through allocations from Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Helen Marshall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the MTA.

“The project will make this area safer, greener and more attractive while providing more protection from storm damage in the event of another hard-hitting superstorm like Sandy,” Marshall said during the event.

“Today we celebrate the beginning of the project as we look forward to its completion.”

 

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Call to reinstate Peter F. Vallone Scholarship


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

With no agreement on a state Dream Act, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is calling to re-establish the Peter F. Vallone Scholarship, the “original” New York City Dream Act.

On Thursday, April 25 Vallone gathered with mayoral candidates, fellow councilmembers and education and immigration advocacy groups to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to reinstate the scholarship.

The Vallone Scholarship, instituted by the City Council in 1997, was awarded to students based only on academic performance and was made available to full-time students who enrolled in a City University of New York (CUNY) college within a year of graduating from a city high school. This scholarship was available to all students, regardless of their immigration status.

“The Vallone Scholarship was New York City’s Dream Act, it was a reality here when the state and federal acts were just dreams,” said Vallone.

Vallone has been fighting to reinstate the scholarship ever since its removal in 2012.

“It was a promise we made to our hardest working kids, that we would help them achieve their dreams of a college education, and it was a promise that was broken,” said Vallone.

According to Vallone, there were close to 15,000 students receiving assistance when the scholarship was eliminated.

 

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Poll: Voters more comfortable with female, openly-gay than biz executive mayor


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Official NYC Council photo by William Alatriste

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

New Yorkers are ready to have a woman lead the city, but are less interested in having another business executive as mayor, a new poll found.

Conducted by Quinnipiac University, the poll said 64 percent of New Yorkers are comfortable with the idea of having a woman candidate be mayor and 27 percent are enthusiastic about it. The poll also found that 63 percent of New Yorkers are comfortable with the idea of a gay candidate in office, while 15 percent are enthusiastic about the idea.

If elected, mayoral favorite City Council Speaker Christine Quinn would be the first female and openly-gay mayor of New York City.

“Council Speaker Christine Quinn is edging up toward that magic 40 percent that would make her the Democratic nominee without a primary run-off,” director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Maurice Carroll said.

Quinn also holds a lead over her business executive counterparts. The poll found that only 47 percent of New Yorkers are comfortable with the idea of a business executive candidate as mayor, and only 10 percent enthusiastic about the idea.

“Only being a business executive draws significant negative votes in a mayoral candidate,” Carroll said.

 

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Former Councilmember Sal Albanese kicks off mayoral campaign


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Albanese for Mayor 2013

Former Councilmember Sal Albanese, who recently announced he’s running for mayor as an independent Democrat, has high hopes for improving public safety and the city’s education system.

Albanese, who represented mostly Bay Ridge for 14 years, said he was building a campaign based on voter needs and not special interest groups.

“We’re building a grass-roots campaign around the city,” Albanese, 63, told The Courier. “I want to get to City Hall with a broad base of support.”

Albanese spent 11 years as a teacher and said he would partner with education colleges throughout the city and strengthen the student-teacher program if elected mayor.

Albanese said he would hire 3,800 new police .officers for patrols in the outer boroughs where crime might be ignored or under-reported. “If you have nobody on patrol…these things can drive people out of neighborhoods,” he said.

For Queens, Albanese said he would focus on ensuring continued development is done properly, and the borough recovers and rebuilds after Sandy.

All options and effects should be explored before officially jumping on a project such as the proposed Major League Soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. “[It] could really be a positive thing,” he said. “But we have to balance that with the parkland.”

Despite a lengthy term on the council, Albanese has not been in public office for about 15 years and is running in a primary against many Democratic incumbents. Some opponents include: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson.

On the Republican front:

Less than a week after his announcement, and after a long-expected endorsement, Republican Mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis picked up the backing of the Queens GOP on Friday, February 1.

“John Catsimatidis has the right experience as an independent businessman to lead New York and solve our city’s problems with common sense,” said party chair Phil Ragusa in a statement. The grocery store magnet is one of only a handful of candidates whose career hasn’t been in public service. Upon his endorsement, Catsimatidis noted his father worked as a bus boy at Riccardo’s in Astoria.

“I am very pleased to accept the Queens County Republican Party’s official endorsement,” Catsimatidis said. “My father who came over from the old country when I was just six months of age worked hard for our family and taught me the value of hard work and because he worked hard we never knew we were poor.”

 

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Queens celebrates Winter Pride


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Hundreds gathered at the Astoria World Manor to fete distinguished guests at the Queens Pride Committee’s 20th annual Winter Pride event.

The January 26 gala, which honored Congressmember Grace Meng, Dr. Marjorie Hill and Out Astoria, raised funds to support the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade and Multi-Cultural Festival as well as a film series and other events aimed at increasing the visibility of the LGBT community in Queens.

Public figures in attendance included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, and councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm, who founded the Queens Pride Committee two decades ago.

“Twenty years of Winter Pride celebrations in Queens have helped to build a strong lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement in the borough,” said Dromm. “When I first started this celebration only one or two elected officials attended. Now it has become the most important ‘political’ non-political event.”

 

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Queens businesses fear 7 subway suspension may hurt profits


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

Once more, western Queens business owners could potentially say goodbye to a profitable winter.

The No. 7 line weekend service between Queens and Manhattan is being suspended until the end of March, and many area business owners fear that this will affect the influx of customers they usually get.

The award-winning Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City is just one of the many organizations expecting a severe blow to their business this season.

“We [will be] unable to commission work, to present work,” said Sheila Lewandowski of the theater company. “If our audience can’t get here, what are we saying to our artists?”

The Chocolate Factory planned four shows for the coming winter months, and is expecting around 5,000 people to attend. They have artists coming in from all over the world, and, according to Lewandowski, artists who have been preparing for these shows for years.

“The No. 7 train is part of the ticket,” said Lewandowski, who fears that without the subway line, artists will have a difficult time getting to the theater, or that the number of attendees will significantly decrease.

Lewandowski also said that, had they been informed of the closures a month or two ago, shows could have been rescheduled. But, with the two weeks’ notice that the MTA gave, nothing can be done.

“Millions of people are disadvantaged and inconvenienced,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “The people of Queens are being disrespected.”

Until March 25, the MTA will be working on tunnel, signal and track maintenance in the Steinway Tunnel, which connects Queens to Manhattan, and will replace tracks between the Court Square and Queensboro Plaza stations.

Van Bramer held a press conference on Friday, December 28, the day that marked the beginning of the closures, in front of the bustling Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue train stop. He was joined by fellow Councilmember Peter Koo and area business owners, all protesting the MTA changes.

“If I seem a little angry, I am,” said Van Bramer. “Year after year this is too much to bear.”

In 2010, the No. 7 line was suspended for 12 weekends, and again for five weekends this past fall.

On December 8, Community Board 2 received a letter from the MTA, detailing the weekend closures. According to Van Bramer, there was no discussion or opportunity for input, simply a: “this is how it is, so deal with it.”

Going forward, the councilmember intends to work with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the rest of the Council to urge the MTA to change course, and also advises that residents sign an online petition, on the City Council website, and also protest via social media.

For alternate service, straphangers can use the E, F, N and Q lines. On Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Q will be extended to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. Additionally, free shuttle buses will operate between the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue and Queensboro Plaza stations during those weekends.

-With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola

New campaign helps small businesses impacted by Sandy


| dpetrovich@queenscourier.com

Screenshot from supportnycsmallbusiness.com

In an effort to help small businesses that have been affected by Sandy, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined forces with the Department of Small Business Services to launch the “Support NYC Small Business” campaign.

This new promotional campaign encourages locals and tourists to shop in New York City neighborhoods that were hit hardest by Sandy, trying to get small businesses back on their feet.

Sandy impacted over 13,000 businesses, but many have reopened and several others are in the process of reopening.

In order to spread the word, this campaign highlights select businesses and their remarkable recovery stories on television, radio and bus shelters, and in print and taxis.

The campaign will also hit the web with a “Back to Business” site that includes an interactive map of open businesses. The city is urging business owners who have just reopened to add to the map, so New Yorkers can consult the map for their holiday shopping and beyond.

Yelp is a partner in this cause, featuring links to help drive New York City users to the Support NYC Small Business interactive map.

“In the height of the holiday shopping season, we need to make sure that New Yorkers, tourists and all shoppers are fully aware that many small businesses impacted by Sandy have reopened and are ready to serve customers,” said Quinn.

While some small businesses are up and running, several are still struggling to open. All businesses affected by Sandy who still need assistance can get more information by visiting www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness, calling 311, or visiting one of the city’s Restoration Centers or NYC Business Solutions Centers in any borough.

Report: Bloomberg asks Hillary Clinton to run for mayor


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State

Although she is stepping down as secretary of state at the end of President Obama’s first term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t want Hillary Clinton to end her political career.

More specifically, he thinks she should replace him as New York City’s mayor.

According to the New York Times, a few months ago Bloomberg called up the former first lady and urged her to consider a run in the 2013 race.

He reportedly told her she would be “a perfect fit,” but Clinton, who represented New York in the U.S. Senate from 2001 to 2009, said no.

If she had said yes, Clinton would have had to establish New York City residency before she ran.

“He is looking for somebody he can feel comfortable handing the reins over to,” Hank Sheinkopf, a New York City political operative who worked on Mr. Bloomberg’s last campaign, told the Times.

Though the race isn’t lacking likely Democratic candidates, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Comptroller John C. Liu, Bloomberg’s call to Clinton may mean he isn’t confident in any of them, even Quinn, whom he is expected to endorse.

At a press conference today marking the groundbreaking of Hudson Yards, where Bloomberg and Quinn both spoke, he complimented Quinn on the job she’s done leading the city council and said she has made an enormous amount of difference.

With both politicians at the event, Bloomberg’s call to Clinton inevitably came up, but he didn’t deny or confirm the report, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Why do you think I encouraged Hillary Clinton to run for mayor? I mean, were you — did you hear me say that?,” he said.

When asked if he was unhappy with the current list of likely mayoral candidates, Bloomberg refused to comment and insisted that a media-driven fight between Quinn and himself was never going to happen,  the publication also reported.

But Quinn did discuss Clinton’s qualifications for mayor, stating that the secretary of state would “excel in any position she ever takes.”