2000-09-09 / Front Page

Democratic Primary Next Tuesday

Candidates Speak To The Voters
By John C. McLoughlin

Registered Democrats in the 9th Congressional District and the 31st Assembly District, both which include parts of the Rockaways, will head to the polls next Tuesday, September 12 to decide who will be the political leaders of the community. In what are considered by the public as "hotly contested races," Congressman Anthony Weiner is being contested by City Councilman Noach Dear and Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings is being challenged by Dr. Taj Rajkumar and Carol Howell.

The Wave’s "Decision 2000: Paper Debate" featured over the past three weeks informed the public of the views of both Weiner and Dear on issues such as Social Security, transportation, education, foreign policy and prescription drug coverage for seniors. This paper debates, as well a meeting with both candidates, has resulted in an endorsement of one of the candidates by this paper (see editorial, page 4).

In the State Assembly race, The Wave has asked the three candidates to introduce themselves to the community and explain the issues and concerns they believe to be important to our district. All three candidates have participated and their statements can be read in this week’s edition. The Wave has also endorsed a candidate for this position.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12. Only registered Democrats can vote in this election.

The following is the statements offered by the State Assembly candidates:

ASSEMBLYWOMAN CUMMINGS

When we hear the name Assemblymember Pauline Rhodd-Cummings, many of us know that she is a new member of the New York State Assembly, first elected to complete the term relinquished by also newly elected Congressman Gregory W. Meeks. A few know that she is also a resident of Far Rockaway, as was her predecessor. And even fewer still know that this is her first attempt at a publicly elected position.

But, what most of the public outside of her immediate community does not know is that while she is a novice, she is a veteran community activist, giving more than 20 years of unpaid service to her Far Rockaway neighborhood. Her years of volunteerism have given her a unique perspective on governmental resources and the community’s ability to gain access to them. Her experience has resulted in creating in her the quintessential public official -- a real live public servant; a person elected to serve the people who elected her.

Prior to being elected, Ms. Cummings was no stranger to unpaid community activism. She served as a member of the R.D.R.C. executive board for 12 years, during which time she worked on committees regarding job training, economic development, summer youth programs, and the Mason Center After-School programs. She served on the 101 Precinct Community Council for nine years, holding the office of vice president for at least part of that time.

As an executive board member of Community Board 14 for 12 years, and serving as its president for some of that time, she worked on a sewer project for the Deerfield Area with the help of the late City Councilmember Walter Ward. The Assemblymember was also instrumental in the building of the Brookhaven Manor Homes for Rockaway residents. As the president of the Deerfield Area Civic Association for 20 years, she was involved in promoting home buying seminars, energy conservation seminars, and in holding an Intergenerational Family Day.

In all of this time she has maintained strong healthy relationships with federal, state and city officials, in which mutual respect, admiration and cooperation are happily exchanged. These officials include the Honorable Audrey Pheffer and Vivian Cook, Honorable Bill Scarborough, Senators Ada L. Smith, Malcolm Smith, and former Senator Al Waldon, City Councilmembers Tom White, Juanita Watkins (who nominated her), Archie Spigner, and finally Congressman Greg Meeks and Senator Chuck Schumer. Many of these officials and other community leaders urging Cummings to run for office long before she ever considered doing so. The reason? The common answer from most of them, generally summed up, is that they though that as much as she seemed to enjoy "putting them on the hot seat" (a favorite term she uses when putting pressure on someone) it would only be fair to allow her to experience the same kind of pressure from others. Her response? "I see my community as being under siege and under served. If I were to run for office, and were ever to run for office, and were to get elected, let them put me on the hot seat. If I don’t deliver, give me the treatment I deserve. Get rid of me." You see? Not spoken like a politician; spoken like an activist. No political agenda.

She did get results from her efforts. For instance, she urged the Councilmember Watkins to hold a town hall meeting with police brass concerning shootings in Rockaway and the precinct’s response. Through her positions on the community board and the precinct council she was able to mobilize people to push for the resources they deserve. Besides the aforementioned sewer project, she fought to revitalize Arverne, Edgemere and the vacant land in Rockaway (the first phase of it being dome now with homes being built). She started this fight before her election and has not abandoned her mission. Other goals that she set to achieve while on CB 14 (and we see the results today) are:

  1. A technical school in Far Rockaway (in the works at this writing, due to funding she received once she got elected).
  2. Renovation of the Mott avenue station (part of a five-year capital project to make it ADA accessible).
  3. The clean up of downtown Far Rockaway (To clean up Beach Channel drive at Beach 17 street all agencies were brought in, including assistance for the homeless in the area).
  4. The clean up of Jamaica Bay (Got state funding to clean up the bay).
  5. The mosquito clean up in Rockaway, especially Arverne.

Since her first election in March 1998, Pauline Rhodd-Cummings has worked tirelessly for her constituents. She has funded the first year of the David Dinkins After-School Program, working with the residents of the Hammels Development Peninsula Civic Association.

Six months after getting into office (and after undergoing two brutal campaigns, one in March and one in September) she arranged with other elected officials in Albany to meet with the Governor to obtain money for recent flood victims. This resulted in grants being awarded to flood victims in Arverne and Springfield Gardens.

All in all, this is a tough little lady, who has the tenacity of a pit bill, and a passion for the welfare of her constituents. "I am building a bridge," she says, "and I’d like us all to go across together; peninsula and mainland." She is blunt, but not belligerent; she is truthful, but not rude; she is honest. What a refreshing way to enter this new century, and new millennium. The bridge is under construction now.

TAJ RAJKUMAR

My name is Taj Rajkumar and I am running in the Democratic Primary for the NY State Assembly District 31. I decided to run for Assembly because I felt that our district is not adequately represented. I am committed to winning this primary because I want your voice to be heard in Albany. Our district has suffered for too long without getting the services we so desperately need. If you allow me to represent our community in Albany, I will fight to improve the quality of life of seniors, children and the families that make up our diverse community.

I would like to first give a brief profile of myself and then outline my plan of action for our community. I am a native of Guyana and I immigrated to the U.S. more than 20 years ago. I am proud to say I worked my way up from a factory worker to a college professor. I obtained my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Louisiana State University and I returned to New York City to begin my career in higher education. I was dean of students at the New York Institute of Technology and I have been a faculty member of the Borough of Manhattan College for 14 years. I believe that education was the key to my success. That’s why I have made education the focal point of my platform.

When I started my campaign last year I found that one issue that seems to be on everyone’s mind is our children’s education. In an economy that has become increasingly technical our children need to have the skills to succeed in a competitive job market. It is truly shameful that our children have to try to learn in dilapidated overcrowded buildings and read from outdated textbooks. In addition, test scores are unacceptably low in comparison to other industrialized countries. For too long our children have been passed from grade to grade without having the requisite skills they need to succeed. As an experienced educator, I am uniquely qualified to remedy the problems of our failing schools. The focus of my education plan is to empower parents and raise standards.

-I will create educational centers which will have professors from Queens and York College prepare our youth to do college level work.

-I will fight to ensure our children have state-of-the-art lab equipment, computers, up-to-date textbooks, and a comfortable school environment.

-I will make sure our students have financial aid counseling to inform young people of programs available to help pay for college.

-I will support Pre-K Early Learning Programs, which will expose children to computers and prepare them for school.

Our seniors are so crucial to the fabric of this community. Seniors have earned the right to the best quality of life that we can provide them.

I find it appalling that there are very few health clinics in our district. Through grants and with the assistance of Jamaica and Queens General Hospital, I will fund the clinics that are crucially needed in our district.

Inflation rates have whittled away our seniors’ pension incomes. I support the legislation that made permanent a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for seniors who are beneficiaries of New York State and City retirement systems.

Senior housing will be in higher demand as the baby boomer generation becomes older. Our parents and grandparents deserve safe, affordable places to live. I will also create state-of-the-art senior centers, which will enrich our elder population’s social life and provide nutritious meals.

I will also fun senior health workshops. These workshops will give valuable information to seniors on how to dramatically improve their quality of life and will routinely check blood pressure and monitor those who suffer from diabetes and other health problems.

Seniors should not have to make the choice between prescription drugs and food. Sadly, the cost of healthcare has risen so dramatically that sometimes our seniors are forced to make such desperate choices. I will fight to ensure that our seniors receive adequate health benefits from Medicaid and have affordable drug prescription plans.

I will also work to increase economic development in our area to provide good paying jobs for our community. I will fund drug treatment programs for those who suffer from addiction and reduce quality of life crime.

The amount of support I have been receiving throughout the community has been tremendous. When I am elected I will be your voice in Albany. On September 12, your vote is your voice. However, the first step on the road to better representation in our community is winning the primary. Turnout is low in these primaries and every vote counts. Please cast your vote for me so I can represent you in the New York State Assembly District 31.

CAROL HOWELL

I am running for office to give the people of my community a choice in the primary election on Tuesday, September 15.

The current assemblywoman does not does not have an office in the area where I reside. The people of Springfield Gardens, Laurelton, Rosedale, and Ozone Park (the part of the 31 Assembly District that she does not involve herself in) say they find it too cumbersome to reach Ms. Cummings, or to discuss with her any important issue. I spoke with some residents of the Rockaways who say that in order to see their assemblywoman they must make an appointment in advance. My aim is to address the issues of the entire community, including the Rockaways, where she had her only office. When elected I will open an additional office on the mainland, so that all the people have a place to voice their opinions and share their concerns.

Education of our young is a great concern of mine. When elected, I will work to change conditions in our schools. Current reading and math scores are a disgrace. Classes are overcrowded and teachers are unpaid. Most of the schools have outdated textbooks. These issues must be addressed in order to ensure the future of our children. The current assemblywoman has not addressed these issues in the part of the 31 Assembly District where I live. As a matter of fact, she hasn’t done much in the Rockaways, where she lives. District 27 in the Rockaways has among the worst reading scores in New York City. In District 29, the community school board was supposed to select a new superintendent, but the Chancellor has not allowed this process to take place. He has chosen to implement his own plans -- selecting a person of his liking, instead of allowing the duly elected community school board to exercise the right to choose.

A new law currently under discussion within the New York City Housing Authority may have dire effects for many residents in public housing complexes. This new law will force residents to work at least eight hours a month (in addition to the jobs they may currently hold) within the housing complex in exchange for annual lease renewal. I believe those hours the residents would be required to work would infringe on family quality time, time that should be spent with family bonding.

The Rockaways could be a very beautiful area to live in, but there are a lot of abandoned buildings and empty spaces that could be used to house after-school activities for our children.

A great deal of nursing homes are located in the Rockaways, with, I believe, not enough staff to maintain them. The comfort of the residents is important to me. I know, first hand, about nursing homes because my mother lived in one for quite some time, before she passed away. There should be more funds to increase services in these large, overburdened institutions.

I am not a politician, I am a concerned resident. For 31 years my husband and I have lived and raised our children here. I have no intention of moving, but I have become dissatisfied with the quality of life in my community -- I intend to change it by getting elected to office.

Look for me on the ballot, September 12. Vote for Carol Howell.


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