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Speaker Gifford Miller:Looking To Take The Next Step – QNS.com

Speaker Gifford Miller:Looking To Take The Next Step

Over the course of the summer, I had hoped to interview each of the candidates running for mayor, to try and give you a bigger picture than just their political personas.
What drives them? What do they enjoy doing when they take their public masks off? How do they incorporate a family life into an endeavor that, at the least, costs them 14 hours a day (7 a.m. to 9 p.m.) for six months (if they want to have a puncher’s chance of being taken seriously).
And believe me, the last thing a candidate wants to do is take time out of their day to talk to some dopey reporter when they could be interacting with someone important — like an undecided voter.
But that’s just what I am asking each of them to do over the next couple of weeks. My argument is that this column reaches at least a few more people than just my mother, grandmother and girlfriend every week (I hope), and so they should use me to get to you (and besides, all three of the aforementioned are registered voters anyway).
We began this week with the Speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller.
The youngest of all the Democratic candidates at 35, Miller uses his boyish looks and youthful exuberance to underscore his point that City Hall needs a fresh perspective.
“Having spent the last four years traveling all over the city and talking with people, what I’ve heard is a real desire for new leadership,” Miller said. “Not that this mayor has been a disaster, but I think people understand that he has been a mediocre, caretaker mayor who’s not grappling with the tough issues that face our city. Somebody needs to provide real leadership.”
As the speaker of the Council, Miller is the one in the trenches battling the mayor during budget season. He says his proudest achievement as speaker is “passing four of the toughest budgets this city has ever seen, and especially passing the earned income tax credit.”
Unfortunately, as happened with the last speaker to run for mayor, Peter Vallone, his important position in city government is not translating into high polling numbers.
“I don’t think people follow the speaker of the Council terribly carefully and that’s fine — people are busy… but it’s an incredible job and a great platform from which to be able to talk about what you’ve done and what you’re going to do.”
One thing he has taken some recent lumps for, and it comes with his position he says, are a number of councilmembers griping that their districts were hit in response to their lack of support on the recent trash battle the speaker had with Mayor Bloomberg.
But Miller calls it hogwash.
“You’re not going to make everybody happy, but I look at the budget through one lens — what’s best for the people of the city of New York. All those members who are complaining, they all voted for it (the budget), so we must be doing something right.”
He also pointed to his backing by the Queens County Democrats as a big boost to his campaign.
“I’m very proud to have the overwhelming support of elected officials, political clubs, community leaders and others in Queens,” Miller said. The county-endorsed nominee has used this people-power to amass hundreds of petition carriers and said he expects to bring in the most signatures of any Democrat in the race.
He added that its face time out in the streets that’s going to win the election. “In Queens, I have a lot of broad, diverse political support. The way that translates into votes is have the community leaders who support me introduce me to the average voter who hasn’t gotten to know me yet. I don’t expect people who don’t know me to vote for me. But I think once they meet me and take a look at my candidacy, they’re going to support me.”
When asked to say something nice about his opponents, Miller had no problem saying that Ferrer has spent “a lifetime contributing to this city,” Fields was “engaging and outgoing” and Weiner “has one of the sharpest wits I know.”
On the local, more personal front, Miller said he would travel 20 minutes out of his way just to go to Mama’s in Corona and added that the octopus at Trattoria L’incontro is to die for.
He admitted to being a Yankees fan, even for a Queens newspaper and said in his spare free time he enjoys cooking (especially barbecues), reading and spending time with his wife, Pamela, and two sons, Addison and Marshall.
The whole Miller “meshpokha” is involved in the campaign, from his brother serving as treasurer to his wife quitting her job to help out full-time to his sons riding their scooters in parades.
It’s a family affair, and one Miller hopes winds up with him moving from the number-2 slot to being called “Hizzoner.”
politics@queenscourier.com

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