By William Lewis
A town hall meeting was recently held in Our Lady of Hope School's auditorium in Middle Village. It was sponsored by the state Senate with state Sen. Serf Maltese (R-Glendale) conducting the function with City Councilman Anthony Como (R-Middle Village) and officials from the local NYPD and FDNY; Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection; and state comptroller's office. The turnout included close to 300 people.
There was a table set up with an array of pamphlets and brochures about various government services. There were no formal speeches. Almost the entire event consisted of questions from the floor directed at the panel representing government departments.
Questions were raised about fixing streets, traffic lights not working, neighborhood vandalism, graffiti, drag racing and use of illegal fireworks. Issues were raised about grand larcenies and property taxes. There were also discussions about street flooding and parking problems.
There was considerable opposition to a proposed new school being built in Middle Village, which would bring in 1,500 students from mostly outside the community. All of the government officials present seemed anxious to work with area residents in addressing the problems raised.
Maltese urged people to contact his district office regarding implementing government services. In all, it seemed to be a successful town meeting and Maltese was pleased with the large turnout.
In a brief interview I had with him after the meeting, Maltese mentioned some of the problems he is trying to deal with based on what his constituents are telling him, including loss of jobs and medical insurance.
He indicated that he is working on plans to create medical insurance for uninsured children and also to reduce property taxes with the goal of establishing property tax caps. If re-elected, Maltese in setting a legislative goal for next year.
“I have to continue funding education for our young people,” he said. “They are our future. We have raised state funding for education to over $8,000 a student. This has resulted in smaller class size.”
Regarding the state Senate campaign in the 15th State Senate District, which could decide which political party controls the state Senate next year, Maltese stated that his organization recently had a poll of the registered voters of his district conducted.
The polling results indicated that Maltese is more than 20 points ahead of his potential rivals. In the same poll, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was five points ahead of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the presidential race.
The political season has started off well for Maltese with Como, a former member of Maltese's staff, winning a special election for the City Council by a narrow margin. After having served 20 years in the state Senate, Maltese has the advantage of incumbency to assist him in this important race.
Maltese has been involved in politics most of his life, having served as former state chairman and executive director of the state Conservative Party and as Queens County Republican Party chairman during the last 10 years.
If City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) emerges as the Democratic candidate in the present primary race against Albert Baldeo, Maltese will have a strong opponent who has served for almost seven years in the City Council with an exemplary record.
Addabbo is the son of the late Congressman Joseph Addabbo Sr., who represented much of the Howard Beach area in the U.S. House of Representatives for 26 years.
This year has produced some interesting races in Queens and will no doubt produce some interesting results as well.