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the Campaign Trail

Voters in Queens and Brooklyn will go to the polls on Tuesday, June 26, to choose nominees for Congressional seats up for grabs in the November election.

In the weeks leading up to the contests, the Times Newsweekly/Ridgewood Times will feature in this column press releases and statements sent by the campaigns of the candidates on the ballot.

The statements in this column do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Times Newsweekly/Ridgewood Times or its staff. Mud-slinging statements which include personal attacks on candidates are omitted.

Meng: Stop Student Loan Rate Increase

With student loan interest rates set to double later this year, Assemblywoman Grace Meng-a candidate for the new Sixth Congressional District in Queens-called for a rational debate in Washington to find a sensible solution to the problem.

“Here are the facts: in 2007, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act reduced interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford student loans over four academic years-from 6.8 percent to the current 3.4 percent. That law is set to expire on July 1, and interest rates on student loans will revert to double what students are now paying,” said Meng. “This is an unsupportable burden that Congressional Republicans are refusing to address, preferring instead to play politics with family budgets and young peoples’ futures.”

Robert Reich, economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, recently highlighted that consumer spending is 70 percent of the U.S. economy, and that houses have traditionally been the major assets of America’s middle class. “Those assets are in freefall,” he said in US News and World Report. “Young couples are no longer buying homes; they’re renting because they’re not confident they can get or hold jobs that will reliably allow them to pay a mortgage.”

“First-time home buyers are typically an important source of incremental housing demand, so their smaller presence in the market affects house prices and construction quite broadly,” Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke added at a homebuilders’ conference in Orlando, Fla. earlier this year.

Statistics compiled by Bloomberg Businessweek reveal that only nine percent of 29- to 34-year-olds got a first-time mortgage from 2009 to 2011 (compared with 17 percent 10 years earlier) and 25- to 34-year-olds made up only 27 percent of all home buyers in 2011, the lowest share in the past decade.

“The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys refers to this crisis as the ‘student loan debt bomb,'” concluded Meng. “The federal government shouldn’t be making this serious problem worse. Our economic recovery and the budgets of students and their families depend on Congress doing the right thing.”

Lancman: Congress Must Fix The USPS

Assemblyman Rory Lancman, a candidate for Congress in New York’s Sixth Congressional District, stood in front of the Kew Gardens Hills Post Office last week to criticize Congress for failing to solve the United States Postal Service (USPS) funding crisis which it created in 2006.

Lancman outlined his own plan to save postal services for Queens residents: eliminate the excessively high retiree health benefit funding requirement demanded by Congress in 2006 and hold the Postal Service accountable when a post office or sorting facility is targeted for closure. Without action, the Postal Service is set to close 252 mail-processing centers and over 3,700 post offices across the country, including the College Point sorting facility.

In 2006, Congress imposed a mandate on the United States Postal Service that forced the organization to pre-fund 75 years of its retiree health benefit obligations over the next 10 years ($5.5 billion this year), a funding method required of no other federal agency.

Since 2007, the Postal Service has overfunded its retiree health benefit system by at least $50 billion, adding $20 billion worth of debt to the Postal Service’s balance sheet., Lancman said. According to the Post Office’s own financial report, $3.1 billion of the $3.3 billion it lost in the first quarter of 2012 was attributed to payments to the retiree health benefit fund.

Instead of eliminating the retiree health benefit funding requirement, however, the Senate passed legislation that would close 125 processing centers including the College Point facility. The House is contemplating legislation that would eliminate Saturday mail service-a measure that would put 80,000 jobs at risk-sbquo;and would put our post offices and processing centers at the mercy of an unaccountable facility closing commission.

By contrast, Lancman’s proposal would allow the Postal Service to use normal and accepted accounting practices to fund the organization’s retiree health benefit system, saving the Postal Service billions of dollars each year, and would return the excess funding in the retiree health benefit account to the main Postal Service budget where it rightfully belongs, essentially solving the Postal Service’s budget crisis.

“Congress created the Postal Service’s funding crisis, and now Congress needs to take simple action to fix it-let the Postal Service fund its retiree health benefit system according to common-sense accounting practices,” Lancman said. “Our processing centers and neighborhood branches shouldn’t be shuttered because Congress is unable to tackle the big issues facing the country.”

Lancman also incorporated a piece of the Senate’s legislation into his own proposal: a provision giving the Postal Regulatory Commission the power to overturn scheduled post office and processing center closures when communities or individuals make a compelling case to keep the facility open, as well as the power to prevent any closing or consolidation of postal facilities if the Postal Service cannot prove that it will result in substantial economic savings.

Three Labor Unions Give Nod To Crowley

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 210 and Local 553, as well as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 15, have endorsed City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District in Queens.

Teamsters Local 210 and Local 553 represent nearly 30,000 workers in various industries, including pharmaceuticals, warehouse and distribution, air conditioning service, dispatching, home heating oil delivery, and JFK Airport fueling operation and support.

The Machinists, headquartered in Brooklyn, represent more than 12,000 workers in a variety of occupations including truck mechanics, aerospace engineers, and black car drivers.

Crowley was a member of Local 210 for several years when she worked with the Consortium for Worker Education in creating job training and education programs for labor groups and underemployed New Yorkers.

“As a member of the City Council, Elizabeth Crowley has been a champion for working families,” said Local 210 Principal Officer George L. Miranda. “We need Elizabeth Crowley in Washington because she is a fighter who will put the interest of the middle class first by supporting smart policies to boost our economy and makes sure we all share in that growth. She is a former Teamster, which by definition means she is a fighter for working men and women. I am proud to endorse her.”

“When it comes to helping working men and women, Elizabeth Crowley is a stand-up person who doesn’t back down from a fight,” said Local 553 Principal Officer Demos P. Demopoulos. “She has the integrity, passion and knowledge to be an excellent member of Congress. We need Elizabeth Crowley fighting for us in Washington, and I am proud to endorse her.”

“Elizabeth Crowley is someone who we know will be a strong voice for Labor in Congress. Her personal history as a union-member, her work in the City Council championing causes important to the Machinists, and her tireless dedication to fighting for the needs of working families makes her the best candidate for Congress in this race. We will do everything we can to help her win,” said IAM District 15 Directing Business Representative Jim Conigliaro, Sr.

“Teamsters have been true leaders in the fight for middle class families across the country,” said Crowley. “I’m proud to receive the endorsement from my former union and Local 553, and in Washington, I will be an independent fighter for the creation of good jobs and working families’ rights.”

Regarding the Machinists’ endorsement, Crowley added, “Throughout the Machinists’ history, they have fought to improve the lives of working and middle class families. In Washington, I will continue to advocate for the Machinists’ values where all Americans are rewarded for hard work and are provided the opportunities to achieve the American Dream.”

GOP Council Reps Like Turner For Sen.

The Republican delegation of the New York City Council unanimously endorsed Rep. Bob Turner in his race to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate against New York’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

“Bob Turner became a national icon last year when he ran and won a congressional race that had been deemed unwinnable for a Republican,” said City Council Republican Leader James Oddo in endorsing Mr. Turner. “Bob is the symbolic fed-up American who cannot not sit on the sidelines while our country’s future is being walked off a cliff. He showed up on the scene with zero political experience, challenged President Obama’s failing policies in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, and won. It was a remarkable feat and he can do it again.”

“Bob Turner is the obvious choice to represent Republicans against Kirsten Gillibrand in November,” added City Council Member Eric Ulrich. “There are two other fine Republican candidates in this race, but Bob just came off an historic victory that elevated him to national celebrity. Once this race winnows down to the general election, voters of all political backgrounds will recall what Bob did last year and give his candidacy a very hard look. As someone who has worked closely with Bob, I can tell you they will like what they will see.”

“The U.S. Senate is in dire need of leaders with real-world business experience and Bob Turner fits that description to a tee,” said City Council Member Dan Halloran. “Bob Turner is a successful business executive who knows how to balance a budget, create jobs, and responsibly plan for the future. He is a citizen legislator in the purest form and I know he’ll make a great United States Senator.”

“Republicans across New York State are fortunate to have a proven winner like Bob Turner in this race,” said City Council Member Vincent Ignizio. “Bob succeeded over a period of decades in one of the most competitive industries in America, the television industry, and then- with virtually no political background- went on to win a seat that no Republican had held since 1922. Those types of successes do not happen by mistake. Bob Turner is a winner and we strongly endorse him for Senate. “

“I am enormously grateful to the City Council delegation for its strong and unanimous backing today,” Turner said. “Republicans on the New York City Council understand that winning in a tough political environment requires sticking to one’s convictions-even when that is hard to do. I ran for Congress because I believed the voters of Queens and Brooklyn were ready for a candidate who trusted them enough to give it to them straight, and I am running for senate with that same deeply held belief. Voters are ready to be treated as grown ups this November and that’s how I’ll treat them.”

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As noted, only voters who are registered with a party may vote in that party’s primary election on June 26 (Democratic voters may only vote in the Democratic primary; Republican voters may only vote in the Republican primary, etc.).

For more information on voting or to obtain a voting registration application, contact the New York City Board of Elections at 1-212-VOTE-NYC or visit www.vote.nyc.ny.us.

Press representatives of candidates may send their information to this paper by fax to 1-718-456- 0120 or e-mail to info@times newsweekly.com. All releases are subject to editing.

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