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We've Had Enough Of Recounts
& Campaigns Using Public Funds

By MICHAEL SCHENKLER

This one’s for Rita.

She keeps calling to tell me not to write about the Presidential election. "It’s boring," she says.

As a matter of fact, my friend Rita Ackerman finds politics boring. She won’t admit it, but she likes when I write about other than political things, because she prefers a whole lot to politics.

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Hey Reet, how about when it’s about Gary?

You see, Rita’s husband Congressman Gary Ackerman may have been way ahead of the curve when it comes to insuring that all ballots get counted. Gary had an encounter with the ballot counting process years ago.

When he went to Florida during the recent recount craziness, we assumed he went there on behalf of Al Gore. The Liberal Democratic Congressman from Jamaica Estates was a strong supporter of the Vice President.

However, a look back into the press clips from three-plus years ago indicates Ackerman foresaw the problem that George W., not Al G. has been complaining about. Long before the Florida catastrophe, Ackerman raised the issue of disqualified valid absentee ballots that lacked postmarks through no fault of the voter.

Ackerman received a complaint in 1997 from Forest Hills resident Sally Gamy who was informed by the Queens Board of Elections that her absentee ballot in the local Assembly race would not be counted because it arrived without a postmark. The complaint from Gamy, an 85-year-old disabled senior who had voted in every election for the previous 60 years, sparked Ackerman to conduct an investigation.

Ackerman tells us that he discovered that local post offices had discontinued postmarking mail but instead the task was performed at borough-wide facilities where ballots could pile up and result in bulk delivery without postmarks. When ballots arrived after the election deadline, the postmark would have been the only way to determine if it was mailed on time.

According to Ackerman, there were 875 absentee ballots that were not counted in the 1996 election — 200 of them from Queens. Furthermore, the reports indicate there were more than 2,000 additional absentee ballots that were sent by the borough election boards to New Yorkers in the military stationed abroad, which were erroneously returned "postage due," despite being clearly marked "no postage necessary" and containing a proper mail permit number.

In September 1997 after representatives of the Postal Service and the Board of Elections met but failed to resolve the problem, Ackerman charged, "New York Postal Officials should be ashamed of themselves for taking away people’s constitutional right to vote. This problem must be fixed before this November’s election," he demanded.

It was more than three years ago that Ackerman blamed the problem on poor training of postal workers.

This year, George W. Bush filed suit in five Florida Counties alleging that valid military overseas ballots were not counted because they lacked postmarks.

It seems that problems as well as people migrate from New York to Florida.

ELECTION POEM

"The election may be over by the time you receive this poem," writes a Rego Park reader. "I wrote it as a kind of reminder to all of us that every vote does (and hopefully will) count," she concludes:

ELECTION BRIEF
If you favor a donkey
Or a pachyderm
For a full eight years
Or just one term;
Here’s a line
Which bears some note.
The voice is heard
That casts the vote.
— Ellen Fuchs, Rego Park

USING PUBLIC FUNDS FOR POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS?

We like Jeff Gottlieb. We’ve known him for more than 20 years. Jeff is chief of staff (or some other heavy duty title) for Councilman Morty Povman — we’ve also known Morty and his wife Sandy for two decades or so. In the active greater Queens community, we consider the Povman’s and Gottlieb as our friends.

Morty Povman, as senior a member of the City Council as you can find, is term limited. His protégé, Jeff Gottlieb is running for his seat. Morty is actively supporting Jeff.

Now, before we get into this column, let me set the stage for the election contest. Opposing Jeff will be Barry Grodenchik, Exec. Assistant to Queens Beep Claire Shulman, also a friend of ours. Also in the race is Jim Genarro, Prez of the Saul Weprin Democratic Club. Jim was almost our friend but revealed his true self when we didn’t give his fundraiser the coverage he thought it deserved. He’s okay anyway. A David Reich, who apparently is tied into Brooklyn State Senator Sy Lachman and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is also seeking Povman’s seat.

Me, I wanted Judy Bergtraum a Deputy City Commissioner, School Board member and my cousin to run, but she deferred to Grodenchik. Too bad.

Well, I’m not taking sides in this one — at least not yet. But I gotta yell when City funds are being utilized to further the candidacy of one of the candidates.

I’m talking specifically about the City Council funds allotted to Morty Povman that are being used to advance the candidacy of Jeff Gottlieb. Clearly and carefully, I hold no malice towards either. I repeat, I like both. I’d be shouting out no matter which candidates or elected officials misused public funds.

Now public officials constantly use their staffs and print and mail budget to further their own name recognition in their districts. It is one of the perks of incumbency. However, to blatantly and without regard for public policy utilize that budget to further the candidacy of a staffer is unacceptable.

We received last week, in an official Morton Povman City Council envelope, three photos and captions on Povman letterhead, all containing pictures of Jeff Gottlieb. All were clearly promoting Gottlieb. None of the three mentioned Povman. None of the three even indicated that Gottlieb was representing Povman. On the contrary each gave a different description of Gottlieb relating to things other than his role a representative of Povman or the City Council. None of the three promoted anything resembling a benefit to the constituents of Povman’s Council District.

Now, we are not suggesting that in the future, Gottlieb spin the release or photo caption to justify the Council expenditure. We are suggesting that no Council funds be spent unless there is a clear benefit to constituents. Then and only then, it must be made clear that the elected official is the person who is responsible to the constituents.

I’m not suggesting a crime. I’m not calling for an investigation. I am asking or insisting that it stop. To do otherwise, opens up a Pandora’s box of abuses.

We don’t want to sanction Claire Shulman to counter the Povman expenditure by funding mailings on behalf of Grodenchik. In spite of her strong support for Grodenchik — the Beep threw a funder at her house for him — she has not utilized public funds in his behalf. We applaud personal support and public fund neutrality for office holders.

We’ve written about this subject before. We will do so again. We’ve noted that the Council Speaker has put his face and name (in big bold type) on mailings in Council Districts that were not his own. Should the Speaker of the House put his name alongside your Congressman on their mailings?

C’mon, if you don’t represent the district or have a specific public policy need, don’t spend our money dumping promotion stuff paid for by us in the mail. We really don’t want you to promote your own candidacy at public expense. But that line is gray. Cross it and we’ll shout. Do a specific mailing to promote someone else and it’s shameful. We’ll shout even louder.

Back to Jeff and Morty: they’re not bad people. They care about the district and care about the public. I hope to hear from both of them saying that they recognize that the mailing in question was abusive and assuring me that City funds will not again be used to further Gottlieb’s candidacy.

He’s okay. He can run the honest way.

Stay tuned.

The Wisdom Of George ‘Dubya’ Bush

These quotes have been circulating on the internet for quite some time. Although we could not verify the source, quite a number of people have forwarded them to us, saying they were uttered by the man who now seems to be our President-elect. These words of wisdom are shared with you so that you may prepare yourself for the next four years.

"If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure." - George W. Bush, Jr.

"Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any Governor, and that one word is ‘to be prepared’." -Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 12/6/93

"I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"The future will be better tomorrow." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"I stand by all the misstatements that I’ve made." – Governor George W. Bush, Jr. to Sam Donaldson 8/17/93

"When I have been asked who caused the riots and the killing in LA, my answer has been direct & simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame. - George W. Bush, Jr.

"We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"Welcome to Mrs. Bush, and my fellow astronauts." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"Mars is essentially in the same orbit...Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 8/11/94

"The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history. I mean in this century’s history. But we all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 9/15/95

"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change." - Gov. George W. Bush, Jr., 5/22/98

"Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 11/30/96

"We’re going to have the best educated American people in the world." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 9/21/97

"People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"I am not part of the problem. I am a Republican" - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it." - Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 5/20/96

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Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com

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