Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nunes Up Against Elder White by John Blau - Queens Chronicle

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In line for screening interviews with advocacy groups, Lynn Nunes, a candidate for District 28 councilman, says he can feel the first question coming.

After looking past his dark gray suit and a crimson leather watch, people often ask:

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-four,” says the Democrat from Richmond Hill, smiling when he contemplates running against incumbent Thomas White Jr. (D-South Ozone Park), who served as city councilman for 10 years before retiring in 2002, only to reclaim his seat in 2006.

“Experience doesn’t necessarily mean results,” Nunes said. “What’s experience mean when we are failing?”

Nunes, a graduate of Queens College, ran for district leader against White in September but lost by a double-digit percentage gap. This time around, the activist and business owner, who has held no previous office, is trying to convince the community that a “change in perspective” is in order.

He refers to White as “the invisible man,” calling out the councilman for missing several sessions of City Council. In an April 2008 New York Times article, White was reported to have skipped more than 24 percent of those meetings. Thirteen misses were for medical reasons.

An aide to White said the councilman would not comment on the election, because he was “not prepared at this time.”

Repairing an alleged disconnect between citizens and their leaders will be Nunes’ top priority, if elected. Crime is on the rise, he said, but he wonders if residents are informed about how much. Schools are failing, but the parents, he said, are not involved enough in the educational process to make a difference. Very much following the line of the nation’s young president, Barack Obama, Nunes calls for a more transparent government.

“I wanted to step up to the plate,” Nunes said. “I feel there are issues that have gone unaddressed over the past few years, and I think people are ready for a change.”

Economic development

The economic crisis has rocked the 28th District, according to Nunes, who visits soup kitchens to see lines reminiscent of those seen outside the U.S. “It looks like a third-world country almost,” Nunes said.

To remedy unemployment in the area, Nunes wants to set up a community center where citizens can learn a trade and use it to acquire work. Rising unemployment, he said, only increases incidents of crime

White serves as chairman of Economic Development, but Nunes claims the City Council can do more for residents, including educating homeowners on how to avoid foreclosures and predatory lending. Nunes also wants more affordable housing.

Banking on his knowledge of real estate — where he has worked at least part-time since he was 18 — Nunes said he can solve housing issues, but stressed he will rescind ownership of his business and make councilman his full-time job, if elected.

Of course, he confidently says “when elected.”

“I want to be proactive rather than reactive,” Nunes said, attempting to draw a line between White’s thinking and his own.

Guns and crime

White, who heads a southeastern Queens center for individuals with substance abuse problems, pregnant teenagers, youths at risk and those affected by HIV/AIDS, has worked to treat people in the district with problems.

Nunes, on the other hand, says he will try to take a more “preventative” approach. For example, he is extremely anti-gun.

Although he would not go as far to say constitutional protections to bear arms should be eliminated, Nunes is clear on his sentiment that a community which is armed does more harm than good.

“Nobody should own a gun,” Nunes said.

Assuming no changes to the Second Amendment are forthcoming, Nunes said he will work as a liaison with police to root out the sources of crime.

Education and the mayor

When it comes to control of the city’s schools, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a tight grip. He appoints eight out of the 13 members of the Panel for Education Policy, and the panel, which is headed by schools Chancellor Joel Klein, has never voted down a proposal from the administration.

Nunes wants parents to have a vote on the system’s leadership and to take away mayoral control over a majority of the panel.

And while Nunes said he has not properly reviewed the mayor’s entire new budget for 2010 — so he could not offer much in the way of specific revisions he would make — he broadly expressed an interest in picking out programs that are not working and eliminating them to save some of the more than 13,500 proposed job cuts.

Green Jobs

A trendy topic for politicians of late, Nunes supports investments in green technologies for a more efficient Queens. He linked the environmental movement to the economy, saying the creation of “green jobs” could help alleviate some effects of this recession.

“It’s going to open up a lot of different job opportunities,” Nunes said.
“It’s important to go green. It helps the environment. It helps to create jobs. It’s the next wave of the immediate future here.”