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Bayside civic hosts forum with House candidates

The East Bayside Homeowners Association questioned six candidates running for city, state and federal offices that would represent its district last week during a crowded meeting, where topics included the financial rescue plan for Wall Street, governance of city schools and the state budget.

Each candidate was given several minutes to present his or her case to the crowd of more than 75 Bayside residents, who crammed into a room at the neighborhood’s All Saints Episcopal Church. Association President Frank Skala followed each presentation with a question tailored to each candidate.

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D−Bayside) defended his choice to vote in favor of the $700 billion economic rescue package following last month’s Wall Street crisis.

“I voted for the financial rescue package, as did every other Democrat and Republican in the state of New York,” he said. “This is not a rescue of Wall Street. We’ve taken away golden parachutes for executives. To do nothing would have been completely irresponsible.”

Ackerman’s opponents — Queens County GOP−endorsed candidate Elizabeth Berney and Gonzalo “Jun” Policarpio, who is running on the Conservative line — each took different tactics to appeal to voters.

Policarpio, born in the Philippines, stressed securing the nation’s borders from potential terrorists and played up his conservative credentials.

“America is the promised land as it says in the Scripture,” he said. “If a nation does not consult God, there is no justice or peace. I’m running on conservative values, basic American values.”

Berney said she opposed many of Ackerman’s views on national issues.

“I think he is bad on Middle Eastern policy and is too soft on Iran,” she said. “We need energy independence, but our congressman has voted against it. We need to use local sources of energy rather than get it from other countries.”

The 5th Congressional District covers a number of neighborhoods, including Bayside, Flushing, Whitestone, Corona, Douglaston, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck and several Long Island communities.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) touted his 36 years of experience in Albany and said he would take part in city public hearings on the oversight of school governance.

“We’ll give everyone an opportunity to come forward and discuss what is good and bad,” he said. “There is no city like this anywhere in the nation. We spend $14,000 per year on each child’s education. But is it working?”

City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows), Padavan’s opponent, could not attend the event due to a family emergency, Skala said. The 11th Senate District covers Bayside, Douglaston, College Point, Little Neck and Glen Oaks, as well as parts of Whitestone, Kew Gardens and Fresh Meadows.

State Assemblywoman Ann−Margaret Carrozza (D−Bayside) said she is proud of her voting record, especially on economic issues.

“I have been incredibly independent in Albany,” she said. “One piece of legislation [I voted for] was to make insurance companies accountable to consumers, especially as we stare into the chasm of a $10 billion [state] debt.”

Republican Rob Speranza, a former 102nd Precinct officer running against Carrozza, said he thought the state’s governing body was wasting a large amount of money on member items and emphasized cutting crime in the district.

“We need to lower crime and take the streets back,” he said. “We need to eliminate waste [in the Assembly] and make sure money is going back to our school system.”

Assembly District 26 includes Bayside, Little Neck, Whitestone and Douglaston.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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