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18th Council District incumbent Annabel Palma answers to her constituents, not to 1199 SEIU, she said. Palma has funded new school libraries, pushed playground renovations and opposed Mayor Michael Bloomberg on term limits. In 2003, Palma had 1199 SEIU, the healthcare workers union, help run her campaign. The Democrat and former 1199 SEIU member won but was fined $30,000 by the Campaign Finance Board.
Palma’s latest campaign is grassroots, she said. Born and raised in the 18th Council District, Palma will depend on her City Hall record when constituents hit the polls on Tuesday, November 3. No problematic public funds for Palma this go around; the incumbent has raised $46,948 – only private contributions. She had no challenger in the Democratic primary but Green Party candidate Walter Nestler has raised $14,389 and $34,969 in public funds.
“We had more than 5,500 [petition] signatures to get on the ballot…without the [campaign] operation I had in 2003,” Palma said. “That demonstrates the good faith of the community.”
Nursing a cup of coffee at Olga Lidis Restaurant on Castle Hill Avenue, the former healthcare worker highlighted her contributions to 18th Council District neighborhoods.
“Our students have new books and SMART Boards,” she said. “To see state-of-the-art school libraries in a district long underserved is wonderful.”
Palma has used Croton Water Filtration Plant mitigation funds to renovate Soundview Park. She passed rezones of Harding Park and Clason Point. Nestler thinks that Palma has failed to hold the Parks Department accountable for contamination in Soundview Park and elsewhere. No so, the incumbent replied.
“There has been a lot of community input,” Palma said. “I know there were test results that people wanted to see but there’s a process. I have an open line to [Parks Department] Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Bronx [Parks Department] Commissioner Hector Aponte…When we tell them to engage the community, they do.”
One hurdle has been a Seventh Day Adventist senior housing development at White Plains Road and Randall Avenue, Palma admitted. The development was supposed to be occupied in 2008 but sits empty.
“The community is ready for it open and so am I,” she said. “But it has to be done the right way. The Department of Buildings has issues. We don’t want to rush it.”
Nestler wanted Palma to block what he described as an out-of-scale development but the 18th Council District desperately needs senior housing, the incumbent said. Palma has set aside funds to help keep small businesses afloat and is a sponsor of a bill that would require small businesses to offer paid sick leave. Her proudest moment at City Hall was when she opposed Bloomberg on term limits, Palma said. She beat Senator Pedro Espada and his son in 2003. Palma has no patience for the shenanigans that Espada promulgates.
“I reside in the district,” she said. “Rules are meant to be followed.”
When Palma hit City Hall in 2004 she was “going to change the world” but the City Council has tempered her idealism. The incumbent is a sponsor of a bill that would offer additional benefits to people infected with HIV.
“There are 50 other council members,” Palma said. “You learn to compromise.”
Palma doesn’t take orders from 1199 SEIU but wants a job at the union when her career in government ends, she said. Why run again? To help a constituent find a better apartment. To help a constituent obtain homeless services. To help a constituent keep his or her lights on.
“I go home to 1510 Unionport Road,” Palma said. “Elected or not, I’m going to be here. I need to work for the community.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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