Monday, December 31, 2007

VERBAL SPARKS BETWEEN POLS


Monserrate, Sabini spar over words
By Jeremy Walsh (Times Ledger)
12/27/2007
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A pair of Queens elected officials revived a longtanding feud two weeks ago when City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) accused a staffer from the office of state Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights) of making disparaging comments about illegal immigration at a Neighborhood Advisory Board meeting.

In a letter to Sabini, Monserrate said Marlene Tapper, a member of Sabini's staff, said the Rainbow Curriculum, a 443-page teachers' bibliography that encourages city teachers to read books on gay and lesbian families in their classrooms "takes away the children's innocence" by exposing them to people of differing sexual orientation. Tapper also said bilingual education is detrimental to immigrant children, and compared illegal immigration to a crime like "stealing bread," Monserrate said.

"Your staffer acted in a most inappropriate manner, was insensitive and made statements that are unnaceptable by any means," Monserrate wrote in a letter to Sabini. "I expect you to take the required appropriate action immediately."In a Dec. 3 letter, Sabini responded to Monserrate's claims."The opinions expressed by our mutual constituent are not representative of mine or my office," he wrote. "Nonetheless, steps have already been taken within the operation of my staff to address this issue."Later, Sabini released a statement highlighting his record of strong support of the rights of immigrants and gays and lesbians."It's a shame that when there are so many important issues facing New Yorkers ... that Councilman Monserrate is spending his time instead on an effort to smear one of my staff members for political gain," he said.Monserrate and Sabini have been at odds since Monserrate endorsed Sabini's rival for the state Senate seat in 2004. Monserrate himself ran against Sabini in 2006, losing by a narrow margin.Monserrate has said he is mulling a 2008 run when Sabini is up for re-election.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
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