Daily Archives: Apr 6, 2018

(Syracuse, NY)  Juanita Perez Williams is vying for the Democratic nomination in the 24th Congressional District race. She is aiming to unseat U.S. Rep. John Katko, a Republican seeking a third term in Congress.

By: Robert Harding

Juanita Perez Williams wants to be the Democratic nominee in the 24th Congressional District race. She wants to defeat Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko in November.

However, she has a hurdle to clear in a short period of time. She must collect at least 1,250 valid signatures to qualify for the June 26 primary ballot. She has until Thursday to do it.

Perez Williams’ decision to run for Congress race caused a stir among local Democrats. Dana Balter, a professor at Syracuse University and a leading activist, won the Democratic designation in February. Until this week, it appeared Balter would be a lock to face Katko, R-Camillus, in the general election.

Enter Perez Williams, the 2017 Democratic nominee for Syracuse mayor, a mother of four adult children, an ex-Naval officer and former regional representative for the state Department of Labor.

“This is such an important vote for people in central New York and I just couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” Perez Williams said in an interview with The Citizen Thursday evening. “Watching this race unfold, I felt like if I want to change this region, I want to change this country, then I had to have the courage to get into this race.”

Perez Williams offered a blunt assessment of Katko’s performance as central New York’s congressional representative. She considers him a “nice guy,” but doesn’t believe he has stood up to President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders.

Central New York, she continued, needs someone who will fight the “unreasonable policies” coming out of Washington. She also accused Katko of being unwilling to meet or communicate with those he represents.

“He tries to act like he’s there for us, but he doesn’t do any town halls. He doesn’t respond to his constituents,” Perez Williams said. “I’ve been involved with a number of groups that just try and get in his office. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone and the reason is he can’t. He can’t be a voice for us if he wants to keep his job.”

Katko’s voting record also bothers Perez Williams. She singled out his vote in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a law signed in December that temporarily reduces income taxes for most Americans and permanently slashes the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.

When Katko explained his vote, he said the tax measure would help a vast majority of his constituents. But critics claimed it would largely benefit wealthy individuals and corporations.

“For him to come out and say that this benefits his constituents is just so untrue,” Perez Williams said. “We look at how it’s going to impact the individual taxpayer as opposed to corporations. We look at how it’s disingenuous with regard to health care. John is attempting to really tell his voters one thing but on the other hand, he’s doing another.”

But before Perez Williams can take on Katko, a primary awaits. If she can qualify for the June 26 ballot, she will face Balter.

Balter has been in the race for seven months — she formally declared her candidacy in September — and won the support of Democratic committees in Cayuga, Onondaga, Oswego and Wayne counties. She has been endorsed by grassroots groups in central New York, including local Indivisible chapters. The national Indivisible organization, which was created to oppose the Trump agenda, endorsed Balter this week.

Balter’s campaign released a statement after it was revealed that Perez Williams would run for Congress. The comments highlighted the support for Balter and her focus on defeating Katko in the general election.

Perez Williams praised Balter and called her a “great candidate.” But, she added, her decision to enter the race is “about winning.”

“This is about being able to get out there and mount a serious campaign that beats John Katko,” she said. “In order to do that, we need national attention. We need a focus on us that brings in not only funding but endorsements and the ability to flip this seat.

“I waited on the sidelines. I was part of that designation process. I supported Dana and was there for her. But at the end of the day, it’s about winning. I jumped into this because we need to win. It’s not just about sticking to our principles with a designated candidate that is not getting any traction.”

Local Democratic leaders were surprised by Perez Williams’ decision to enter the race. Earlier this week, she contacted Mark English, chairman of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee, to notify him that she would be a candidate for Congress.

There was a new development Wednesday. English and the three other Democratic chairs in the district issued a joint statement criticizing the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for “meddling” in the 24th district race.

The statement didn’t mention Perez Williams by name, nor did it detail the DCCC’s activities in the district. A source with knowledge of the situation told The Citizen that the DCCC was supporting Perez Williams’ effort to gather petitions.

Perez Williams asserted it was her decision to run for Congress.

“I know there are people out there talking about who’s involved, who’s supporting me, who’s behind this and that gets to the point,” she said. “When you’re an experienced candidate and people know you can raise money and people know you can get national attention, they’re going to come after you. That’s what we need! We need that type of support.”

With the deadline approaching, Perez Williams is confident she will collect the signatures needed to qualify for the primary ballot. She said hundreds of people who supported her mayoral campaign last year are circulating petitions.

She is familiar with playing the role of the outsider in a Democratic primary fight. In the Syracuse mayoral race last year, she did not win the party’s designation. She ran in the primary and won.

As the Democratic nominee, she received support from prominent officials and organizations. Former Vice President Joe Biden and EMILY’s List, a group that works to elect Democratic women, endorsed her campaign.

Perez Williams lost the general election to independent candidate Ben Walsh. But she believes that experience will help her as she prepares for a grueling congressional campaign.

“We learned that when you fall and when you lose you get right back up because it’s not about you. It’s not about your agenda. It’s not about worrying about the naysayers,” she said. “It’s about getting up, knowing people are relying on you. They have an expectation and really that’s what led me to get in this congressional race.”

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – During a meeting of local law enforcement tasked with improving school safety, Syracuse Police Deputy Chief Derek McGork revealed a joint law enforcement effort was able to thwart a potentially dangerous situation.

22-year-old Syracuse University student Xiaoteng Zhan was put on law enforcement’s radar when a gunshop employee called the Madison County Sheriff’s Office to report Zhan as a suspicious person.

The employee told deputies Zhan came to the shop to purchase an AR-15 and also inquired about “high capacity shotguns.”

He had a valid New York State hunting license, but the employee refused to sell any weapons to Zhan, who was a Chinese National legally living in the U.S. on a student Visa.

It is a federal offense to own a gun if you are not a U.S. citizen, but there are some exceptions — like having a valid hunting license.

Law enforcement determined Zhan got the license the day before he went to the gunshop on March 12.

“Our concern was then, who knows that you need a hunting license if you’re not a U.S. citizen? And we began to wonder if he had done some research. If this was purposeful and he knew he had to get a hunting license to try and get a gun,” McGork said.

“Ultimately, we had determined he had taken a hunter safety course at Greenway-Verona Mills Fish and Game Club in Verona New York. Again, that became concerning. There are a number of places where you can buy guns in Syracuse. Our concern was why did you drive to Madison County to buy a gun? It gets a little concerning for us,” McGork continued.

It was further determined that the Zhan had sought psychiatric care at two separate facilities around the same time.

The psychiatric evaluations determined that Zhan drank heavily, had suicidal ideations and felt as though he might lose control and act violently.

A separate incident at Northeastern University, where Zhan previously attended was also revealed, but police did not elaborate.

While performing a building check, Zhan’s landlord also told Syracuse Police that he found several rounds of ammunition in plain view inside his apartment on March 16.

Law enforcement was unable to locate Zhan during Syracuse University’s spring break — which also happened to fall during national walkout movements for the Parkland shooting.

That caused further concerned because Zhan’s intentions and motives were still unknown.

Zhan was in Mexico on spring break, and on March 16, a fellow student wrote to Syracuse University about Zhan’s “concerning behavior.”

The student indicated that Zhan exhibited signs of severe depression and wrote in an email, “the dark side of me has propelled me to practice shooting, buying a gun and bulletproof vest.”

The student described him as unstable and was concerned for their own safety while in Mexico.

A search warrant was obtained for Zhan’s Syracuse residence at which time the following items were found at his apartment:

  • 1 Advanced Optics Tactical Reflex Dot Sight
  • 1 MidTen Tactical Red Dot Gun Sight
  • 1 Ultimate Arms Gear Tactical 10, 12 & 20 gauge shotgun shoulder carrier
  • A UPS package containing Trinity Supply laser scope
  • 1 300 Lumen weapon light
  • 2 used gun range targets
  • Multiple shotgun slugs and other receipts from a gun range west of Rochester

Since nothing criminal had happened, law enforcement wasn’t sure what to do with Zhan when he got back to the U.S. from Mexico.

Ultimately, upon his return, Zhan’s student visa was revoked and he was deported back to China.

Following Zhan’s deportation communication sent via a Chinese messaging app was translated, further shedding light on his plans.

Zhan: The reason I want to buy guns is not to go hunting. Can we meet tomorrow? I’m only talking about the things I have done, I might do something extreme in the future.

Girl responds: You should go to bed now. You should stop playing that character.

Zhan: I might use the gun to cause trouble.

Girl responds: As long as you don’t kill anyone especially not kids.

Zhan: I don’t need a bulletproof vest to commit suicide. I have been preparing, but the darkside has pushed me to make preparation from practicing shooting to purchasing a gun and a bulletproof vest.

Girl responds: Are you crazy?

Zhan: Who knows? I hope I don’t reach that point. Anti-social personality. Enough about this don’t mention this to anyone.

McGork praised the collaborative effort and stressed the importance of “If you see something, say something.”

Syracuse University issued the following statement:

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Earlier this evening, a local media outlet published a story about an incident involving a now former Syracuse University student.

Several law enforcement agencies identified that student as posing a potential threat to public safety. When the University learned about the situation, the student was already out of the country. The student never returned to Syracuse, New York and the Syracuse University community was never in danger.

As a result of the quick action and tremendous collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the potential threat was swiftly eradicated.

Because of the nature of the case, Syracuse University honored the request of law enforcement to maintain confidentiality while the investigation was underway to prevent jeopardizing the outcome.

Per our University policy, and because this was a student conduct matter, we will not be providing further details.

Ensuring the safety and well-being of all members of our campus community is and will always be Syracuse University’s chief priority. Any behaviors that violate our community standards, values or Code of Conduct will not be tolerated and will be met with appropriate disciplinary action.

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló reiterated Thursday his position regarding Senate Resolution 215, which would halt the government’s disbursement of operational funds for Puerto Rico’s fiscal oversight board, saying the priority should be to prevent the federally established panel from wresting the commonwealth government’s powers.

By Génesis Ibarra

“The 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico know well that one of the most important pillars of democracy and the Republican form of government is representation,” the governor said in a statement.” The United States of America broke with imperialism long ago to create a system based on recognizing the will of the people while preserving the rule of law. Unfortunately, the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico have lived under a political system where these essential values are reduced and encumbered under a territorial status and colonial relationship with the United States Federal Government. As such, we demand equal treatment for every U.S. citizen residing on the Island.

“I support our local Legislature in exercising its important duty of representing the People of Puerto Rico. As they fulfill their responsibility, I am also called to execute my duties under local and federal law, including PROMESA. This federal statute was enacted to accomplish three main objectives: (1) fiscal discipline, (2) regain access to the capital markets, and (3) promote economic development while ensuring essential services to the People of Puerto Rico.

“I remain committed to achieving those objectives, meeting my responsibilities under applicable law and promoting the best interest of our people. Observing these duties does not contradict our opposition to any overreach by the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) when attempting to exercise powers and authority preserved for the duly elected Government of Puerto Rico. The duty of the FOMB is to also observe…PROMESA and work alongside the Government of Puerto Rico in finding fiscal solutions for our continued dire situation.”

During a press conference Wednesday, Rosselló’s reply to the media’s first question on the matter was: “Puerto Rico is a jurisdiction of law and order. I respect the power that the Legislative Assembly has to express itself and to establish what its points of view and vision are. The truth is we are going to be struggling and we are facing the board on matters that are going above the law.”

To a follow-up question, Rosselló reiterated that the island “is a jurisdiction of law and order,” and recalled that the federal Promesa law establishes that Puerto Rico defray the expenses incurred by the fiscal board, which currently has a $60 million budget.

While House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez and Senate Thomas Rivera Schatz watched with seriousness the action far from the podium–unlike their usual, shoulder to shoulder positions with the governor–Rosselló maintained that the steps to fight the board together would be determined “facing the future.”

“To defend the principles of democracy in Puerto Rico and to defend all Puerto Ricans, we won’t leave any initiative without revisiting [it] to ensure we can achieve those goals,” he added.

Growing exasperated Wednesday, the governor was emphatic that his administration does not have to do “anything else at this time,” because it has already taken the first step of refuting the fiscal board’s demands with letters to the panel and Congressman Rob Bishop.

At the insistence of the media to learn his position regarding the resolution, authored by Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Juan Dalmau, the governor repeated that his only interest is that the government not be deprived of its powers to establish public policy.

“Looking ahead, we will do everything we can to prevent the power of the government of Puerto Rico from being taken, that the people be abused and that onerous measures that don’ benefit our people be taken,” he replied.

“Looking ahead, I’ve already said it, no, no…. Maybe another follow-up question comes to that end, but I’m already alerting you… I’m answering youñ if you listen well, I’m answering. […] Looking ahead, all alternatives are on the table,” he added.

At the end of the press briefing after a legislative conference of just over an hour, the House speaker said he had not seen Senate Joint Resolution 215 and left for his office without giving any more details.

On Tuesday, the governor stressed he would do “whatever,” including going to jail, to face the board’s impositions. On Wednesday, did not answer if he would take immediate action to stop disbursing funds to the panel created by Promesa.

No fear

Asked whether he feared that the board would lift the protection provided by Promesa under Title III, and that would leave the government exposed to creditor lawsuits, the governor replied: “Why would we be afraid? Where we elected to be afraid? Whoever is afraid should go home.”

The governor identified 48 board demands and said he would consider those of a fiscal nature, but not those of public policy. He explained that the changes to the fiscal plan he will submit to the fiscal panel Thursday focus on the “macroeconomic base,” as the distribution of resources and when these are allocated.

“We aren’t in a confrontation against the board,” said, contradicting himself before indicating later during the conference that “we are having this confrontation with the board,” but saying, “We are in a confrontation in favor of defending the people of Puerto Rico, which are two different concepts.”

On Thursday, the governor will again submit his fiscal plan to the board, after the entity had returned it and requested revisions before it could be certified.

“We believe we have a robust, viable fiscal plan that addresses a series of historical cuts, not only for Puerto Rico, but for any jurisdiction in the United States,” he said without giving further details about the document.



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