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Archie Spigner, ‘Godfather of Politics’ in Queens, Dies at 92 – The New York Times



Archie Spigner, a New York City councilman who was a political kingmaker in southeast Queens for a half-century, helping fellow Black politicians climb the ladder and coaxing jobs and construction projects into his district, died on Oct. 29 in, of course, Queens. He was 92.

His wife, Leslie Spigner, said the cause was cancer. He died at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

Mr. Spigner represented his home base on the City Council from 1974 to 2001, the last 15 of those years as the deputy to the majority leader Peter F. Vallone. But in his district he was nobody’s second in command. For 50 years — from 1970 until his death — Mr. Spigner ran the United Democratic Club of Queens and served as a district leader, positions that gave him power to help shape the Democratic Party’s local leadership.

In an area that reliably voted Democratic, a nod from Mr. Spigner all but assured election. As Donnie Whitehead, a local campaign manager, put it, Mr. Spigner’s blessing was as essential to a candidate in southeast Queens as Christ’s was to a Christian hoping to gain entry to Heaven.

In 2009, managing a rival campaign in a Democratic primary, Mr. Whitehead had vowed to change that. “No more only getting elected through Archie,” he declared.

Once again, Mr. Spigner’s candidate won.

“He was the godfather of politics in southeastern Queens,” said Representative Gregory Meeks, the area’s House member.

Credit…John Sotomayor/The New York Times

Mr. Spigner oversaw Mr. Meeks’s rise along with those of many other Black leaders from Queens, including Kenneth N. Browne, the borough’s first Black member of the New York State Assembly and its first Black State Supreme Court justice; Andrew Jenkins, its first Black state senator; and Alton R. Waldon Jr., its first Black representative in Congress.

His influence extended to any Democrat, of any race, running in his area. At Mr. Spigner’s funeral, Senator Chuck Schumer attributed his own 1998 Senate victory in part to Mr. Spigner’s support.

As a local-minded city councilman, Mr. Spigner helped shepherd the sale of the oft-criticized Jamaica Water Supply Company, New York City’s last privately owned waterworks, to the city government in 1997, bringing down costs for residents of southeast Queens. To spur local business, he successfully pushed for the construction of a permanent building for York College, part of the City University of New York, in the Jamaica section; a subway extension to downtown Jamaica; and a regional headquarters of the Social Security Administration.

But some who sought to change the status quo in city politics saw a downside to Mr. Spigner’s clout and successful promotion of pet projects.

“He got all of that by never causing any problems for the leadership,” said Ronnie Eldridge, who served with Mr. Spigner on the City Council. “He was not open to any great reforms.”

Credit…Chester Higgins, Jr./The New York Times

Preservationists used Mr. Spigner’s name as a verb to signify opposition to designating buildings as landmarks. On several occasions he thwarted attempts to protect New York’s single-room occupancy hotels.

The website of the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit group, describes the loss of those units as “the most significant single change in New York City’s housing stock during the emergence of modern homelessness.”

S.R.O. policy was one of several issues on which Ms. Eldridge opposed Mr. Spigner. Yet she fondly recalled socializing with him when she was an executive of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the 1970s and ’80s.

“Every time the Port Authority had a party, Archie was there,” Ms. Eldridge said, adding, “Archie was just a very affable man.”

Archie Hugo Spigner was born on Aug. 27, 1928, in Orangeburg, S.C., to Walter and Estelle (Kitt) Spigner. His father was a house painter, his mother a church volunteer. His family moved to New York when Archie was 7, and he grew up in Harlem.

From the start he had Black political mentors. As a young bus driver engaged in union activism, Mr. Spigner drew the attention of the labor leader A. Philip Randolph. Mr. Spigner was charged with forming a Queens branch of Mr. Randolph’s Negro American Labor Council.

While looking for a meeting place for his group, Mr. Spigner met Mr. Browne, who was running for the State Assembly. Mr. Browne took Mr. Spigner to the local Democratic club and introduced him to the district leader Guy R. Brewer.

Mr. Spigner would become an essential operative for both men as they blazed a path for Black candidates in Queens politics. Mr. Brewer was also elected an assemblyman, and when he stepped down as district leader, he anointed Mr. Spigner his successor.

At Mr. Brewer’s urging, Mr. Spigner attended college, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Queens College in 1972.

In 1974, however, the two men became rivals when both sought the City Council seat representing southeast Queens. The local club held a secret ballot to resolve the dispute, and Mr. Spigner won by a single vote. He stayed on the Council until 2001, when the introduction of term limits forced him out.

Credit…Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

Mr. Spigner’s first marriage, to Christine Townsend, ended with her death in 2007. In addition to Leslie Spigner, his second wife, he is survived by a son from his first marriage, Philip; a grandson; and two great-granddaughters.

Even though he ran the Democratic clubhouse, in the St. Albans section of Queens, Mr. Spigner did not treat it as a personal fief and went about his business without fanfare. His office was a little-used room in the back, and rather than frequenting expensive steak houses, he held morning meetings in Queens diners.

“He wasn’t big on trying to drain anybody’s pockets to get a $100 dinner,” said Leroy Comrie, a state senator and one of Mr. Spigner’s many protégés. “He just wanted to deal with the issue.”

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Canadian politicians won't get vaccine prioritization – CTV News



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other political leaders of all levels will be waiting their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine like most other Canadians.

“We have really based our priorities on burden of illness, so people who have died most of the disease or have been most touched with complications, and frontline health-care workers, as well as Indigenous communities and remote communities. Political leaders are not part of these groups,” said Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.

This of course, is not unexpected, as the latest advice from NACI— the group of medical, pharmaceutical and public health experts who make recommendations to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on vaccines and vaccine-related issues—was to narrow down its priority list due to the small number of initial doses expected.

Under the revised recommendations, the advisory committee has identified four specific groups as the ones who should be considered for early immunization.

  • Residents and staff of long-term care, assisted living, retirement homes, and chronic-care hospitals;
  • Individuals of advanced age (starting with 80 years and older and expanding by five-year increments to age 70 years as doses become available);
  • Health-care and personal support workers, considering exposure risk and direct contact with patients; and
  • Indigenous communities

In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh criticized the government for not securing more doses that could be ready in the initial rollout, which is right now estimated to be six million doses by March 31, which is enough to vaccinate three million people.

“The census shows that seniors that are over 70 years of age, there are more… then the three million that the doses will cover,” Singh said. “The first round should have secured more.”

Asked earlier this week whether he’d be looking to get one of the early doses, Trudeau said that he’s “going to trust the experts to make the right determination of what the priority populations are.”

Discussions are continuing with the provinces as to how many doses of the initial tranche each will have access to.

Dr. Quach-Thanh said that while her team is offering the recommendations for who should get access to the first doses, “it is very possible that in the end, logistically and based on local epidemiology, provinces might decide to tweak a bit within the priorities.”

She also said that NACI is not recommending the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory, nor is it the government’s plan to force anyone to be immunized.

With files from CTV News’ Jackie Dunham

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The Political World Starts To Move On From Trump – NPR



President Trump leaves after speaking in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Thanksgiving.

Pool/Getty Images

Pool/Getty Images

While President Trump continues to baselessly allege widespread election fraud, the political world is starting to move on from his presidency.

Key states have certified their election results.

Republican election officials have pushed back against the president’s rhetoric, which they say led to threats against election workers.

“Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language,” Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said Tuesday. “Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up. And if you take a position of leadership, show some.”

A growing number of Republican senators are acknowledging Democrat Joe Biden will be president. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia noted a “change of command at the top” during a video conference call with the Republican Jewish Coalition this week.

“We have the potential if we have a majority in the Senate on the Republican side,” Perdue said, “that Mitch McConnell could indeed negotiate with Biden in a way that we haven’t seen in two or three administrations.”

Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, said there is no evidence of a level of fraud that would overturn the election results.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the Associated Press.

Those comments were met with swift rebukes from conservative media, resulted in a “contentious” meeting for Barr at the White House with President Trump, who later would not say if he still had confidence in the man who had been seen as a principal ally.

Legislatively, Trump is also being nudged aside. He has threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act because he wants some protections for social media companies stripped.

But Democrats announced Friday that there would be a vote Tuesday on it and that they there are enough votes to override the president’s veto if it came to that.

“I am very pleased that we have a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on NDAA and look forward to overwhelmingly passing both chambers next week, and if necessary, overriding a threatened veto by President Trump,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor.

And the Republican senator negotiating the defense bill, Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, told Trump in no uncertain terms that he’s not getting what he wants in this one — despite being called out by Trump on Twitter.

One person who has entered as a player in congressional negotiations, however, is Biden. He is calling for “compromise” on a coronavirus aid package that could be passed before he officially becomes president. And he twice declined to say Friday whether he had spoken to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on the subject.

Democrats want a bigger deal, but Biden is hoping to keep his party at bay by promising to push for more when he’s officially president.

For his part, and for all the bluster, Trump appears to be moving on, too — of course without acknowledging defeat. History doesn’t look kindly on one-term American presidents, and that has to eat at Trump.

Multiple sources tell NPR Trump is seriously considering a 2024 presidential bid. He could even announce it officially in the week or days before Biden is inaugurated in an effort to overshadow the new president.

Trump will try to convince his loyal base that he might make a comeback. He’ll attempt to keep them fired up while freezing out other Republicans for 2024. But will Republicans continue to stay on bended knee to Trumpism or will they try to reclaim their party?

While Trump would be a formidable candidate if he ran again, he’d be 78 years old in 2024, and there are lots of hungry — and younger — upstarts in the party waiting in the wings, who’ve mostly held their tongues over these past four years.

The biggest question is whether Trump would really want to risk losing — again. Or would he rather hit a drive off into the sunset of one of his golf courses while holding up a flag of fraud to save face to millions of his fans?

This is all new terrain for someone like Trump. He’s never had to face as public a defeat as this one in a way that he couldn’t spin his way out of. His divorces were messy, but he used them for tabloid attention. His bankruptcies and business losses, we now know, were written off to the tune of nearly $1 billion.

Maybe he’ll start a TV outlet to rival Fox. Maybe he won’t. Trump will always angle for attention and dangle tantalizing possibilities for himself — even if never follows through.

But reality is starting to set in, if not for Trump, then for the rest of Washington and beyond.

States are set to finalize their electors Tuesday.

Electors will then officially cast votes Dec. 14.

And what then, as it starts dawning on Trump in his final weeks that he’s really going to have to exit the White House grounds?

What gets done through executive order or via agency regulations? Which allies will he pardon — preemptively or otherwise? Will it include his family, himself?

There aren’t many more ticks left on the clock of the Trump presidency. America will be trying to figure out some time what just happened and where to go from here.

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Sanders opposes bipartisan COVID-19 relief deal, calling it 'not acceptable' as it lacks payments for Americans – USA TODAY



Savannah Behrmann

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COVID-19 stimulus: Biden unveils new economic team

Biden said “help is on the way” and called on Congress to pass a “robust” COVID-19 relief package while unveiling his administration’s economic team.

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Friday he cannot support a bipartisan $908 billion coronavirus relief proposal revealed this week “unless it is significantly improved.”

The $908 billion proposal is intended as a temporary relief package and was proposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as an effort to get congressional leaders from both parties to negotiate a deal on legislation. 

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“Given the enormous economic desperation facing working families in this country today, I will not be able to support the recently announced Manchin-Romney COVID proposal unless it is significantly improved,” Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats and is a prominent progressive lawmaker, said in a statement. 

Many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have expressed optimism and support for the emerging deal. Moderate Senators admitted the proposal outlined would upset partisans on both sides, but is a necessary compromise as the country faces rising COVID-19 case counts and economic pain.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who also caucuses with Democrats, said the “whole idea” of the proposal was something that would “work for a substantial majority of both houses,” even if it’s “not entirely satisfactory to everybody.” 

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Sanders objected to giving “legal immunity to corporations”, as well as the exclusion of another round of $1,200 checks for Americans, which was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed in March. He called this departure “not acceptable”. 

“At a time when the COVID crisis is the worst that it has ever been in the U.S. with record-breaking levels of hospitalization and death, the Manchin-Romney proposal not only provides no direct payments to working families, it does nothing to address the health care crisis and has totally inadequate financial assistance for the most vulnerable,” Sanders said. “That is wrong morally and it is wrong economically if we hope to rebuild the economy.”

President-elect Joe Biden has encouraged the bipartisan talks, and suggested Friday that he favors the direct payments, saying, “I think it would be better if they had the $1,200” and that he believes that “may be still in play.”

Sanders’ statement indicates some possible progressive opposition, and any successful legislation will need support from Republicans and Democrats.

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The bill has concerned others on the opposite side of the political spectrum, with some calling it too expensive.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., broke with many of his Republican colleagues, saying he won’t support a bill unless it includes a new round of the $1,200 checks.

“I’m not sure why it’s controversial,” Hawley said. “I’m a little baffled by it.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have stated they supported using the $908 billion proposal as the basis for negotiations and talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Lawmakers face a tight schedule if leadership is to include COVID-19 relief with the spending bill, which is needed to avoid a federal government shutdown after December 11. Pelosi told reporters on Friday that “there is momentum” toward making a deal. 

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Congress has not passed a comprehensive relief package since March, and as case totals climbed and benefits lapsed, Democrats and Republicans were unable to come together on another deal. The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate offered their own versions of legislation and negotiations continued between the White House and Democratic leaders, all to no avail. 

Millions of Americans face the possibility of several more aid programs expiring after Christmas if Congress does not act.

The proposal includes funding for state, local and tribal governments, a federal boost in unemployment insurance, small-business support programs, funding for the U.S. Postal Service, among other things. 

More: Republicans are hit the hardest as coronavirus spreads among elected leaders

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to significantly improve this bill,” Sanders said. “But, in its current form, I cannot support it.”

Contributing: Nicholas Wu, Christal Hayes

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