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Bill Perkins

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Harlem Pol: Bloomberg Should Sell Congestion Plan as Health Issue

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Mayor Bloomberg has said he wants the State Legislature to act on his congestion-pricing proposals this session — which means in the next month, as the session ends in mid-June — and an influential state senator thinks that it's doable if the mayor stresses the public-health benefits of the plan. Senator Bill Perkins, a longtime Harlem pol, told us outside a panel discussion this morning that Bloomberg should stress how decreased traffic can lead to cleaner air and lower asthma rates, as a similar plan did in London. Kids' health is indeed one of Bloomberg's passions, but Perkins says that point hasn't gotten through in Albany. So far, he said, "the message has a businessman's flavor to it." A shift in rhetoric, the state senator said, could well lead to the needed legislation. "It's difficult, but it's possible," he said. —Alec Appelbaum

Obama Set to Score First New York Endorsement

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New York is Hillary Clinton's home turf, but tomorrow Barack Obama will receive his first formal endorsement from a New York elected official, State Senator Bill Perkins, according to a knowledgeable source. Obama has been able to poach several big-money backers from his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination — he's got several more fund-raisers scheduled in the city this weekend — but Perkins, a longtime Harlem politician, will be the first elected to formally support the Illinois senator. The endorsement is likely to ruffle the feathers of Harlem boss Charlie Rangel, a Hillary supporter, who recently declared, "I don't know Obama supporters in New York." It's not the first time Perkins has gone against the Harlem establishment: He supported Howard Dean in the 2004 primary, when Rangel was supporting General Wesley Clark. "It's all posturing, all game playing," said one Harlem political strategist. "He's trying to make the eye in the sky look at him." Perkins hasn't returned a call for comment. —Geoffrey Gray