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Mayor Faults Moves to Ease Health Fines


Potential City Council legislation to reduce health-inspection fines for restaurants is motivated by elected officials' thirst to help an industry that is donating money to their political campaigns, Mayor Michael Bloomberg charged Friday.

Mr. Bloomberg didn't single out City Council Speaker Christine Quinn during remarks on his weekly radio show, but Ms. Quinn is leading the charge to address what she's described as the Bloomberg administration's borderline harassment of the restaurant industry.

Fines increased to more than $52 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, triple the amount from fiscal year 2006.

"It's a question of whether you want to help the public or not—all the restaurants got to do is get rid of the mice and the cockroaches and the open containers, follow the rules and they won't have any fines," said Mr. Bloomberg, voicing his opposition to any legislation that would reduce fines. "[Elected officials] should talk to the people who eat in the restaurants, as opposed to the people that own the restaurants and are helping their campaign."
   
Ms. Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat who is preparing a campaign to succeed Mr. Bloomberg, has the political and financial backing of a number of people in the restaurant industry.

Two restaurateurs—Simon Oren, an owner of the 5 Napkin Burger and the Sushi Samba chains, and Joseph Smith, owner of Bobby Van's Steakhouse—are listed as fundraising bundlers for Ms. Quinn's campaign.

Both Messrs. Oren and Smith collected more than $20,000 each for Ms. Quinn's campaign; in addition, Mr. Oren contributed $1,000 of his own money, and Mr. Smith gave $3,500 from personal funds. Neither could be reached for comment.

An examination of Ms. Quinn's restaurant-related donations shows at least $80,000 came from people in the industry, from a $22 contribution from Wilbert Wever, a manager at Nobu, to $4,950, the maximum amount allowed, from Stephen Hanson, CEO of BR Guest, a company that runs many high-profile city eateries.



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