2000-12-23 / Columnists

Short Takes

Claire Shulman has given her support to Audrey Pheffer to follow her as borough president. I like Audrey and I have always supported her, but there is something disingenuous about running for a seat in the Assembly, winning that seat and then two weeks later announcing that you are going to give it up and run for another office. I understand that Audrey will probably win, but why didn’t she make the call prior to the election and allow somebody else run for the Assembly? To me, it is all politics and it all smells.

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It seems to me from a minor reading of the facts that the people who work for St. John’s Hospital in Far Rockaway are getting the shaft and that the hospital’s administrators are getting healthy on the backs of those workers. The CEO of the church-based organization that owns the hospital says that its movement from bankruptcy to reorganization is "unprecedented" and that it took "good management, good doctor support and good employee relations." The people who work for the hospital have another story. They say that they have to work an additional two and a half hours each week without pay, that the owners have demanded that they give up all of the holiday time, sick time and vacation time that they have already earned, and that they have been asked to accept less than a quarter of the lump sum of $18 hundred dollars that they were to receive in lieu of a raise. If they do not accept those things, it has been intimated, they will lose all of their bargaining rights and job protections they enjoyed in the past. Is this any way to run a railroad – or a hospital? Only Mayor Giuliani would love it.

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There is a lot of consternation among the district’s educational leadership that The Wave will no longer publish some of its columns – including "Focus on District 27." Those who complain should understand that a newspaper is limited in the percentage of non-editorial content it can publish each week. That non-editorial content includes both advertisements and columns. Once there is more than 75 percent non-editorial matter in the paper, it can no longer be called a newspaper. It becomes a shopper’s news and it cannot be mailed at newspaper rates. The Wave was getting dangerously close to that percentage each week and had to cut columns and add editorial matter. It did so by cutting the last three columns that it picked up. People have questioned (to my face and behind my back) why I can retain two columns each week when others had to be cut. This has really become an issue and that is why I am addressing it here. There is a simple explanation for the fact that my two columns continue to be printed weekly. The first is that I have been writing both columns for more than a dozen years. The second and the more important is that both columns sell papers. That is more than could be said for the paean to our wonderful district that was seen each week in the "Focus" column. By the way, contrary to what the district’s educational leaders are saying loudly to anybody who will listen, The Wave has not "cut off" the schools. It will continue to run any press releases issued by the schools on the peninsula and by the district office

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The end of the season Queens All Star high school football team has been announced and Rickey Richardson from Beach Channel is one of the starting running backs. Richardson ran for 1,150 yards with eight touchdowns, despite being hurt for part of the season. The good news is that Rickey is a junior and will be around to lead the team next season. He is joined on the team by quarterback Sylvanus Mbachu. Mbachu threw for 435 yards and ran for another 654 – well over 1,000 yards total. He scored six touchdowns on the season. The Dolphin’s Jesse Valesquez made the second team.

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If George Bush is really interested in reconciliation with the Democrats, he is going about it in the wrong way by flying a trial balloon about appointing Floyd Flake as his new Secretary of Education. Don’t get me wrong; I like Flake even though he did bupkis for Rockaway when he was our representative. The problem is that he is 100 percent for charter schools, for vouchers and money for religious schools. To make him the top education person in the nation would send a message that the public schools should fold up and quit because all if its money will be going for religious education.

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Speaking of vouchers, the mayor (who never met a public school he could respect) says that he will pursue a voucher program for New York City despite the fact that a federal court has ruled that the vaunted Cleveland program – the model for the mayor’s program – has declared the program "unconstitutional." The mayor’s minions are sure that the Supreme Court will overturn the Cleveland ruling, but I don’t believe that will be the case. Even the voters don’t want vouchers. Plans were voted down by large margins in both California and Michigan in the last election.

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I want to congratulate the son of Wave General Manager Sandy Bernstein, David, for his graduation from boot camp in Great Lakes and his assignment to the Nuclear Power Training Command at Charleston for nuke training. Sandy, an old Navy hand himself, will appreciate it when I say that even "snipes" deserve congratulations once in a while.

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It was good to read in the Beachcomber that a Florida developer has traveled to Rockaway to look for land to develop an outlet mall. I have been pushing for such a mall for years in the Arverne Urban Renewal Area and it would be great for Rockaway if it came to fruition. I hope the developer was favorably impressed and he will want to so something about all that empty oceanfront land we have in Rockaway.

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Those who stuck with Keyspan Energy when the switch was made and who use gas heat can get a two year long Christmas bonus by making a phone call. The company’s Natural Choice Program offers homeowners who heat their homes with gas a 10 percent rebate over the next 24 months. There are no gimmicks and no catches. Call Gordon Baxter at Keyspan and have your account number handy. If he is not available, just leave a message on his voice mail.

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Congratulations to Steve Gellert, the coordinator of Student Affairs (COSA) at Beach Channel High School, for being selected as the Queens Profile of the day last week. Steve has worked hard to have students address problems in the community for many years. In addition, his wife teaches at a Rockaway elementary school. The honor and the recognition are well deserved.

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George Bush was elected in a year that ends in zero, and that does not bode well for the President-elect. William Henry Harrision (1840) died in office. Abraham Lincoln (1860) was, of course, assassinated. James Garfield (1880) was assassinated as well. William McKinley (1900) was assassinated as well. Warren G. Harding (1920) died in office. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1940) died in office. John F. Kennedy (1960) was assassinated. Ronald Reagan (1980) survived an assassination attempt and left office suffering from Alzheimer’s). Then comes Bush. Perhaps he should have let Gore win.

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I often argue for the Constitution’s prohibition against the mix of church and state. That is one reason that I never liked Floyd Flake as our representative and will like him even less as our Secretary of Education. I always thought that all of the clerics would disagree with me, but I have found that I am wrong. I recently received a letter from Monsignor Martin, the retired pastor of St. Virgilius Church in Broad Channel. I have known him for many years and he is definitely one of the good guys. He sent me an editorial from "The Catalyst," the journal of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights." He calls it a "Catholic JDL," and that is probably an apt description. The Monsignor writes, "As you know, I agree with your often expressed position on the separation of church and state. I sometimes think that the Catholic Church is the only one that pays any attention to it." The article says, in part, "When asked about the phenomenon of candidates campaigning in black churches, (Jesse) Jackson said, ‘Certainly there’s a separation of church and state. But in our community there’s little distinction between our religion and our politics…And in so many African-American churches born out of experience in this country, the role of the churches has evolved into a very active political institution which has very been effective for a number of causes in the black community." Jackson added, when asked if that supersedes the law of the land, that it does, "absolutely, oh, absolutely."

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That’s it for this week. Remember to send comments, complaints and story tips to newsie42@aol.com. Have a good week and safe home.


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