On The Beach
With Beverly Baxter
Tom Ognibene – Running For Mayor On Principle
Even if you’ve never met him, you’ve known him all along. He’s that elegant elder statesman, that wise uncle with whom you love to confer, or that savant who seems to have spent much time within the halls of academia. Except for his towering height (he stands 6’ 2), he would be humbly unassuming in a crowd; yet Tom Ognibene has towering hopes of becoming the next Mayor of the City of New York.
For many within the political arena who have felt marginalized by the blending of the two parties into one homogeneous party called “The Republicrats”, Tom Ognibene is a Republican in its purest form.
After receiving The Queens County Republican Party’s formal endorsement as their candidate for Mayor in the September Primary, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Ognibene at his offices on Myrtle Avenue to ask, among many things, the one most obvious of questions. “Why?” Why would a successful attorney who has also had a distinguished two-terms as a NYC Councilmember and Minority Leader choose to mount a Primary against an incumbent Republican Mayor who carries with him a billionaire’s purse and the blessings of the statewide Republican Party. After all, with a dollar and a dream one would seemingly have a better chance. Why would he not simply go off into that goodnight?
The answer? One word: Principle.To describe his aspiration as pure chutzpah is only partly correct. Mr. Ognibene’s quest is more aligned with the essence of what is the “American Dream”; the belief that individuals can rise up from an oppressive monopoly and make government accountable to them.
TO: The Republican Party is not for sale. It is clear from Mr. Bloomberg’s actions over the past three and a half years that he never represented the Republican Party or cared to carry foward its principles. In fact, by his own admission, he is a “Republican in name only.”
BB: Many Republicans would agree with you that Mr. Bloomberg is truly a Liberal who donned a Republican facade to merely get elected; yet he has the support of the Republican State Committee. In mounting a primary, you have encouraged their wrath. You do, however, have the support of the Queens County Leadership; and while there is an active grassroots effort supporting you, without the financial support at the state level, can you expect to mount a formidible campaign on principle alone?
TO: The question is this: Why is the Republican hierarchy in the city of New York afraid of having a primary? What is wrong with having competing philosophies and alternative views. It’s what fosters a healthy debate of the issues. My belief is that if we continue to nominate and support candidates who have no interest in promoting party principles, the party will ultimately stand for nothing. We need a two party system. This mayor doesn’t care about the Republican Party.
BB: Let’s discuss the glaring differences between you and the Mayor.
TO: The Mayor broke with Republican principles as soon as he took office. Although he insisted he would not do so, he raised our taxes, refused to streamline our bloated city budget, he failed to implement meaningful changes in education, and he has opposed us on many social issues—like his position with regard to gay marriage. While the courts voted against it, Mr. Bloomberg supports it.
BB: How would a Tom Ognibene Administration improve Public Education?
TO: I would first return education to the school level where Principals oversee the educational aspects, the Director of Operations oversees financial aspects, and teaching is left to the teachers. What we have now are “scripted educational mandates” which must be removed from the equation in order for teachers to teach. This “route-way” of education may improve test scores, but not in the long run. Education has been a way to advance economically and socially. How can students learn when they are afraid to attend classes, there is nothing to improve discipline, and students don’t feel answerable to teachers.
BB: Democrats and Liberals are fervently pro-choice; yet they are opposed to “choice-education. What is your position with regard to vouchers?
TO: The state spends between thirteen and fourteen thousand dollars a year to educate a student in public school. Parents should get a rebate, voucher, or tax credit based on their child’s educational performance. It’s an incentive for students and parents. I fully support vouchers for Parochial, Private, Charter, and even Home Study education. I would also end Bilingual Education because it holds children back. The common bond of a society is its common language. While this Mayor funds Bilingual education, I would not.
BB: Another glaring difference between you and Mr. Bloomberg is with regard to the west side stadium-or the house that the taxpayers built for Woody Johnson.
TO: I’m opposed to the building of a stadium on the west side. I believe that the practices of this administration is the equivalent to Insider Trading. By that I mean that it has made taxpayer’s money available for the building of venues for the exclusive profit of a handful of exclusive wealthy friends. Just as this Mayor has been vigilant in his pursuit of building a stadium and now the Olympics in 2012, he should be as vigilant with regard to mixed-use housing on that site. It makes more financial sense as it would provide a bigger return on our investment. The taxes generated from the construction of a few thousand units of housing would far exceed the revenue derived from the stadium.
BB: You have advocated for the building of a stadium in Queens.
TO: Yes! But Mr. Bloomberg stated that we “couldn’t sell luxury box-seats”! So you see, it’s all about creating a windfall for his friends like Woody Johnson.
I would also say to the NFL that we begged you in 2001 to hold the Super-Bowl here in N.Y. to honor the 3000 who died on 911— and to help us recover—and you wouldn’t do it. But they’ll do it to honor Woody Johnson. It’s an insult and a disgrace. What is wrong with revitilizing the Willets Pt/Shea Stadium area of Queens?
BB: Why are you opposed to the hosting of the Olympics in 2012?
TO: It would not be financially good for the city. The only entities that make money are those who build the venues; the picks and shovels. I compare the Olympics to Atlantic City. It did nothing to improve the area. It only enhanced the owners of the casinos.
I will be writing more about the candidacy of Tom Ognibene between now and the September Republican Primary; but for now, you can come and better acquaint yourself with his positions at a Wine and Cheese reception in his honor at Pier 92 this Sunday April 24 from 2 ‘til 4p.m.
The occasion is being hosted by The Rockaway Republicans.
***Happy Birthday wishes to Anne McKeon and Mary Bright!
***See you...On the Beach!