2005-12-16 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

Nobody asked me, but …

...If Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his Democratic minions in Albany do not do something soon to address the spate of illegal handgun use throughout the city, then he should be censored by his colleagues. Silver is not the only problem. The Assembly Democrats such as Audrey Pheffer and Michele Titus, the peninsula’s two Assembly members, follow his lead like sheep, accepting that what the leadership wants is what they want as well. Pheffer and Titus should be put on notice by their local constituents that they want a tough illegal gun bill passed and that they will not any longer accept the blind acceptance of Silver’s lead.

...The Federal government has just published its annual report card on urban school districts and the New York City results were less than stellar, certainly less than expected in the wake of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s announced rise in standardized test scores. The federal tests show that, in both Mathematics and Reading, the results in this city from 2003 to 2005 has really been virtually a flat line – no gains at all. There are many experts who are beginning to believe that both the city and state tests were dumbed-down to allow for higher scores at the same time that kids were crammed with test-taking skills rather than content learning. We are going to find in the long run that, while local tests are up, kids are actually learning less than in the past. Look at it this way. Chickens can be conditioned to hit the button that will provide them with feed. Are the chickens actually learning anything? Probably not! Kids are being trained extensively in how to take tests. Are they learning anything beyond test-taking skills? You be the judge.

...We celebrated the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day last week with little fanfare. For those of us who were alive that day, it became the same sort of seminal event that 9/11 has become today. Everybody remembers where they were when they heard the news about Pearl Harbor and the same goes for 9/11. The problem is that most of today’s students are not taught at all about Pearl Harbor or World War II. That is because Social Studies has become a minor subject like gym or health to make way for test-taking skills and more Language Arts. It says something about a society that does not honor its past by telling its young of the events that shaped their society. I wonder what 9/11 will mean to the youngsters in 2061.

...Mayor Bloomberg wants to bring back the dreaded commuter tax and, for once, I agree with him. State lawmakers cut the tax in 1999. At the time, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer told me that she voted to do away with the tax, which brought much-needed money to the city, because she thought that it was “not fair” to suburban workers who also paid taxes in their home towns. I don’t agree with that. The workers who come from out-of-town use city services just as those who live in the city. They use the subways, buses, police, EMS, etc. They should share in the costs. The other alternative, however, is that services such as those be withheld from out of towner’s who refuse to pay the tax. Have a heart attack on Second Avenue? Call your local volunteer ambulance. Want to ride the subway. Pay three times the resident’s fare. That’s the ticket.

...Give me a break! Michael Brown screwed the pooch when he headed FEMA during the Katrina disaster and he turned out to be more a disaster than the hurricane. He is, however, a friend of W’s, so now he started his own consulting firm and cities are lining up to pay millions for his services. Why? Because he gives them entrée to the Bush administration that they would normally not have.

...I went to Manhattan to meet friends that I have not seen in 33 years and we had a great meal at a place called Nino’s Positano Restaurant on Second Avenue between 47 and 48 Streets. Great food! Perfect service! Pricy! The point is, people in Rockaway complain about the cost of the meters throughout the community, but the meters in Manhattan are downright draconian. For one quarter you get not a half hour or an hour, but fifteen minutes. One person complained that he did not even have enough quarters in his pocket to have enough time to get to where he was going to get more quarters to feed the hungry meters.

...The aftermath of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor more than four years ago continues to generate heat even though the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled a year ago that the First Officer, who was flying the departure from JFK that beautiful November morning, caused the crash by over-controlling the plane’s rudder. Ulrich Jaeger, a reporter with Der Spiegel, a German news magazine, who has good sources inside Airbus Industries, continues to write about an internal company memorandum that shows that the airplane manufacturer cooked the testing numbers to show that the rudder could handle higher loads than it could in reality handle. We may never find out the truth about the genesis of the crash if all of the lawsuits are settled in federal court, as most are. Only if Judge Robert Sweet reopens the discovery process will Airbus and American Airlines have to produce documents about the crash. That will likely not happen for another year and a half, if at all.

...Now that an agreement has been set to take over the bus lines that really impact the quality of life here in Rockaway, we will have to wait and see what that means to local residents. Green Bus will be taken over on January 9, about three weeks from now. Jamaica Bus will be taken over on January 30 and Triboro Coach on February 20. There have long been rumors that express bus service will end when the city takes over the service, but we have been told by an MTA spokesperson that all of the present routes will remain for at least one year after the takeover. The fact is, Rockaway needs more express service, not less.

...It is hard for me to understand how Geeff Rawling, the president of the Rockaway Artists Alliance and a member of the Tribute Park Committee can support local artist Patrick Clark, who had three years to complete a project that he designed and could not complete it on time. Rawling said that the park is “still in full progress as you read this.” Go to the park and look at the empty framework that was supposed to be a glass cupola with the names of those who died on 9/11/01 and tell me that it is in “full progress.” Rawling says that we have no right to call Clark a fraud, but we look at that empty space and can say nothing else about him.

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