East End Matters...
The time has come to make a decision. On Tuesday, November 3, New Yorkers will go to the polls to choose a new mayor and on the east end of Rockaway, we will choose who will represent us in the City Council for the next four years.
I'll address the mayoral race later in this column, but first the question is who will represent us as the councilperson from the 31st District. Sitting in that seat for the last eight years has been Democrat James Sanders Jr. His challenger is Republican Scherie Murray.
I live on the east end, and thus I am making my choices as someone who endures the same problems every day as those who are reading this column.
President Barack Obama's campaign last fall ignited a call to the young people of this country to get involved in their communities. Murray, 29, is one of those who answered that call, so I'd like to be able to say that she is a qualified City Council candidate. Unfortunately, Murray is not well versed in what issues people on the east end face. When I interviewed her at the end of August, just a little more than two months before the general election, she had no specific plans in the areas of transportation, even suggesting to this reporter that the A train only comes once every hour. Actually, it leaves Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway every 10 to 20 minutes depending on the time of day or night, or if it is a weekday or on weekend.
On crime she isn't a big fan of installing cameras at the housing developments, despite the fact that the tenants had lobbied for them. Although cameras are not a cure-all, they are a start. Murray also declined to answer whether or not she is for gun control, seeing she would be representing an area where gun violence occurs frequently.
When I spoke with her she had not yet been to the business district of Far Rockaway - the heart of the area. If you are going to run as a newcomer to a community, you need to be out there early and get to know its people.
The fact is that Sanders has brought home the bacon to the east end more often than not. Sanders knows the issues facing those who live here, such as transportation, crime, housing and schools. He was born and raised here and knows all of these things first hand.
There is no debating that there is discontent with our current councilman. Many do not believe he has listened to their concerns or delivered as he has promised. Others are still upset over the fact that he voted in favor of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to extend term limits. And I'll admit I am one of them. Still there is no doubt who is more qualified to represent Far Rockaway, Bayswater, Arverne and Edgemere. That person is the incumbent - Councilman James Sanders.
Plus, how many politicians will admit they need to do more as Sanders recently told this reporter.
"I have not yet fully met the needs of Rockaway," said Sanders. "This new election will enable me to fulfill this mandate."
To opt for someone new, who needs to learn the issues on the job, would be a mistake. To stay with someone who knows the issues and has plans for the future is the wiser choice.
Remember a large part of the 31st Councilmatic District is on the mainland. Don't expect residents there to vote for what is best for you, your family and Rockaway.
As for the office of mayor, there are actually some things I like that Bloomberg has done, like working to keep guns from entering the city and landing on our streets; and curtailing smoking in public places. But, the term limits extension went too far. Even though I believe we had term limits in the form of elections, city voters passed the referendum twice.
Let's not get started on mayoral control of the schools. Then again, why not? Of course, test scores have risen. When I went to school the passing grade was a 65. Now it goes by levels - one being the lowest. Tests are made easier and fewer right answers will get a student a level 2 (grade level) mark. When you make it easier to pass tests, as Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have done, of course more students are going to pass. When I was attending PS 215, JHS 198 and Far Rockaway High School, instead of learning to take a test we were learning history and science. In addition, every year there seems to be a new system at the Department of Education. These are just some of the reasons that, personally, I am glad my niece will not be in the city school system.
William Thompson, Bloomberg's Democratic challenger, supports term limits. Even Mike Bloomberg supported term limits until as Thompson's website, www.thompson 2009.com, points out it applied to the mayor. Thompson also sees the so-called current curriculum in our schools for what it is - teaching to the test. As mayor, Thompson promises to bring back a real curriculum. In addition to teaching math, reading, and writing he will make sure our children also learn science, civics, history, arts, music, geography and physical education. And he will start by hiring a new schools chancellor who has an education background. In a speech at Pace University on September 22, Thompson said that, "The New York City School's system must come to be synonymous with the ideals of excellence and equal opportunity. Fundamental to this goal are three essential truths: children count, educators matter and parents are partners."
On November 3, the right choices for the east end of Rockaway are William Thompson for mayor and James Sanders Jr. for councilman from the 31st District.