2010-07-09 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Of Malcolm Smith, Jay Walder and Clearing Out The Adult Homes
Commentary By Howard Schwach
Some short takes moving into the summer season, stories that need to be addressed, but don’t warrant a full column.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, who represents Rockaway, probably won’t put out a press release on the story, but he is working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the mayor of upstate Rochester gets control of his public school system just like Mayor Bloomberg took control of ours. This, despite the fact that people are beginning to understand just what a sham the mayor’s control has been. In fact, Smith introduced the bill in the State Senate that would pass control to the mayor and lobbied hard for its passage. As I write this, the outcome is still in doubt. Can Smith’s support of mayoral control be because it guarantees him more charter schools and the campaign contributions that flow from those schools?

Jay Walder came to visit The Wave a week ago and the hour or so he spent with us at the office was very enlightening. The first thing I realized is that I really would not want his job, given the financial climate. He admitted that his timing in taking the job “stinks,” and he is right. He is in a no-win situation, being forced to deal with an agency in crisis on one hand and the people that agency serves on the other. From his perspective, I can understand why we no longer have the resident rebate program on the Cross Bay Bridge. Sure, it will cost locals some money, but residents in other parts of the city have lost their bus or subway service in its entirety. Which is worse? You decide. He also spoke about his time as a student at Beach Channel High School and of the dedicated teachers that made his education work. All in all, it was an interesting afternoon.

The prominent government watchdog agency, Citizens Union, has changed its position and now supports nonpartisan elections, as The Wave did in an editorial about two months ago. The group says that it changed its mind because the election turnout has grown so low and becaue so many elections are predetermined due to the fact that incumbents are unchallenged or the fact that incumbents seldom lose. “We want to reduce the gamesmanship,” said a spokesperson for the Union. “It’s a remedy to our present political problems and its time has come.” I agree. Under the plan, anybody could run in an open primary and then the two top vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, get to run in the general election. By the way, California voters recently approved Prop-osition 14, an initiative that calls for non-partisan elections and the first one will be held in November.

There will be some who say that I am an alarmist, but I really think that the court’s decision to force mentally ill residents out of adult homes and into private apartments in the community will be an anathema to Rockaway. Walk down Beach 116 Street and see the people who live in the Park Inn Home for Adults panhandle and threaten shoppers. Then, think about having a dozen of them living on your block. I think that the mentally ill deserve rights, but I do not believe that right extends to destroying my rights to enjoy my own neighborhood without dealing with crazies on a daily basis. One person who works with the residents in the adult homes in Rockaway told me that the great majority of them were not able to take care of themselves outside of an institutional setting. They cannot shop, cook or clean. They often have no idea about how to take care of their own bodies and certainly don’t understand how important it is to stay on their meds. How then, will they manage to live independently with only a visit or two each week from a professional caretaker? The short answer is, they can’t.

A recent report by The Center for New York City Affairs says that the Department of Education’s dizzying rate of management system changes has made it next to impossible to find out what works and what doesn’t, and that is probably just what the DOE and the mayor have been trying to do. Were the ten regions a good idea? Never mind, let’s try School Support Organ-izations. Wait a minute, let’s change that to Children First Networks. Wait a few minutes more, and something new will be coming down the pike, and then something else altogether. The center sent people into the schools, interviewing scores of administrators, teachers and parent leaders. What they found was not school improvement, but a “deeply flawed system of oversight, inexperienced and ineffective principals, who are left on their own with little guidance from anybody and a curriculum that is little more than test prep.” That is just what I have been saying for the past seven years, and it’s nice that others are finally waking up and opening their eyes to the smoke and mirrors that Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have been feeding the public since they took over the system. By the way, the report is available online at the center’s website.

Dr. Harold Paez, the Republican candidate for Audrey Pheffer’s Assembly seat in the 23rd Assembly District, dropped in for a chat last week, and he is an interesting guy – an Hispanic Republican who has some progressive ideas. It’s not so surprising that a doctor get involved with government. There were five physicians who signed the Declaration of Inde-pendence, after all. The Rockaway resident is a foot and ankle specialist at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, where his fluent Spanish comes in handy. He has a five-point plan for reforming government and improving our quality of life. You can find more on Paez on page two of this issue of The Wave.

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Is there any info regarding a

Is there any info regarding a possible donation from the Bloomberg Foundation to the Citizens Union? By the way, do you mean Citizens Union or Citizens Committee?

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