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The mayor and the governor would like to place control of public education in the state's largest cities firmly in the hands of the mayors. As we have repeated often, under the current system there is no accountability. The mayor controls only two votes on the board. He appoints two members and each borough president appoints one member. It is a recipe for disaster.
The representatives from the boroughs are there to do what is best for their borough. Because of the makeup of the board, the budget process is fatally flawed. A borough like Queens, which continues to experience phenomenal growth, will never get a fair share of the education dollars.
Voters who are dissatisfied with the quality of our city schools have no voice. They had nothing to do with the selection of Schools Chancellor Harold Levy. Parents have no way to respond to or effect changes in Board of Education policy.
If the next mayor controls the board, perhaps by controlling a majority of the appointments or by naming the chancellor, then the public can blame or praise the mayor for the state of the schools. When the people of Queens were fed up with crime, especially auto thefts, they put the blame on the shoulders of Mayor Dinkins. Now that New York is the safest large city in America, the credit goes to Mayor Giuliani. But who gets credit for the mess our schools are in?
Hopefully, in 2001 the state Legislature will find the courage to change the way our schools are run.
The second piece of unfinished business is the Port Authority. Whenever one hears the word "authority," the warning bells should go off. Like the Board of Education, the Port Authority remains safely out of the reach of the voters. The chaos that engulfed LaGuardia Airport after the most recent snowstorm is all the evidence that anyone should need that it's time for the Port Authority to be disbanded. While the city's Sanitation Department did a remarkable job clearing Times Square for the New Year's Eve celebration and a credible job clearing the city streets, the Port Authority had trouble keeping a handful of runways clear of snow.
If the Port Authority were an agency that answered to the voters, there is no way in hell that the AirTrain would have been constructed in its present form. Independent transportation experts and virtually every civic organization in Queens objected to the Port Authority's proposal. Their voices were not heard. Hence, billions of dollars will be wasted on a rail system that will not meet the expectations and demands of travelers trying to get to Kennedy Airport from Manhattan and there will still be no rail connection between Kennedy and LaGuardia and between LaGuardia and Manhattan. There will be no one to blame but a nameless, faceless and arrogant authority.
The "futuristic" monorail system built for Newark Airport is already a proven disaster. A year after going into operation, the monorail must be rebuilt.
The Port Authority has outlived its usefulness. It is unresponsive to the needs of New Yorkers and especially the needs of the people of Queens. In the last decade, the Port Authority has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars - and it's just warming up.
The time has come to give the next mayor of New York control of the schools and control of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Then, if passengers find themselves camping out for days, they will know exactly whom to blame.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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