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Editorial: Let mayor run schools

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Since he has taken office, Mayor Giuliani has hosted more than 80 Town Hall meetings in neighborhoods throughout the city. At virtually every one of these meetings, a frustrated mayor has found it necessary to tell frustrated parents that he has no control over the city's public schools.

Time and time again the mayor patiently explained that he has only two appointments on the seven-member Central Board of Education and that it is the board that names the school chancellor. And still the questions come. New Yorkers refuse to believe that the mayor who has done so much to turn this city around cannot fix the public school system. The people want the mayor to be accountable for the quality of public education. They know what he did to fight crime and they want him to do the same for the schools.

But under the current system, there is no accountability. This became painfully obvious last month when the chancellor revealed a $1.5 billion shortfall in the Board of Education's five-year construction plan. Projects that were expected to be completed for $7 billion will cost $8.5 billion.

It remains unclear what this will mean for Queens, a borough that is in desperate need of new classroom space. The five-year plan had included new space for 44,000 students.

The time has come for change. The people of New York City must demand that the state Legislature give the next mayor control of the public school system. Just as the mayor appoints commissioners for all city agencies, including the police, the mayor should appoint a schools chancellor. If there was a problem with the school system, the public would know exactly who to blame.

No one in Albany should doubt that this is what the people want. Every candidate running in the Democrat and Republican mayoral primaries has made educational reform a centerpiece of his campaign. They are all promising to fix the schools. And yet they all know that, under the current system, there is nothing that the mayor can do about education. Unless the Board of Education is scrapped, these candidates are making empty promises.

Voters should demand that the legislators who represent them in the state Senate and Assembly go on the record in their support for giving the mayor control of the schools.

There is so much that needs to be done. The children need smaller classes in less crowded schools. They need up-to-date textbooks and modern laboratories. The teachers need better pay or they will continue to take flight to the suburbs. The list goes on, but none of this will happen until the people of New York City are given control of the school system. They elect the mayor. Let the mayor run the schools.

Editorial: No Flower Power

We are saddened to learn that the MTA is once again trying to give the boot to a family owned shop that has operated on Main Street in Flushing for 80 years. The shop, which is located on Main Street under the Long Island Rail Road tracks, is being evicted so the MTA can lease the property to a Chinese fast-food store.

The MTA claims it must get market value for the property. The rent is then used to improve LIRR service. Nothing wrong with their logic. But the Depot Florist, originally a shoeshine kiosk, is a cherished part of life in downtown Flushing.

It's hard to argue that Flushing needs another Chinese restaurant, isn't it? Tell the suits at the MTA to give the Avena family a break. Let them keep their store.

Editorial: Hip hopping to jail

Another cultural icon is about to bite the dust. Russell Jones, a rapper who goes by the name Ole Dirty Bastard, has been sentenced to two to four years in prison for possession of cocaine.

Mr. Bastard is a native of southeast Queens and was a member of the infamous Wu Tang Clan, a rap group that championed drug abuse and gang violence. Perhaps MTV will do a feature on Mr. Bustard's new “crib.”

We hope that Russell Jones will use the time behind bars to rebuild a life free of drugs and violence. Then we hope he will return to southeast Queens and apologize to all the young people who mistook him for some kind of hero.

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