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The Civic Scene: Words are soothing, but action is needed

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As I write this column the United States is preparing for a global war against terrorism which seeks to destroy our nation, our freedoms, our way of life, and our economic stability. Today we praise the compassion of President Bush, Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki. They are saying and doing the things we want to hear — but there are many things our society needs which are not currently being provided.

The federal government provides some money for our nation’s schools, but not enough. Our federal government has also stopped providing money for public housing, not high-rise housing which has become uncontrollable but low-rise, manageable housing, free of drugs and crime. We also have a federal drug “czar” to stop the flow of drugs into our nation but the system hasn’t worked. Not only are drugs creeping across our borders but they are manufactured or grown wherever criminals want to make money.

The war on drugs is also a war on terrorist groups who use the drug trade to finance their evil-doing. People in our cities who want to buy drugs often commit crimes to obtain the money to buy drugs. Prostitutes who are drug addicts and HIV positive spread this and other diseases

For the past few weeks Mayor Giuliani has been the voice informing us about the catastrophe at the Trade Center. One must remember that Giuliani has not negotiated a police, fire nor teacher contract. How many of these city workers, who acted so admirably under terrible conditions, are disgusted at the way the mayor has treated them? How many experienced city workers will leave as soon as possible, depriving the city of their expertise? Yes, young workers can contribute much, but it takes about five years for them to gain the necessary expertise.

The city and the state government have cut money for education. The mayor says there are too many workers in the Board of Education so he has cut funding. The governor and the legislature, in their perpetual fight for power, have provided less money for all the state school systems, including New York City. This has really hurt the schools and the children.

Also, some taxpayers have sued the state, saying that the city gets about 4 percent less money for education than do upstate school systems because of the funding formula Albany uses. The courts have ruled that this is true, but Gov. Pataki says that the correction should come from the legislature, not by judicial decree, so he is appealing the ruling. This means that the New York City schools are still receiving less money from the state.

This shortage of state and city money means less for our children. The schools started in September with fewer paraprofessionals to help children in the extra large classes we have. Project Read, Project Arts and other important after-school activities were cut, and even computer classes have been scaled back in some schools. Although the state had decreed that each school is required to have a Leadership Team of parents, teachers, supervisors and students to implement programs, the state has cut money for this program.

The state decided that more stringent science tests must be taken, yet many older high schools have decayed science laboratories, the way many parks are decayed. How can students learn science-lab techniques if the labs are horribly out of date or don’t exist at all?

While the war on terrorism and rebuilding the damage in lower Manhattan are vital, so are the schools and other essential functions of our society. To neglect these would give the terrorists a victory.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK

During the past few weeks there have been fewer planes landing and taking off from our Queens airports. These days there is less noise and probably also less asthma pollutants falling from the sky. For years the civic associations have been complaining of this pollution and how it affects their quality of life. Now is the time to check air quality to see if the air quality is better and then start working out a policy which will permit the airline industry to prosper but not at the expense of our health. The airline industry is important to the economy of Queens and must be protected.

I feel bad for all those airlines which have gone bankrupt and all those workers who have been fired, but the airline industry is also subject to the law of supply and demand like all other sectors of our economy. There were too many airlines with too many planes taking of and landing at the same time. I have often flown planes to California which were a quarter or half full. The federal government permitted more slots, with more crowds and more pollution. A travel agent I know just told me that the airlines had recently stopped paying them fees for booking flights, which meant that the travel agents had to start passing the booking costs onto the passengers. The market place is relentless. The airlines have been caught in overexpansion and the economic slowdown.

We hope they can climb to a better altitude.

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