2002-02-13 / Editorials

Letters

Symbol Of Hope

To The Editor:

Hope. Over the past few months, our nation has breathed new meaning into the word hope. Hope comes in the form of rescue workers, volunteers, friends and neighbors. Hope also comes in the form of daffodils.

Daffodils, the first flower of spring and the symbol of hope to cancer survivors and their families, will arrive in the Queens community this March to bring smiles to cancer patients and help support American Cancer Society’s cancer research, prevention programs and services for survivors and their families.

In one of the American Cancer Society’s oldest community events, hundreds of volunteers will mobilize to take orders and then deliver the spring flower of hope during the middle of March in support of the society’s programs in this community. Every dollar raised goes towards fighting cancer in Queens and every bunch we sell brings us one step closer to a cure.

For more information, call the American Cancer Society at (800) ACS-2345. Your support can and will make a difference. Lets all spread daffodils and spread hope this spring.

Sincerely,

Theresa Osborne

American Cancer Society

Queens Regional Executive

Parents Left Out

To The Editor:

Kudos to the Queens Gazette and reporter Bob Balogh for publicizing a public report that parents and stakeholders in Community School District 26 cannot easily learn about. Balogh’s Jan. 31, 2002 article describing information provided in the district’s mid-year report illustrates how parents are under-informed about the education policies of our community districts.

Agenda item No. 5 of the Jan. 24 calendar session of CSB 26 called for "Comments from Public–Superintendent’s Mid-Year District Comprehensive Education Plan Progress Report," a key report listing district-wide and school specific activities that affect the educational success of our children. I attended a PTA meeting on Jan. 23, and there were no copies of this mid-year report made available to parents by the PTA. No announcement on the release of the district’s DCEP progress report was sent home with my three children who attend two schools in the district - not even a photocopied press release from the district’s main office! As a calendar session attendee on Jan. 24, I had about 10 minutes to read this 34-page report before the meeting commenced. The lack of speakers making public statements on the report indicates that few parents and neighborhoods leaders had an opportunity to obtain copies of the report, discuss it with their PTAs or other leadership groups, and prepare comments.

The mid-year progress report was submitted to CSB 26 on Jan. 10. On Jan. 24, ten working days later, the board conducted a meeting to solicit public comment on this report. Whose responsibility is it to inform the families of 17,060 plus students in District 26 that the district’s mid-year report has been issued, and let these constituents know that they are being asked for comments? Effective public access to policy documents such as the DCEP progress report should be accomplished by posting this mid-year report (along with a notice stating that public comments will be solicited at a future meeting date of the board) to the District’s Web site at http://www.nycenet.edu/csd26. Multiple copies of this report should be made available at our public library reference desks for families who do not have access to the Internet.

The mid-year report stated that the district’s Web site was updated, but it still does not post CSB 26 meeting times and dates, or agendas, resolutions and minutes of all open meetings of the school board and President’s Council. Parents and teachers could then visit the Web site regularly to stay informed about district and board activities, including information on grants obtained by schools. Using our school district Web sites to foster true open meetings is a smart move to increase school board accountability. It’s vital that this happen now, particularly in a year when at least one bill has been introduced in the state legislature to replace the 32 school districts with one community board per borough.

For parents to be involved, we need to know the details of what happens in the district. Reading the DCEP progress report acquaints parents with educator jargon: "scheduled intervisitations," "dialogued with," and "push-in services." We learn about new events in the policy landscape, such as training sessions conducted for supervisors on the use of GROW reports. According to the Grow Network, the Board of Education selected the Grow Network as its system-wide assessment partner, giving Grow responsibility for reporting for 450,000 students in 4 to 9 grades for the next five years. The progress report illustrates how schools relate to each other. Some parents may be surprised to see their school listed among the "lowest performing schools" in the district. Who needs a better reason to pay attention?

Susan Shiroma

Jamaica Estates

Hails Mayor

To The Editor:

Last Tuesday evening [February 5] at the Astoria Civic Association, Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg honored us with his presence and revealed a bit of his philosophy which probably contributed to his success in life: He reminded us all to tip our hats and be grateful to all the civil servants of this great city and when we come across the policemen, firemen, teachers, mailmen and sanitation workers, we should say "thank you" for the great job they are doing; this in turn will inspire them to do their job of serving us so much better. A small thing, you might think, but we can begin with the small things.

Thank you Mayor Bloomberg, and thank you, Mr. Peter Vallone, Sr., for inviting our mayor to Astoria.

Antigone Tristan

Astoria

Time For Campaign Finance Reform

Has Come

by congressmember joseph crowley

The recent financial collapse of Enron and the surrounding issues of Enron’s extensive political donations have once again brought to the forefront the need to reform the system by which America funds its political campaigns. Although it is still too early to know if Enron or any other companies have garnered undue influence because of their campaign donations, the large flow of money into political campaigns has created a perception among the American public that their political representatives are making decisions based on the interests of lobbyists over what is in the best interest of the public.

This week the United States House of Representatives will debate real campaign finance reform legislation after Democrats, along with a few maverick Republicans, used a parliamentary procedure to get a bill to the floor without the support of the House Republican leadership. The bill that I will support, authored by my colleagues Republican Chris Shays from Connecticut and Democrat Marty Meehan from Massachusetts, will both eliminate soft money, the unlimited donations to the national political parties as well as prevent third parties, such as corporations and unions, from airing advertisements for or against a candidate before an election.

This bill should drastically reduce the role of money in political campaigns and bring the process of running for office back to the average citizen. Currently, the average price for a campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is above $1 million. With the House of Representatives so closely divided, there are quite a few seats where close to $10 million was spent in the last election by both parties. This is ridiculous.

Far too often, our elected officials have to schedule large amounts of time raising money for their campaigns, instead of meeting with constituents, bringing economic development to their districts, or other important business.

The House of Representatives twice passed effective forms of campaign finance reform legislation in both 1998 and 1999, only to see the bill fail in the Senate. Last year the United States Senate passed campaign finance reform under the plan offered by Senator Russ Feingold (D–Wisconsin) and Senator John McCain (R–Arizona). Now all that stands between the American political process and true reform is the upcoming vote in the House. A substantial majority of sitting members of Congress have previously supported the Shays–Meehan bill which we will vote on this week. If we receive the support of most of them, we will have our first true campaign reform since Watergate.

Unfortunately, this reform continues to have foes. Other "poison pill" legislation under the guise of reform will be debated along with Shays–Meehan. This other legislation would only water down the reforms that the people want and our campaign finance system needs. We need the passage of the Shays–Meehan Campaign Finance bill to help restore the faith of the American people in the independence of our political system.

By passing this legislation, Congress will demonstrate once and for all that it is the people who matter, not money and special interests. Many people have lost interest in politics, but we can begin to change that. By limiting the power of special interests, democracy wins by making elected officials more accountable to individual voters. This will be a victory for the voters of America.

We now have the opportunity to change the status quo, to make our system more democratic and representative of the people’s needs. We now have the opportunity to erase the perception of special interests over basic interests influencing the nation’s policymakers.

Watch closely this week to see if Congress passes the Shays–Meehan Campaign finance Reform bill—real campaign funding reform that will bring government back to the people.

Congressmember Joseph Crowley represents the Seventh Congressional District in Queens and The Bronx.


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