THINGS TO DO IN HOUSING, EDUCATION, AGING AND TRANSPORTATION

By Michael Nelson

After the municipal elections in 2001, term limits will become a reality changing, not only the faces at City Hall but also, the dynamics of how New York City government operates. The most obvious change of course being that experienced elected officials will be forced into retirement.

I don't think the populace is fully aware of the pitfalls of term limits. Even though I will personally benefit from term limits, it is obvious that this was adopted in a more emotional rather than intellectual "zeitgeist" manner. The electorate has the most effective "built in" term limit.

In so far as the City Council is concerned, a more diverse and less experienced group will take over the leadership positions. It also appears likely that some elected officials holding positions in New York State government or in New York City government, other than the City Council, may seek Council seats where an incumbent is prevented from seeking election. Such officials however will enter the council without the unique experience that is gained from tenure in the council. The input of experienced upper level staff will therefore become even more indispensable.

An anticipated shortfall in revenue in the years ahead will be a major concern of all city officials. I will strive to influence my colleagues in New York State government to reinstate the commuter tax. The repeal of this tax was passed in a vacuum without concern for the long-term problem for our city. I salute City Council Speaker Peter Vallone for all of his efforts in restoring this tax which justice and fiscal necessity demands.

I believe I can make the greatest contribution by utilizing my experience as an involved member of City Council Housing, Education, Aging, and Transportation Committees. As former Chief of Staff for State Senator Karl Kruger for five years, I learned each day how government can help to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

The need for affordable housing for the middle class, as well as the disadvantaged, is reaching crisis proportions. Existing rent laws must be extended and strengthened. In particular, the "never ending" rent increases for major capital improvements must be limited to the recovery of the actual costs of the capital improvement. In addition to protecting tenants, everything possible must be done for those who want to purchase their own homes.

Experienced teachers are retiring in record numbers from city schools. Considering the shortage of teachers and the lure of suburban schools, replacing teachers is a challenge. It is also essential that full value be received for all money spent by the School Construction Authority (for capital improvements to existing schools and/or to build new schools).

In the not too distant future the "baby boomer" generation will be reaching retirement age. Without extensive family networks many will look to government for assistance in handling the problems associated with the aging. The many programs I have helped to develop for seniors should be expanded and enhanced. They include food programs at senior centers; social workers to help assist with emotional issues; providing a handy man to help seniors with essential household maintenance tasks; and gerontological training for health care professionals. The Council should use its considerable influence and power of persuasion to bring about action by the Federal and State governments to reduce the outrageous prices for prescription drugs, which are an unbearable burden for so many.

Regarding transportation issues, the Access-A-Ride program, which provides special transportation for those with conditions that limit their use of regular transportation must be expanded. School bus safety must be emphasized. Every child riding a school bus in New York City should be protected by a seat belt. New York City is facing exciting and challenging times in the years ahead. It has been said that constant vigilance is the price of liberty. This is also the cost of the best quality of life. That is how I view my job as an elected official in New York City, the greatest city in the world.

Michael C. Nelson (D) represents the 48th district in Brooklyn, covering Manhattan Beach, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay

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