Week of 11 June 2001:
No Progress Report
Today is supposed to be the day that New York State reports on plans
to reform its education financing system. The June 15 progress report was
ordered last January by State Supreme Court Judge Leland DeGrasse who ruled
in a case brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity that the state funding
plan denies city students the right to a basic education and is
unconstitutional. But since the Governor is appealing the court decision and
has said that there may not be a new state budget this year, no report is
forthcoming. Earlier this week, the New York State Assembly adopted a
resolution calling on the Governor to withdraw the appeal.
Drug Reform Stalls
When the state legislature convened in January, politicians from both
parties predicted that, with Governor Pataki's support, this would be the
year that the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws would finally be
eased. But now, the Times reports, those
plans have stalled, and proponents worry there won't be any changes this
Observers blame the current state budget impasse for preventing any
substantive discussions on what would replace the existing system of
mandatory jail time. Democrats and Republicans differ widely over how much
discretion judges should have in sentencing and the amount of money that
should be budgeted for drug treatment. While no one is ready to give up on
change coming this year, observers told the Times that someone will have to
take the initiative to start negotiations, and take it soon.
Let's Go to the Audiotape
Wiretaps reportedly reveal that a consultant at the center of a probe into
corruption at the Buildings Department regularly relied on Republican City
Councilman Thomas Ognibene for political clout. The charges, which come out
of a probe that resulted in indictments of four high level Buildings
Department officials in September, were first reported in the current
Times said today
that law enforcement officials confirm the Voice report. Detectives
listening in in 1997 heard frequent conversations involving consultant Ron
Lattanzio, Ognibene and Ognibene's chief of staff, Dennis Gallagher.
Lattanzio reportedly arranged expense-paid trips for Ognibene and Gallagher.
The councilman cannot run again because of term limits; Gallagher is a
candidate for his seat. Neither man has been charged.
Back to the Soaps
Rudy Giuliani may make $195,000 a year, live in free housing (even if he's
been exiled to a small guest room), and have funds tied up in real estate
and retirement accounts, but his bank balance is a mere $7,000, his divorce
lawyer, Raoul Felder, said in court yesterday. Felder did not take into
account the mayor's $3 million book deal.
Meanwhile, Judge Judith Gische denied Felder's pleas that she remove herself
from the closely watched divorce proceedings. The judge also rejected a
request by Bruce Nathan, former husband of the mayor's very good friend,
that she preside over his suit seeking custody of the Nathans' 16-year-old
daughter. Another judge will hear that one.
Good School News
With all six major candidates for mayor making education their number one
priority, it is easy to get the impression that nothing is working in the
school system. But there is some good news.
An old warehouse owned by Sotheby's will become a new high school on the
Upper East Side, planned to open in the fall of 2002 for 700 college-bound
students. Some parents said it was not big enough to accommodate all the
students from the neighborhood, the Times reports.
Seventeen public schools in the city this year have fought their way off the
Schools Under Registration Review or SURR, a designation one step away from
being shut down. One of them, P.S. 38 in East Harlem, did it, according to
the Daily News, by having teachers work 12-hour days, training inexperienced
teachers, tracking each child to find out what areas they needed help in,
and tutoring them in small groups.
Finally, New York City leads the way nationally in an approach to education
that involves collaboration on all levels from pre-kindergarten to college,
according to a report released today by the Center for an Urban Future.
Thanks to an unprecedented spirit of cooperation over the past year and a
half between Schools Chancellor Harold Levy and City University of New York
Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, New York is the first major public education
system in the nation, for example, to coordinate its high school exit exams
with its college placement exams. If a high school student scores a 75 on
the Regents exam, the City University system accepts that as evidence he
does not need remedial help. All 17 City University undergraduate campuses
now also offer qualified high school students a chance to take college
credit courses, in a program called College Now.
To address the high rents and lack of office space that could keep new
businesses from the city, Senator Charles Schumer appointed a panel of
corporate executives, labor leaders, public officials and academics called
the Group of 35. Today, the Times reports, the panel will announce its
recommendations to develop expanded new business districts in Downtown
Brooklyn, Long Island City in Queens, and on the far West Side of Manhattan
through a combination of condemnation, tax breaks, transit links and zoning
changes. The new districts will result, the panel hopes, in 60 million
square feet of office space over the next 20 years for 300,000 new workers.
Governor George Pataki, distancing himself from Bush Administration policy,
ordered that by the year 2005 all state office buildings must get ten
percent of their electric power by wind power, solar power or other renewal
energy sources. By 2010, renewal energy sources must provide 20 percent of
the electricity for all state office buildings. The executive order Pataki
signed would also require new buildings to have state-of-the-art efficiency
standards to conserve energy.
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