Archive for October, 2009

ALL FOR ONE AND ALL FOR US?

October 13, 2009

I’m a political junkie of sorts. Since handing out brochures as an eight-year old for a local New York City Council race I’ve been hooked. I always look forward to local press coverage of local races because, truly, all politics are local. You read things that aren’t normally covered at the city or national level. So this week was no exception when the Queens Chronicle profiled former Councilman Thomas Ognibene in his race to take back the 30th Council District seat after an eight year absence.

Not having the pleasure of knowing Mr. Ognibene it wasn’t until August’s Night out Against Crime did I finally meet him. We met a few more times over the course of two months as campaign visits crossed with civic events. I had heard stories of his involvement in the community of Woodhaven mainly through those involved with the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC). I looked forward to reading and learning more about the former Councilman than what can be garnered from his short dialog used on the campaign trail.

In reading the article what immediately struck me was his omission of Woodhaven when discussing “schools for kids from our communities – Maspeth, Middle Village, Elmhurst”. While the quote may have been taken out of context it did not go unnoticed. But as I read further I was surprised by his statement that “education problems in poor communities are overblown” and that how integrating children across neighborhood boundaries was “putting an unfair burden on parents in good school districts”. He intimated that poor schools equals poor school districts, and that sending some children a stone’s throw across a line drawn on a map would not help them do better. Mr. Ognibene stated that he embraced what he calls the “community school”.

While this logic does have an “us versus them” edge to it I could see giving the former Councilman the benefit of doubt, except for that little bit about omitting the recently struggling Woodhaven in his “our communities” statement. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.

But now we come to this bit about traffic patterns and the DOT (Department of Transportation). As I previously mentioned the former Councilman thought it was a great idea to adopt the concept of the “community school” so as not to let the problem of poverty and poor school districts affect the good school districts. But oddly enough, the former Councilman thinks it’s a good idea to adjust the commercial traffic problems that impact his communities, including Woodhaven I hope, so that these problems now become the problems of other communities. What this may in effect do is turn good traffic districts into bad traffic districts by diverting large vehicles into formerly commercial traffic-free communities, putting an unfair burden on residents in good traffic districts. The logic had me confused and just seemed conflicting.

I can sympathize with folks experiencing problems like education and traffic. Each community has their own unique issues that they have to deal with. Woodhaven is no different. But I would hope in the coming weeks before the election the former Councilman finds a better way to express solutions that would benefit all of his potential constituents, not just to pick and choose. It may take a little more thought but I’m sure the entire 30th Council District would be better off for it.

Vance B. Barbour
Woodhaven, New York

Winter Meetings Scheduled

October 10, 2009
Our next Town Hall is Wednesday October 21st at 8 PM.
 
Over the 4 months following that, we will be moving our Town Halls to each month’s 2nd Saturday, from 1 PM to 3 PM.  We will be promoting these meetings in the stores on Jamaica Avenue, as well as the electronic media (Project Woodhaven, Facebook, Twitter, etc).  It is hoped that we will reach a new audience — and that we will also retain some of our older members who do not like venturing out at night during those cold months.
 
The dates of our Winter meetings are:
 
  • Saturday, November 14th
  • Saturday November 7th
  • Saturday, December 12th
  • Saturday, January 9th (2010)
  • Saturday, February 13th (2010)

Update:  The November meeting was moved to the 7th.

New Speaker Guidelines for WRBA Meetings

October 10, 2009

This week, the WRBA adopted a Guest Speaker SOP – written guidelines as to how we handle the order of selection of speakers at the WRBA meetings.  We fully appreciate the time our representatives take to speak with us and by having written guidelines, there is less room for error – and less chance of the board accidentally offending any parties.

For this SOP, we have broken up the parties into the following groups which will also serve as a hierarchy:

(1) Elected Officials
(2) Officially Declared Candidates for Public Office
(3) Members of Recognized Organizations
(4) Private Citizens

And within Categories (1) and (2) we will have a secondary hierarchy:

(a) Federal
(b) State
(c) City
(d) Borough

Item 1. Any person belonging to one of the above categories can request the opportunity to speak beforehand, via email or telephone.  Also, at the sign-in desk, there will also be a separate Pad where people can sign in, asking for the opportunity to address our residents.  Once the meeting has begun, the list will be delivered to the person running the meeting.

Item 2. All speakers will be asked to limit their remarks to around 7 minutes.  We should discreetly keep track of the time and gently let them know when they have 1 minute left.  A soft chime would work well.

Item 3. After the speaker is finished, the Board Members should be given first chance to ask questions.  Then it should be opened to the residents.  The board members should always try to limit their questions to ensure that the residents get to speak.

Item 4. The Elected Officials are recognized and asked to speak first, in order of the hierarchy, as described in the note above.  Then, the Declared Candidates (in order of the hierarchy).  Members of Recognized Organizations, and then Private Citizens.

Item 5. Should any persons that fall within Group 1 or 2 show up late, and their turn has passed, they will be slotted into the very next available slot (i.e. they will speak next).

Item 6. Only persons from Groups 1, 2 and 3 — and invited guests — will address the residents from the front of the room.  Private citizens shall address the residents from the audience.

Addendum:

(a)  We shall build a small, tabletop lectern – similar to what the GWDC has.  We should make sure our organization’s banner is in front of the lectern – if anyone from the media takes a picture of one of our guests speaking, it should look as nice as possible, preferably with our logo in the shot.

(b)  We ask that our guests speak into the microphone.  Some speakers don’t realize it, but their voices don’t always carry.  If someone is hard to hear, the crowd in the back gets restless and they begin to chatter.  Also, as we tend to record the event for posting on the Internet, a strong audio helps carry their message.

Any feedback is, of course, greatly appreciated.