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