Saturday, October 10, 2009
Ognibene offers ‘right’ message despite GOP ills
Tom Ognibene wants his job back.
The former councilman and Middle Village lawyer will challenge Democratic incumbent Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) on Nov. 3 to reclaim the 30th Council District seat, a position he was term limited out of in 2001.
The Republican contender’s campaign is conservative to the core — an all or nothing bet in a district where traditional blue-collar values run deep despite a two to one Democratic advantage among registered voters.
If elected, Ognibene is promising to fight for lower taxes, smaller government, commercial traffic reforms, more hospitals, a greater police presence and a return to local school zoning.
The GOP nominee is promoting a plan that would require a two-thirds majority to raise taxes and wants to cut government spending through changes to the city’s pension system, debt refinancing and consolidations, pay freezes and layoffs among the city’s various agencies.
“There are agencies in the city government with people walking around and doing nothing — it’s just appalling,” Ognibene said. “Nobody wants to make tough decisions. I want to force people to make tough decisions. The citizens paying the taxes are making tough decisions, aren’t they?”
Ognibene rejected arguments that sending government workers to the burgeoning unemployment lines would ultimately hurt the city by exacerbating financial problems in the private sector with fewer families spending at local businesses.
“Unless we begin to make the choices that I’m suggesting, we are heading for armageddon anyway — so we might as well begin to look at it now,” he said.
Ognibene is also proposing changes to the rules governing commercial traffic in the area, an effort he said would help remove trucks from the district’s crowded streets.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for rail traffic that can substitute for the truck traffic,” he said. “You can control the flow of traffic by having DOT map out better routes. You can have DOT organize themselves better and come up with a better plan than the current federal system that they use for deciding where traffic controls are and how they’re timed.”
Ognibene condemned citywide zoning regulations on new schools, calling for a return to neighborhood districting with a voucher system in place for parents who want to send their kids elsewhere.
“We need schools for kids from our communities — Maspeth, Middle Village, Elmhurst. When these new high schools are built, they’re universally zoned,” he said.
The Republican candidate said that education problems in poor communities are overblown and that efforts to improve the situation by integrating students from various economic backgrounds across neighborhood lines are now putting an unfair burden on parents in good school districts.
“We’ve never really addressed that issue,” he said. “Why are kids in poor neighborhoods not doing well? So they’re going to come to a new school and they’re going to do better? I want my child to go to a community school. I don’t want them to travel around the universe. I want them to go to a school where they’re going to feel safe and they’re going to learn. And I don’t want to sacrifice that because there are other communities in this city that don’t have the same commitment.”
Ognibene said the city needs to address problems in underperforming institutions individually and urged parents in troubled communities to take responsibility for improving their schools.
“This is the nonsense argument that’s infected all of our thinking in this world,” he said. “People have to learn to be accountable. What your status is in life and how your children learn is directly related to what emphasis you want to put on education in your community. Join the PTA. Fight for safer schools. Don’t say, ‘What the hell, I’m going to thrust my problems on you.’”
In the wake of this year’s hospital closings, Ognibene is urging Queens lawmakers to step up efforts to secure funding for new healthcare facilities at the St. John’s and Mary Immaculate sites.
And while he praised the city’s declining crime rates, Ognibene also stressed the need for additional police officers to deter lesser crimes, including vandalism and auto theft.
Posted by Patrick Henry at 3:12 PM