BY MICHAEL SCHENKLER
RUDY KAZOOTIE: I’m not sure if that’s the spelling, but it is the phonetic name of a childhood character from the ‘50s. And, no disrespect is intended when Rudy Kazootie pops into my mind when I think of Rudy Crew, chancellor of the NYC school system.
He’s cherubic, he impresses me as mischievous and, although I don’t know him, Board of Ed insiders have described him as a big baby.
I think he’s done a reasonably good job. That’s about the best just about anyone could do.
Now, I hear that as you read this, the game will be over. Rudy Crew is on the way out. He and the Board of Ed didn’t have a meeting of the minds. His performance was okay. He wasn’t thrilled; they weren’t thrilled. He didn’t go hat in hand asking for a new contract. They didn’t beg. He was a big baby, our sources tell us. However, the root of the problem is that the school system is just no damn good. And Rudy Crew can’t fix it. No one can.
The school system is beyond repair and there is no way to bring it up to acceptable standards. The reasons are many. . .too many to go into here and now. But the situation has been disastrous since McGeorge Bundy and the Ford Foundation first came up with the idea of decentralization in the ‘60s.
No, it’s not their fault either. Social conditions, poverty, poor contract negotiations, a fiscal crisis, a litigious society and lots more have brought a system that was struggling in the ‘60s to beyond repair in the ‘90s. Sadly, we have to see the same failing structure taken into the new millennium.
No criticism of Crew, Giuliani or Terri Thomson, the Queens school board member — she’s wonderful — is intended or deserved. They all have done admirably under the circumstances. As a matter of fact, I believe they all know it is time to throw the system out. They just can’t figure out how to do it.
EDUCATION FLASHBACK: I remember pretty clearly, an afternoon in the ‘60s. I was a student and at the home of my Uncle Murray Bergtraum.
Uncle Murray was the first Queens member of the new decentralized Board of Education. He was its second president. Murray was bright and concerned. He was knowledgeable and experienced in public education. Murray belonged on the Board. He cared and was talented.
Well, he walked into his house, sat down in the dining room and started to talk to me. We occasionally shared thoughts. He did more of the talking; I listened.
I don’t recall the exact words, but the sentiment has remained with me for more than three decades. Murray shook his head and sadly said: “It’s no use. There is no solution. They should burn down 110 Livingston St. (Board of Education headquarters) and start over.”
Some 30 years later, the mayor has suggested that the Board be blown up.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We all know, our school system is failing.
Anyone have a match?
NOT FOR PUBLICATION. COM: Hey, they stole my name!
No, I’m still me. It’s my column name that’s been ripped off.
Well, they had it first — online.
You see, last week, I began writing a column again, after a ten year hiatus. Lunching in Joe Franco’s lovely restaurant, Caffé on the Green, at the foot of the Throggs Neck Bridge, I decide in a moment of fancy, that when I renew my column of political and social commentary and fun, I’d call it “Not For Publication.” Then later I modified it to “Not For Publication.com.” And if you were here last week — same paper, same page — you saw it in print.
So one night last week, after returning from Gary Ackerman’s holiday party at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point — nice place; read the column regularly and I’ll get you an invite to next year’s — I logged on to the web to reserve the URL (web address) NotForPuiblication.com. Some “veteran journalist” already owned it – dry media commentary site with terrible graphics. I’m sure he’s well intentioned, but he has my name.
Sigh! What to do?
I didn’t copy him; he didn’t copy me. You know, great minds . . .
It’s sad. What if someone bought the URL MichaelSchenkler.com? Would I still be me? These web addresses cost $35 per year — ridiculous. I could own your name for 35 bucks. Look out! And now someone in Knoxville, Tennessee owns my column.
Alta Vista, the web search engine, spent millions to buy theirs from some web name-registering entrepreneur. It’s a whole new industry. It’s easier to buy back your name then litigate in this untested and expensive world of cyberspace. There’s even a site set up to auction URLs.
Maybe I’ll just go with Not4Publication.com. Or should I look for an alternative? Feel free to suggest. You can write to me here at the Tribune or at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com.
Help me with this identity crisis.
BUNKER MAN: His name isn’t Archie and he doesn’t live on Hauser Street but he is from Queens and he has a Bunker of his own. John Miuta who lives on 66th Street in Glendale has turned his basement into a “high-tech” hideaway where he plans to ride out the apocalypse.
After photos appeared in the pages of the New York Post – where he is wearing a gas mask – this self-proclaimed survivalist and collector of military memorabilia who says he is ready for the end of the world became afraid to grant the Tribune a bunker tour and interview.
“Afraid of what?,” we asked. What could rattle the man who is ready for the apocalypse?
Miuta told us, he doesn’t have his wife’s permission.
RUDY V. JESUS: We are not anti- Rudy. He has done a remarkable job improving the quality of life in our city. We applaud him.
However, we frequently don’t agree with his tactics.
In his latest crusade, Giuliani has taken on the homeless — demanding that they work for their shelter or they be tossed out and their children put in foster care.
A coalition of homeless shelters has refused to follow his orders. He has threatened to cut off their funding. And so goes the typical Rudy war.
This time however, one brave soul, Sister Barbara Lenninger, has fought back with powerful words. According to the New York Times account, Sister Barbara’s response to the mayor’s threat was, “if someone says I have to choose between following Jesus Christ or Rudy Giuliani, I’ll follow Jesus Christ.”
The mayor intends to continue his plan.
The man is fearless. D’Amato, Pataki, Hillary, Jesus — He ain’t backing down.
Pray for him.
OFF HIS ROCKER: Loudmouth John Rocker, the Atlanta Brave relief pitcher who thought it was cool to challenge the Mets during the National League playoffs with verbal abuse, continued his behavior in an interview in the current Sports Illustrated.
According to Tuesday’s Daily News, Rocker smacks New York for its foreigners, gays and degenerate Met fans. He’s quoted as saying, “Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re (riding through) Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”
His biggest complaint is about the foreigners: “You can walk an entire block . . .” the News quotes him, “. . . and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people . . . How the hell did they get in this country?” he asks.
And how did you, Mr. Rocker? Were you born to a Native American tribe? And how about Andruw Jones, Jose Hernandez, Ozzie Guillem, Eddie Perez, Andres Gallaraga and the rest of your “foreigner” teammates who helped bring you a batch of National League pennants?”
Atlanta is a great city and should not be tarnished by the words of this southern bigot. We expect Brave owner Ted Turner to repudiate Rocker’s disgraceful conduct.
Rocker says he would retire before ever playing for a New York team. This Met fan, for one, would love to see that happen. We’d love the Met ownership to consider the trade to force the retirement. Rocker deserves no better.
Because, in our judgement, John Rocker should wear only one uniform – the one with a mask and pointed hood.
See you next season.
CROWLEY: Freshman Congressman Joe Crowley is the target of a triple threat. Assemblywoman Kathy Nolan and Councilmen Walter McCaffrey and John Sabini have joined forces and agreed to decide which one of the three of them shall oppose Crowley with their joint support. Crowley was handed the seat by his predecessor Dem County chief Tom Manton who timed his retirement so that he could name Crowley and avoid a primary.
So, the three Western Queens pols felt offended and agreed to fight back.
Not so easy. Even freshman Congressmembers from New York can be expected to raise and spend over $1 million in defense of their seats. The DC network pours in the cash.
Nolan, an influential member of the State Legislature, would have to risk a safe Assembly seat and will likely remain where she is.
Insiders do not believe that John Sabini, who is term limited out of his seat, has the fundraising wherewithal to be in the race. Everyone doubts that a Sabini candidacy would receive significant bucks from Nolan or McCaffrey or anyone.
That leaves Walter McCaffrey. Also jobless as a result of term limits, McCaffrey has been weighing his options. First he toyed with and dismissed a run for Public Advocate. Then, considered a role leading New York forces for Bill Bradley. Next and most recently pondered a race for Queens Borough President. Now, it seems pretty clear that Walter has made up his mind. Look for McCaffrey to be the troika’s choice to take on Crowley.
McCaffrey has quietly begun to make himself known in the South West Bronx, which comprises about a third of the district. McCaffrey is bright. His influential Council committee chairmanship will enable him to raise significant funds. He is a skilled campaign technician.
But has Walter McCaffrey made the necessary friends to challenge the Democratic organization and an incumbent Congressmember? McCaffrey has too often been a loner who steps on toes and speaks his mind. McCaffrey is clearly the underdog.
The clearest difference between McCaffrey and Crowley is in their positions on abortion. Crowley, a right-to-lifer has exposure from pro-choice McCaffrey in this mainstream district, if McCaffrey can make the issue the focal point of the campaign — attracting national attention and big bucks. Otherwise, McCaffrey will be facing a quick end to his political career.
TSK! Received an email entitled “Tsk!” from Louis A. Lebovitz. He wrote, “SUPERSEDED: With an ‘S’, Not with a ‘C’!” in reference to last week’s column about the QC Prez: “Sessoms has been superceded by the City University.”
Of course, Mr. Lebovitz is correct; we knew that but double-checked anyway.
However, we wonder if Mr. Lebovitz was aware that the verb supersede was first used in 1456 as superceden — to postpone or defer — from the Scottish; borrowed from Middle French superceder — to delay. According to The Barnhart Dictionary of Entomology, the meaning of displace or replace first appeared in English in 1642.
Now, does Bill Gates know all of that? If he does, how come our Microsoft Word ’97 spellchecker finds either spelling acceptable, even though they aren’t? We run spellchecker before printing our words.
We’re with Lebovitz on this one, not Gates. Microsoft Word 7 is wrong. Hmmm!
PROOFREAD: Ultimately, the error at our paper is the responsibility of the editor. She takes her job seriously and now has the following over her desk: “Always proofread carefully to see if you any words out.”
Column contributor: Stephen McGuire
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com