BY MICHAEL SCHENKLER
QUIPS: More than a decade ago, I penned a weekly column called “QUIPS: Queens in Politics.” It was fun, timely and in 1987, received a New York Press Association “News Column” award. Then the Tribune became part of News Communications — which now publishes 23 weeklies in metro New York and
The Hill covering Congress in Washington, DC — and my responsibilities changed. Business obligations filled the time spent researching and writing. QUIPS quietly ended.
Now, as we enter the new millennium with a stronger corporate business structure and a solid management team at the Trib, I intend to once again sit at my computer and start pounding on the keys. I will occasionally offer a Queens publisher’s comments on the doings and politicking of Queens and of the world at large — and maybe more often than just occasionally.
I’ve chosen a new column name: “Not For Publication.com.” It is one of the most frequent things we journalists are told when talking to insiders and newsmakers: “It’s off the record;” “On background;” or “Not for publication.” In other words, don’t quote them; don’t attribute it to them; they don’t want to get caught in their own words. C’mon!
I hope you find my writing thought provoking, interesting, timely and entertaining.
Read, and write back. You can reach me at: Michael Schenkler, Queens Tribune, 174-15 Horace Harding Expressway, 11365; or online at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As publisher and writer, I hold the opinions and ideas of our readers as an invaluable resource. Please share with us.
Now, let me ramble and share with you.
DOT COM: As I spout and pout about the world and my microcosm of Queens, I will make frequent reference to the daily business of the Trib. I will also refer occasionally to my family — wife Lil; college student Lee, the photographer whose photo appears at right; and ten-year-old Allison, a web surfer and my connection to a new generation of challenging thinkers. And, I can’t avoid my other world of cyberspace. A good portion of my business, news, information, communication and personal commerce now exist online. So, on the trip in this morning, I added a “dot com” to my column’s title. Although some day I’ll spin a yarn about Dorothy Compton — my former employee whose nickname “Dot Com” has been preempted by a fast-paced world taken with the internet — I will just say for now that dot com is here to stay. Get used to it. Dorothy did.
HOLY SMOKES: So I’m watching the Giants football game on Sunday (by the way, they won). On comes this “We Card” commercial in which Phillip Morris takes credit for sponsoring a program where retailers “proof” (check age of purchasers) for cigarettes. Phillip Morris is taking credit for “keeping cigarettes out of the hands of children.”
REFORM, NOT! Joe Bruno — the State Senate Republican majority leader who, through the years has shown no compassion for New York City, ordinary people and good government causes, has introduced a piece of meaningful reform. Bruno’s proposal would prohibit legislators from accepting just about all gifts and meals that are a commonplace part of the Albany lobbying effort. It would also tighten the reporting procedures of lobbyists.
Problems? You betcha!
The Governor has not signed on to it.
And Shelly Silver, the Assembly speaker who led the repeal of the commuter tax, is likely not buying it. It’s just not going to work properly, he’ll likely cry.
From where we sit, I don’t believe Bruno either. It’s just another election ploy. The Republicans introduce reform legislation to avoid campaign attacks and are quite pleased that it goes nowhere.
All of these Albany guys sell their votes everyday . . . and it’s legal. Why should they change the system? They’re the ones getting fat on the meals and stuff.
Until the entire system of gifts and campaign finance is changed, the special interest lobbyists will run our government — for their purposes, not ours.
Next time you speak to your elected official, ask, “How much money did you get in this election cycle from lobbyists, PACs, special interest groups? How many free meals did you eat? Can you really eat their food, accept their gifts, and take their money while truly representing the people?”
Who are they fooling?
TERM LIMITS: I’m one of those people who opposed term limits. In principle, I just don’t buy it. If the voters want to term limit a legislator, vote ‘em out. However, it just never worked that way. Incumbents get reelected time and time again — no matter what they do. It’s the money, the name recognition, the abuse of government mail — you can’t beat an incumbent. So along comes term limits and even though I oppose them in principle, it turns out that it’s a good thing.
We have hundreds of candidates revving up for the big City Council showdown in 2001 when some forty plus Councilmembers will be term limited into oblivion. There’ll be new and some untainted blood. And oh, there will be blood, all right.
We can’t wait.
POLITICS: Now don’t get me wrong, not all elected officials are evil. Many are good and decent folks. Only, on all levels of government, good and decent folks can’t get the job done. The system is set up for the wheels to be greased by big bucks . . . and so it goes.
The party doesn’t really matter. Under Republicans, man exploited man. Under Democrats, it’s just the opposite.
Some good folks get corrupted and some are just ineffective. Politics is a tough game and sadly, the prizes are winning and power, not improving things.
HUH? Could someone please explain the “Being John Malkovich” thing?
ARTHUR NITZBURG, the political pundit of the Courier, is feeling better after a brief stay in the hospital. We anticipate his speedy recovery and return. We hate to see his replacement columnist David Oats have to work so hard. We also await our next fix of political fantasy.
QC & ALLEN SESSOMS: The biggest Queens story of the moment is the faltering presidency of Queens College’s Allen Sessoms. Not long ago I lunched with the charismatic, dynamic QC Prez. I liked him.
I still do.
He’s done good things for my alma mater. He’s helped return it to the standards of academic excellence of the sixties when old folks (I don’t mean that) like me attended. The CUNY crown jewel has been gleaming once again and it’s sad to think that Sessoms shoot-from-the-hip style will damage the institution’s credibility that he helped to reestablish.
But, it seems the CUNY headquarters has abandoned him on the Salik aids center and he has put his foot in his mouth before the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. By way of brief explanation: although claiming to have secured the required foundation funding prior to an agreed deadline for the Salik Center — a building that would hold the nation’s premier AIDS research center — Sessoms has been superceded by the City University. This clearly suggests his claims were less than true. And although he claims he was quoted out of context, it seems that President Sessoms commenting on the quality of CUNY remedial students before the ABCNY did use the less than poetic metaphor of “shit in; shit out.”
Forgivable? Maybe forgettable with time. But coupled with the Salik funding disaster, you can soon expect to see ads in the NY Times announcing a search for a new Queens College President. We, salute Allen Sessoms for the job he’s done. May his Salik Center be saved and his legacy of academic achievement continue.
Good luck, Allen.
TRANSIT STRIKE, NOT!
The city’s biggest story – the transit strike – almost happened and could have been the first major chink in Rudy’s armor. The people would have held him accountable for how the city fared during the period of time we couldn’t pay fares.
During the negotiating endgame, while Rudy was posturing and being Rudy in dealing with the strike threat and fallout, we wonder if Hillary and hubby were quietly crossing their fingers and praying for a strike.
Nevertheless, our dynamic mayor, who has brought you safer streets, cleaner neighborhoods and a better quality of life by attacking problems like a prosecutor — or a general — acted no differently during this period of delicate labor negotiations. Success, this time, does not negate the fact that sometimes it takes a statesman, not an army, to solve problems.
We wonder if Rudy can fill that role. And, what is the US Senate all about? No, we’re not taking sides in that race — at least now.
PUNCTUATION COUNTS: An English professor wrote the words “Woman without her man is a savage” on the blackboard and directed his students to punctuate it correctly.
The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is a savage.”
The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is a savage.”
RABIN’S RAMBLINGS: For years the Queens community waded through the pronouncements and political notions of Daily News political columnist Bernard Rabin. After retirement from the daily life, he stepped into the Queens weekly arena and his “Rabin’s Ramblings” column. Though he left the Courier about seven years ago, his ramblings ended for good this weekend as our business lost one more old-time voice on the chaotic world of the Queens insiders. We wish him well in the great pressroom beyond.
FINALLY: I’ll be here regularly or irregularly, giving you my thoughts. Please remember that if you believe everything you read, you better not read.
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: email@example.com