By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Last month, I returned to
Regulars to this space know
that my first career, back a century or so ago, was as an educator in the
New York City school system where I served as both teacher and
administrator. My four year stint in the classroom ended in 1972 when I
became Acting Assistant Principal of P.S. 219 Queens in District 25.
Since then I had the
opportunity and pleasure of teaching or guest lecturing at St. John’s,
Kingsborough and New York Community College. Those stints were at least a
quarter of a century ago. Wow!
Trib Publisher Mike Schenkler teaching
a journalism class at York College.
Photo: Shams Tarek
Although, when opportunity avails itself, I play the professorial role to Trib
staff — especially editorial — it is too infrequent to my liking.
Teaching is a noble profession and a nobler calling. Recognizing that
someone actual acquired useful knowledge from you is the ultimate reward
of having that knowledge. Sharing ideas, concepts and thought processes to
enlighten and challenge is about as good as it gets.
I got the chance again.
At the invitation of Marcia
Comrie, my friend who helped found the PRESS of Southeast Queens
with me, I found myself at York College. Marcia, the faculty advisor of
the student newspaper, Pandora’s Box, invited me to guest lecture
to a class she teaches with Mira Lowe, news editor of Newsday.
The class was preceded by a
20-minute visit with Dr. Robert Hampton, York’s new President. Hampton
is an intelligent, delightful addition to the Queens community and views
his task at York with reality and vision. We wish him well.
As I entered the classroom
with Marcia, Mira was clearing her desk for me and I found myself a
quarter of a century later, perhaps a little grayer, preparing myself to
challenge a class as Marcia emoted with some fancy introduction of me.
The racially diverse class
of some 20 men and women was tough to work. College students don’t chime
in with the freedom that a true learning laboratory should inspire.
It started out slowly, I
asked: Who wants to be a reporter?
A show of hands.
The follow-up question,
"Why?" seemed overwhelming at the beginning.
What should we look for in
They responded with one or
two word answers: curiosity, flexibility, news judgment, writing skills,
dedication, attention to detail.
I added the word
"desire" and began to recount some memorable journalistic
They got involved.
We talked ethics in
journalism — yes, it exists.
They were interested.
They asked about political
I answered — politically
We talked about reporting a
story and I turned to lateral thinking — a puzzle solving skill I use to
help new reporters discover that there are many ways to question and
attack a story:
When the infant kept
grabbing the wool of the baby-sitting grandma, the old-fashioned nanny put
the tyke in the playpen. The lateral thinking mother came home and
suggested that placing granny in the playpen could have achieved the same
As I started throwing out
twists to traditional patterns, they became involved, playing with these
optical illusions of words and the classroom moved closer to a place where
ideas were exchanged. I challenged. They responded and even challenged
There was the questioner
— a hand-raised inquiry for every variety of subject.
The note taker — I really
don’t know why — but she wrote more than I spoke.
The heckler — I pity the
poor guy she winds up with — just kidding.
It was a classroom,
probably like many others across the country. Students there to learn, get
a degree, and spend their transitional years in search of their future.
And all too clearly, I knew
that I missed teaching. For no matter how large my weekly audience,
writing doesn’t change the future.
Debt Takes No Holiday; NYS In Fiscal Quagmire
By HENRY STERN
Arnold Schwarzenegger is now
Governor of California, beneficiary of a public uprising at the way the
state was being run by Gray Davis.
The huge deficit in California
should not divert us from the fiscal disaster impending in New York
State. At a recent Citizens Budget Commission conference in
Palisades, New York, the theme was the State: how it overspends, how it
has increased debt by using public authorities to borrow billions of
dollars (Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said these extra-budgetary
entities evoked Enron economics), how the State uses one-shots to reduce
structural deficits, etc. It was pointed out that, unlike the City’s,
the State budget does not follow GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting
Former Governor Hugh L. Carey
gave the keynote speech and was in rare form, summarizing the state’s
financial condition and recalling how he had saved New York City from
bankruptcy in 1975 by shared sacrifice, with business, labor and
government working together to help the city out of that fiscal crisis.
There was little cooperation in the spasm of 1991, which led to massive
layoffs of city employees. Now the state is in a similar position, facing
increasing debt and demand for expenditures.
The debt that New York State
has incurred now exceeds 38 billion dollars and is the highest total for
any state. This debt requires billions of dollars to be paid each year in
interest, making it more difficult to balance the budget. The sale of
tobacco bonds, secured by future payments by the tobacco companies as part
of the settlement of a nationwide lawsuit, was used to balance this year’s
The overspending by the State
is the fault of both the Governor and the Legislature. In 2002,
running for re-election, Governor Pataki reached an agreement with Dennis
Rivera, head of the Hospital Workers Union, for substantial raises for
health and hospital employees, which the state helped to finance. He
paid long-overdue aid to the city so it could give increases to Randi
Weingarten’s UFT. In turn, he received the endorsement of both union
leaders, creating a climate in which his re-election was inevitable. New
York’s deteriorating financial situation was kept under wraps during the
campaign, and when Comptroller Carl McCall, Democratic candidate for
governor, pointed out the fiscal consequences of the Governor’s
generosity, he was denounced by the union leaders, and remained
essentially silent on fiscal issues thereafter.
In fairness, one cannot blame
Rivera or Weingarten for these agreements; they were acting in the
interest of their membership. And the tradition of exchanging votes for
favors is not new. What is remarkable here is the enormous cost of these
transactions; it was cheaper a century ago when people were bought off as
individuals, not en masse.
The State, which operates in a
chilly, isolated place called Albany, has always received less media
attention in New York City than city government. State government is
less accessible, less interesting, and does not affect our lives as
directly as city services do.
But the state does impose
taxes, and a high tax climate leads to the loss both of businesses and
people who can afford to pay the taxes. The cities and counties impose
taxes as well, which are 72 percent higher than the national average.
Local taxes are higher because the State requires localities to pay 25
percent of the $16 billion and growing Medicaid costs (the state pays 25
percent, the federal government 50 percent, the least the Feds pay to any
state). It is human nature and economic sense to try to avoid the
taxman, especially if the money he demands is more than his colleagues in
neighboring states require from their industries and their inhabitants.
The state legislature has for
years been in the habit of enacting pension increases, enhancements and
sweeteners, including bills creating presumptions that particular diseases
are job related and therefore merit disability pensions.
These backdoor burdens are
imposed by legislators pliant to union (i.e., contributors’) demands for
benefits that the unions failed to achieve in collective bargaining.
These increases cost counties
and cities hundreds of millions of dollars, but they are classic unfunded
mandates, the state paying not a penny.
plan for California’s budget includes borrowing fifteen billion dollars.
This will put the Golden State in the number one position in the United
States in public debt, surpassing New York State, which will become number
two. In this derby of debt, New York City is number three, and the other
48 states, plus hundreds of cities and public authorities (the most recent
class of debtors) bring up the rear.
Of course, the National Debt
dwarfs all state and local obligations.
Hasta la vista.
Not4Publication.com by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be