Council Candidates Make Their Case
By JORDAN MOSS
Norwood residents braving a rainy evening to make it to the St. Brendan's School cafeteria were treated to a rare sight last week - that of three City Council candidates in the 11th District vigorously debating the issues. Not since June Eisland became a member of the City Council in 1979 has there been a competitive race in the district. This year, though, term limits has attracted four competitors vying to succeed her.
The debate, moderated by Derek Woods of BRONXNET, was sponsored by the Mosholu Woodlawn South its organization, the Bedford Park Neighborhood Alliance. The questions were not meant to stump the candidates. Rather, the 27-year-old community groups sought to get the candidates - Terry Bastone, Oliver Koppell, and Laura Spalter - on the record concerning issues on their agenda. Mark Vogel, the fourth candidate, did not show up, despite assuring an event organizer that he'd be there. Vogel didn't return calls seeking comment.
The candidates agreed on many issues such as the need for schools in the Kingsbridge Armory and getting money to fix Norwood's dilapidated subways.
But they clashed on education. Asked what they would do to get new schools constructed in the area, Laura Spalter, a social studies teacher at MS 80 in Norwood pointed to the Board of Education as the problem and announced that she had just filed a legal complaint to abolish the agency based on the premise of one-man one-vote, since each borough has a representative on the board despite its population. "It's not just an issue of getting more money," she said. "It's how is that money being allocated?" She said the $2 billion shortfall recently discovered at the Board "is just a symptom of the mismanagement." If elected, Spalter said she would push for a "home rule" message calling on the state to approve a "totally new structure for the Board of Ed." Later, she conceded her legal action was a longshot, but said it was meant "to start a debate."
Koppell sharply criticized Spalter on her stance. He cited the current mayor as the reason why the Bronx was severely shortchanged in the most recent capital construction plan in which only one new school is slated for the Bronx while 23 are allotted to Queens. "What does Ms. Spalter want to do? She wants to give all the power to the mayor," Koppell said, adding that abolishing the Board of Education would actually give other boroughs even more power, since the system now gives the Bronx the same vote as the more populous boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.
Later in the debate, Spalter returned fire on Koppell, when he pointed out that four new schools had recently been built in the area. "How can Oliver defend the status quo?" she asked.
"It's not enough, but let's recognize in this area we got four new schools," Koppell responded, insisting that he was in no way defending the status quo. After the debate, Koppell added that, in terms of overcrowding, "District 10 is a lot better off than it was five years ago."
Bastone said she "had no specific proposal without the budget in front of her," but would fight for the area's fair share of school construction and leasing funds.
Bastone differentiated herself, though, on another issue important to many local residents - rats. While the other candidates promised an all out multi-agency assault on the problem, Bastone told residents to look in the mirror. "Let's be honest here. It begins with us," she said, urging residents to bag their garbage and place it in metal cans with lids. That response got some of the loudest applause of the evening.
Asked about installing speed bumps around Reservoir Oval, Koppell said he hadn't studied the issue in that particular location, but that he'd push for a review of the matter if elected. Spalter, who was recently endorsed by mayoral candidate Peter Vallone, said she "hopes to be very good friends with the new mayor," which would ensure a better response from the Department of Transportation. Bastone said, simply, "Not only are you gonna get a speed bump, but you're going to get one hell of a park in there."
The candidates also agree that more needs to be done about the area's subway stations. Koppell said it is the "function of a city councilperson to push for these renovations," and called it an "outrage" that the escalator at the 205th Street subway station has been out of service for so long. Spalter also said she would fight for "our fair share" in capital funds to fix the stations. Bastone cited the stations as evidence that the "Bronx has become the forgotten child" in city government.
The three spoke about a variety of other issues, sharing similar views about the need for better housing policies and restoring the community policing program. They also all agreed that a filtration plant for the Croton system should not be built in the Bronx.
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