The Mayor’s Super Battle

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the leaders of the State Legislature in Albany are engaged in a struggle whose outcome will directly affect the 1.1 million public schoolchildren in the city. If the Legislature prevails, the changes that the Mayor and most sensible citizens want to bring to the city’s schools will be cosmetic at best, and school kids will continue to suffer.

The battle is over who gets to appoint school superintendents. Currently, the 32 community school boards have that power, and all too often that means the schools end up being run by politically connected hacks. Schools Chancellor Harold Levy has seen many of his best candidates for superintendent rejected by the politically motivated school boards. To put an end to this circus, Mr. Bloomberg wants the ability to hire, fire and reassign the superintendents. Those who currently perform brilliantly could be transferred to districts that need an infusion of energy and creativity. Hacks would be sent packing. Kids would no longer be at the mercy of underachieving flunkies.

Assemblyman Steven Sanders, chairman of the Assembly’s Education Committee, is proving to be a champion of mediocre schools by loudly opposing Mr. Bloomberg’s wish to choose superintendents. If the Mayor cannot pick the leaders of the school system, then the entire issue of Mayoral control of schools is a farce and a complete waste of time. Mr. Sanders, who represents the East Side of Manhattan, apparently prefers farce to improved educational performance, and he’s enjoying the limelight that comes with preventing the Mayor from getting meaningful control of the school system.

Mayors of all parties and persuasions-Ed Koch, David Dinkins, Rudolph Giuliani and now Michael Bloomberg-have sought to take charge of the school system. Mr. Bloomberg is staking a good deal of political capital on the bet that he’s the one who can finally pull it off. The State Legislature should stop grandstanding and let him move forward. The city’s schoolchildren have waited long enough.

Pataki’s Seedy Courtship

Hard though it is to believe, the third-largest political party in New York State is the Independence Party, an organization that serves as a platform for the extremist ravings of Lenora Fulani, a loony-tunes messenger of radical anti-Semitism.

In the last gubernatorial election, the Independence Party won more votes than either the Conservative Party or Ray Harding’s deservedly moribund Liberal Party. Still, given the party’s close association with Ms. Fulani, who used to run something called the New Alliance Party-a bizarre collection of anti-Semites, kooky left-wingers and outright head cases-you’d think mainstream politicians would keep a safe distance.

That would be the honorable course of action. Unfortunately, it seems that Governor George Pataki thinks otherwise. Rather than steer clear of these oddballs, Mr. Pataki has decided to court them as he campaigns for a third term. In the days leading up to the party’s state convention in mid-May, the Governor called delegates asking for their support as the party’s nominee. Worse yet, the Governor reportedly had a hand in arranging a $10 million interest-free loan for one of Ms. Fulani’s dubious nonprofit organizations.

It is disgraceful that each election season, so many New York politicians suck up to the Ray Hardings and Lenora Fulanis of the world. They end up beholden to these unsavory characters and their corrupt organizations, and the voters are none the wiser.

Mr. Pataki, a Republican who will also have the Conservative Party’s line in the fall, won 67 percent of the delegates’ votes at the Independence Party convention, but that wasn’t enough to achieve his goal of keeping another candidate, upstate businessman Tom Golisano, from qualifying for an Independence Party primary ballot. That means Mr. Pataki will have to go through an undignified primary campaign to win the party’s line in the fall.

Facing the prospect of a tough re-election battle, Mr. Pataki is leaving nothing to chance. He doesn’t want Tom Golisano mucking up matters in November. The Governor wants a head-to-head match-up with either Andrew Cuomo or Carl McCall, one of whom will emerge as the Democratic Party’s candidate. In his opinion, the best way to achieve that goal is to eliminate, so to speak, Mr. Golisano.

It’s not hard to imagine that Mr. Pataki will regret all of this in a few months. Rather than simply ignoring the Independence Party and its candidate for Governor, he asked for the party’s support, and then didn’t get enough of it to make Mr. Golisano go away. He would win real points if he told the party to dump its anti-Semitic leader before he accepts its endorsement.

Whether or not he wins the party’s primary, Mr. Pataki can rightfully be accused of keeping company with one of the state’s most toxic politicians. If Mr. Cuomo or Mr. McCall don’t have a field day with this, they should consider another line of work.

Depressed? Don’t Cheer Up!

If you’re a woman approaching her later years and feeling a bit blue, take heart and go easy on the Prozac: Mild depression may be good for you. So says a new study by Duke University, which found that feeling bad actually prolongs the lives of older women. Researchers discovered that women over 65 who have moderate depression are 40 percent less likely to die than women with a happy disposition.

The study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry , looked at over 4,000 women in North Carolina. The researchers concluded that as one moves into old age and life’s traumas continue to accumulate, a case of mild depression may be used as a coping mechanism to release painful emotions. Women with cheerful natures may have more trouble integrating difficult events and situations, and thus may suffer health problems.

“It is possible that subthreshold depression … is not damaging but is, rather, a biological or psychological response to protect women from future risk,” the researchers wrote. The study notes, however, that women with severe depression do not experience the increased longevity of their less stricken sisters.

Melancholy men, meanwhile, do not outlive their upbeat peers. So stop moping, fellas, and cheer up.