Oportunidades revisited

“From Chalupas to Oportunidades,” was a column I wrote three years ago about Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for a new initiative modeled after Mexico’s Oportunidades, for the benefit of low-income families.

After visiting with federal Social Development Secretary Beatriz Zavola and Mexico City’s Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, Emperor Mike, in his second and supposed last term, decided that thisprogram would be a great way to improve the quality of parenting for impoverished families here in New York City.

Through his millionaire buds, he was able to secure 14 million smackeroos in donations and for the past two years has rewarded 2,400 families in a targeted group with a yearly bonus check of $3,000. The money was supposed to be given to parents so they could afford to take their children to the doctor, make sure they went to school and help increased their own involvement in school activities.

Recently 1010 WINS reported that after approximately two years, the plan didn’t turn out to be the whopping success Mayor Mike had hoped for. According to their report it “… has had mixed results.”

Sure, some improvements were recognized, but in the area of education, which it was originally intended to improve, it fell flatter than watered-down (and sugar-free I hope), soda.

According to WINS, “More people established bank accounts and stopped using costly check cashing services. More people saw the dentist.”

But when it came to the educational aspect, the report stated, “The rewards had no effect on school performance and attendance for young children or low-performing high schoolers.”

In the column, I also commented that the mayor had claimed there was a supposed surplus of around $4.5 billion for fiscal year 2006 in the city’s coffers, a portion of which Bloomy said, he was going to put away for a rainy day.

Well, in case you haven’t notices, the rainy days are here — and the flood waters are swirling around our knees. The surplus? That’s no where to be found.

The mayor’s bonus (opportunities) plan spent $14 million dollars, with a net result that impoverished families could write out checks and visit the dentist. Whoopee!

Maybe I’m misinformed (and forgive me if I am), but I always thought that programs like Medicaid and ChildHealth Plus provided dental care, medical care, well care and prescription drug coverage for low-income families. It was families in the in-between stage, (you know, middle class), that made too much to qualify for low-income benefits but not enough to have insurance on their own, that were really in need — unfortunately, they mayor’s plan didn’t target that group. Then again, we middle classers already take our kids to the doctors, make sure our kids go to school and, if our teens are under-achieving, we pay for the tutors to help boost their grades.

Not for nuthin’, but I think its time the mayor say hasta la vista and pull the plug to the oportunidades program and concentrate on finding out exactly where that $4.5 billion surplus went ’cause we ‘middle classers’ could use a bonus right about now. Besides we already know how to write a check, especially the checks that we pay for city tax.

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