School Days: Touch Black, No Backs
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
“Touch Black, No Backs.”
A childhood street phrase takes on new meaning as Mayor Mike Bloomberg appoints Cathie Black as Chancellor of the New York City School system.
The Mayor does not take the word “no” very well and is clearly one of the richest and most powerful figures in our country.
By now everyone knows that Publishing Executive Black does not have the Educational credentials need to assume leadership of the complex and challenging New York City school system and requires a waiver from State Education Commissioner David Steiner in order to assume the job.
The logical argument implicit in the Mayor’s appointment is a system as large as New York City’s schools must be run by a skilled executive who can hire professionals to provide the professional leadership.
The snipes appear to be personal at either Ms. Black or the Mayor – certainly personalities and political preferences should not enter into such a weighty decision.
I have little knowledge of Black and no strong feelings on her selection. I have intimate knowledge of the NYC school system having been a product of a fine public education and then spending 15 years working as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal serving in both regular and special education plus a brief stint at the now forgotten hallowed halls of 110 Livingston Street where bureaucracy wad the stuff legends were made of. My family was and is filled with educators – mom and dad logged some 70 years employed by the “NYC Board of Ed.”
It is pretty clear to me that over the past four plus decades since I graduated from the public New York City school system (and went onto a New York City public college) the system has been in decline – yes for some forty years the once outstanding educational system spiraled downhill failing our children, city and future.
That is until Mike Bloomberg took control. I do not credit the Mayor with success or victory with the schools. I credit him with stopping the downhill spiral. Fine mayors before him failed. Fine education leaders before him failed. Mike Bloomberg reversed the decline but the system still has a long way to go.
Because of his effective leadership, the State Legislature granted Mayoral control of the City school system. Yes, the appointment still needs a waiver from the State Commissioner.
I have been involved in a number of discussions with some pretty savvy people about the Mayor’s appointment of Black. Surprisingly, I have run into many progressive folks hung up on qualifications – even though they knew present Chancellor Joel Klein performed effectively during Bloomberg’s administration without the proper credentials – he was granted a waiver. Some have pointed out that Klein did have limited experience as a product of and a brief stint in the system.
Black has none. Zero, zip, zilch.
The argument that seems to have won the day in support of the Mayor’s right to appoint a competent executive has been: “What if he appointed Bill Gates?”
Would this college dropout, with no education background have your support to lead the troubled school district? Nebraska’s Warren Buffet? Would he have your backing?
Are there other non-credentialed individuals who would have your support to lead the Department of Education? Can you name some?
Bill Clinton? Hillary Clinton? Rudy Giuliani (I just put that down for balance). Any leaders of industry? Finance? Can’t you come up with a list of possibiles who you would like?
Well, sorry; it is not your choice.
The law says it’s the Mayor’s pick.
Let’s let him do his job.
In the closing days of his embarrassing Governorship, David Paterson has done what he has done so many times before. He has acted stupidly.
The latest faux pax has far-reaching consecuences and again calls into question Mr. Paterson’s ethics.
On the heels of the greatest embarrassment of his administration – make that his lengthy career of public service – the backroom deal awarding Aqueduct Racino to AEG which had to be reversed – he negotiates in secret and springs a new Casino deal on the people of New York.
He has made a deal with a Wisconson-based Indian tribe which considers New York as its ancestral home, to build a Casino in the Catskills.
Astonishment, to say the least will greet the Governors effort to promote another backroom negotiated Casino deal.
The proximity to the City could attract compete for customers with the State’s existing gambling venues and the soon to built Aqueduct Racino.
There are still hurdles – including Federal approval – for this deal.
And perhaps the Governor-elect can convince Governor Paterson that the appearances and secrecy surrounding this deal allowing a Wisconsin Tribe to build a Casino in New York is the cheesiest move of his career.MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
Senate Control In Doubt As 3 Recounts Continue
By HENRY STERN
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...” - Jaws 2 (1980).
Just when you thought the State Senate’s inability to function could be resolved, three weeks after the Nov. 2 election, we do not even know which party will organize the chamber.
As of this writing, the Republicans have won 30 seats and the Democrats 29. Three seats remain undecided because the margin of the leader is very small, and absentee, military and emergency ballots have not been completely tallied.
In a neighboring Nassau district, Jack Martins, the Republican mayor of Mineola, declared victory twice since Election Day over Democratic incumbent Craig Johnson after the County Board of Elections concluded its count of all the absentee ballots with Martins ahead by 403 votes. Johnson, has complained of discrepancies. The rivals are due back in State Supreme Court on Nov. 29th.
In Westchester, 13-term incumbent Dem Suzi Oppenheimer is currently in court against her Republican challenger Bob Cohen, a developer. Oppenheimer leads Cohen by 626 votes, as officials at the Board of Elections continue to count the 2400 emergency, absentee, and affidavit ballots.
Upstate, in an Erie-Niagara district, incumbent two-term Dem Antoine Thompson trailed GOP challenger Mark Grisanti, a lawyer. by 579 votes. When we called for numbers, Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward informed us that he was with representatives of the two candidates counting ballots and he didn’t anticipate the counting to be completed for another week.
The First Congressional district race in Suffolk County between four-term Democrat incumbent Tim Bishop and challenger Randy Altschuler is similarly undecided. But that contest will not affect control of The House of Representatives.
Once the votes are counted, the lawyers for each side will proceed with the tedious business of challenging voters. When a person has voted who was not entitled to do so, we are likely not to know for whom that person voted, or what effect the disqualification of such persons’ votes would have on the results.
Even where irregularities are discovered, they may or may not have been intentional. If they are unintentional, which is most often the case, it is difficult to find a remedy. To hold another election is expensive and time consuming. It is likely that the number of voters will be much lower in a special election, and the result less representative of the district. It is more practical to determine that the candidate who has received the most valid votes is the winner.This process takes a lot of time, especially when many ballots are in dispute.
After the various Commissioners of Elections determine the winners in the three disputed Senate contests, the losers have the right to appeal to the state courts, which will grant expedited hearings because of the immediacy of the disputes. Nonetheless, the judicial process is likely to take weeks.
Justice Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, set December 20 as the deadline to conclude all appeals, so that the contests will all be resolved before the Legislature convenes, with its new members, on January 5, four days after the inauguration of Governor Cuomo.
At this moment, the odds favor the Republicans in their effort to regain control of the State Senate. However, the process is definitely fluid and the outcome is by no means assured.
Democratic partisans will certainly be distressed to lose the Senate after finally regaining control in 2009 after 43 years in the wilderness of a legislative minority. However, the party should not be too surprised with the probable outcome of this election after two disastrous years in the majority that began with the “Four Amigos”, continued through the Espada coup and Monserrate slashing and explusion, and ended with the Aqueduct racing scandal.
Not every Democrat is likely to mind a G.O.P. Senate. In some ways, a Republican victory would be helpful to Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, because he will have a foil in negotiations with Dean Skelos as Senate Majority Leader, while being freed of the burden of dealing with John Sampson, who, along with Senator Malcolm Smith, has been touched by the unfolding Aqueduct mess.
Of course, Cuomo must profess to desire Democratic control, but some political observers believe the GOP legislators’ views may be closer to Cuomo’s than those of the Working Family Democrats who support substantial tax increases. The new governor is aware of the reality of the states fiscal situation and the 9 billion dollar deficit for FY 2012, with the budget due on March 31.
How he meets these challenges will determine the success of the new administration.StarQuest@NYCivic.org