Friday, July 24, 2009

Failing to Get an Education

Opponents of mayoral control gathered-300+ strong-on the steps of city hall to rail against re-issuing a blank check to the man who has already demonstrated that some controls over his unchecked power would be...a good thing. As the NY Daily News reports: "Democratic state senators brought the battle over school control to Mayor Bloomberg's doorstep on Thursday, denouncing him on the steps of City Hall for refusing to compromise. The lawmakers, who have been embroiled in a nasty public feud with Bloomberg over the lapsed law, refused to rule out starting the school year without a new bill. "There is no end to this debate," said Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. "It will be ongoing."

Fortunately, as we suggested yesterday, the senators hit away-not at the mayor personally-but at the disastrous results of allowing a system of unchecked power to continue. Instructively, neither of the two papers that have been assailing the senate for not rubber stamping the assembly-passed bill bothered to even try to cover the substance of the arguments that were put forward in detail yesterday; and not only by senators, but by parents and teachers as well.

This Three Blind Mice version of journalism continues to do a disservice to NY's voters who will be asked to pass judgment on the Bloomberg Era without any real scrutiny from papers whose function is supposedly to inform the folks about the strengths and weaknesses of their elected officials. In this vacuum created by nonfeasance-and in at least one case with the Post, malfeasance-all that any one's been able to hear is the relentless drumbeat of the mayor's well financed propaganda machine.

When serious criticism is finally being raised about the less than utopian governance structure, it's being lost-first in the back and forth of personal invective between the mayor and his senate adversaries-in the silence of the tabloids. Here's the NY Post on yesterday's rally-in a 122 word story: "Democrats in the do-nothing state Senate yesterday vowed to keep thwarting Mayor Bloomberg's bid to extend mayoral control of the schools unless City Hall agrees to empower parents and make other concessions. "We're going to be the bad guys," Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) said at a press conference with parents outside City Hall."

Catchy lead, no? And what, pray tell, are those other concessions? Perhaps the rights to sell Snapple in their local schools? Or maybe they are somewhat more substantive-like eliminating hundreds of millions of dollars of no-bid contracts, as was suggested by Senator Kruger. But you'd never know, at least if you only read the NY Daily News and NY Post. On the other hand, the rally did get better coverage from NY1, but the other stations were more interested in fundraising scandals then in any substantive mayoral debate.

And, lost in the din on all this, is that there has been some real discussions between the mayor and the senate "clowns." Something that Wayne Barrett appears to be the ony one reporting on: "Senate Democrats and negotiators for the mayor have apparently worked out terms to settle the recent deadlock about extending the mayoral school control bill. Sources say the mayor has agreed to an amendment that would provide $1.6 million to the City University to oversee a parent training and exchange program, which was a key change sought by Senate Democratic Conference Chair John Sampson and other senators." Which means that the entire fiasco may soon be over-and any real independent evaluation put in the back of the sock drawer.

So we are left mostly with the sounds of silence-or, alternatively, the tawdry exchanges of woof ticket politics. Meanwhile the basis for the re-election of the mayor-a rationale built almost entirely on a solipsism-is not being effectively challenged; although Bill Thompson appears to have finally come out of his stupor. As the News does tell us: "Meanwhile, City Controller Bill Thompson challenged Bloomberg to an education debate, hammering him for the third day on one of the mayor's signature campaign issues. Bloomberg's campaign declined but said he looked forward to debates scheduled for October. Thompson is his likely Democratic rival."

Thompson needs to constantly bell the cat-and go after the mayor as aggressively as Bloomberg has with the state senate. Bloomberg's arrogant political bubble needs to be burst-and the only way that will be done (and actually reported) is if the comptroller whales away. Let's hope he does.