Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bloomberg's Day Tripper

The Bloombergistas are grasping at straws to demonstrate that Cathie Black has at least some connection to public schools. Yesterday, City Room reported on Black's one day sojourn in a South Bronx school-immediately undercutting all arguments militating against her appointment: "She patrolled the halls of a South Bronx public school, mediated a fight between students and went an entire workday without lunch. Though Cathleen P. Black, the chancellor-nominee of New York City’s public schools and the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has been criticized for her lack of experience in her new field, 10 years ago, she got something of an education in education — at least eight hours’ worth — at what is now Junior High School 125 Henry Hudson."

Well, that settles the experience issue. Well, perhaps not-as one parent commented: "This week near the school, Carlos Jimenez, who was a student there in the 1990s before Ms. Black visited and who now works at a pizzeria, said he thought she deserved a chance to prove herself. But Brenda Rodriguez, whose 10-year-old daughter will will start at the school next year, was not impressed to hear of Ms. Black’s visit. “Maybe if she had been there for at least a year,” said Ms. Rodriguez, who was buying snacks for her children at a bodega. “To learn ‘What are we going to focus on? What are we going to fix?’” She paused. “One day?” she said. “It’s nothing.”

But with Bloomberg, money for nothing may be all you can hope for-since the panel that was established for reviewing Black's credentials is certainly no hanging jury: "State Senator Eric Adams on Monday called for the removal of a member of the education panel evaluating Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s choice for the next city schools chancellor. Mr. Adams, a Democrat, called on the panel member, Louise Mirrer, to recuse herself from the deliberations because of her many close ties to Mr. Bloomberg, which she did not appear to have disclosed. “She should not sit on the panel,” said Mr. Adams, who represents Brooklyn. “The mayor has great influence on her vote.”

Civil rights attorney Michael Myers, in a response to the City Room blog post, captures the essence of this ongoing farce-and the supine role being played by the commissioner of education:
"NYS Education Commissioner David Steiner’s judgment and his own personal integrity are at issue here, as well as the independence and disinterestedness of the panel he has named to advise him on whether to grant the waiver to unqualified Cathleen Black, which she needs in order to assume the post of NYC Public Schools Chancellor.

Why did not Commissioner Steiner ask each panelist whether they had any personal or financial ties to Mayor Bloomberg, to the New York City government and/or to any of Bloomberg’s philanthropic entities, including his foundation and the Carnegie Corporation which has channeled his gift-giving to many not-for-profit, civic and other “charitable” institutions."

Equally troubling is that several of the panelists have worked under Chancellor Joel Klein, and therefore for Mayor Bloomberg."

The NY Times delves into this messy melange: "As new revelations surfaced about extensive ties between Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and members of the panel evaluating his choice for school’s chancellor, state officials acknowledged on Monday that they did not screen the panel members for conflicts of interest or connections to the Bloomberg administration before appointing them."

Or, as Karl Marx asked, "Who will educate the educator? "The commissioner is trying to contain the fallout as parents and elected officials question the process by which the mayor has sought to install Ms. Black, saying it is secretive and is unlikely to lead to any result other than a rubber-stamping of the mayor’s wishes."

Susan Lerner from Common Cause captures the inanity of this process: "There are real questions about whether this is an objective process,” Ms. Lerner said, “or whether it has been compromised by the selection process. Is it legitimate to say, is this tilted, is there a thumb on the scale — not a super heavy one, but a thumb on the scale?” Ms. Lerner asked. She then answered her own question: “Yes.”

But the Bloomberg cash stash has built, not a bridge to nowhere, but one that sails smoothly over troubled waters-and Master Geppetto's strings are far reaching and effective. Liz Benjamin has the story: "Opening up a new front in the Cathie Black offensive, a group of 28 prominent New York women have written to state Education Commissioner David Steiner and urged him to approve her waiver so the ” the largest public school system in the country will, for the first time, be headed by a woman.”

Oh, that's great, obfuscating Black's experience gap with a toxic brew of  non sequitor identity politics-but look at the roster assembled here: "The letter is signed by a wide variety of women – including a number with ties to Mayor Bloomberg, like NARAL Pro-Choice NY’s Kelli Conlin, whose organization has endorsed the mayor; US Sen. Chuck Schumer’s wife, Iris Weinshall, who served as DOT commissioner under Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani; and actress Whoopi Goldberg, who was one of the mayor’s many celebrity endorsers in 2009."

A choir that sings wonderfully from the Bloomberg libretto-while at the same time, NYC's public issues a strong contrary thumbs down: "Today’s Q poll finds NYC voters are generally not supportive of Cathie Black, Mayor Bloomberg’s pick to succeed Joel Klein as schools chancellor. Most residents (64 – 26) say education experience matters more than management experience when it comes to overseeing the city’s vast network of public schools."

Ah, public opinion, a nasty bit of irrelevancy when it comes to our elected oligarch-who shrugs off the rabble's crticism with practiced ease: "Mayor Bloomberg shrugged this morning’s Q-poll showing voters - especially public school parents - casting doubt on his school’s chancellor pick. “This is not a popularity contest,” Bloomberg told reporters..."

But we'll give Q-Poll's Mickey Carroll the last meaningless word on this charade-and wonder how the next three years will treat the mayor who has finally begun to show his true off colors: "The City Hall spin machine better shift into high gear,” said Q pollster Mickey Carroll. “So far, all the negative news stories are murdering Cathleen Black – and not doing Mayor Michael Bloomberg much good, either.