Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More on the Shoddy Chancellor Paneling

We have dramatized the fixation of the State Ed's chancellor panel-but this is the gift that keeps on giving-as City Room points out: "

She has lobbied Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s office for financing. She is chairwoman of an academy for which Mr. Bloomberg has helped raise millions of dollars. She runs a museum to which Mr. Bloomberg has personally donated $475,000. And she was the recipient of an award from Mr. Bloomberg two years ago at Gracie Mansion.

Louise Mirrer’s connections to New York City’s billionaire mayor are varied, longstanding and deep — they are personal, as well as professional.

But it does not appear that Ms. Mirrer disclosed those ties when she was selected to serve on a panel that is to evaluate Mr. Bloomberg’s choice for the next schools chancellor, Cathleen P. Black.

Even more, the woman takes umbrage at the suggestion that she should have: "If I had something I thought I should disclose, I would have disclosed it,” Ms. Mirrer said, adding that her ties to the mayor were irrelevant to her work on the panel. Nor does it appear that the state official who appointed Ms. Mirrer to the panel, David M. Steiner, the state education commissioner, asked members of the panel to disclose any ties to Mr. Bloomberg."

Davis Steiner ought to be ashamed, and if they ever do another remake of Clueless, Steiner deserves star billing. Given the mayor's well known use of his own-and others'-money, Steiner should have been more rigorous in his vetting-if only to keep up the appearance of neutrality. Now, however, he looks corrupt: "Asked repeatedly if Dr. Steiner had requested information about ties between members of the panel and the mayor’s office, a spokesman, Tom Dunn, refused to answer."

We're left wondering whether Steiner asked the mayor's permission to name this group of phony overseers-and the conflicts are reaching comical proportions: "At least three members of the panel chosen by Dr. Steiner have previously worked for the Bloomberg administration in the department of education — a credential Dr. Steiner has called “a plus” in evaluating Ms. Black. Ms. Mirrer, however, stands out, because the institution she runs, the New-York Historical Society, has lobbied the Bloomberg administration in recent years, city records show, and has received large annual donations from the mayor, ranging from $50,000 to $100,000."

Since the mayor is such an avid golfer we hope that he-or someone else with greater gravitas and independence-will call for a mulligan on this motley crew that Steiner has assembled. The entire fiasco keeps getting better and better-and two law makers are asking for a delay in order to allow for legislative oversight of the mayor's chancellor choice: "Two lawmakers want the state education commissioner to delay granting businesswoman Cathie Black a waiver for the city's top schools job -- until the Legislature can pass a bill allowing them to vote on the process. State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx) and state Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) hope to fast-track a bill to let the Legislature vote on any education chancellor needing a waiver. They want state Education Commissioner David Steiner to hold off on a decision when he meets with an advisory panel tomorrow while they try to push through a bill when the Legislature reconvenes next Monday."

All of this demonstrates the degree of the mayor's arrogance-he didn't deign to do even a cursory due diligence. City Hall reports: "After a surprising and scathing backlash to its choice for the new schools chancellor, the Bloomberg administration finds itself in a strange and unfamiliar place: on the defensive. In response, the administration has been scrambling to marshal Cathie Black backers wherever they can find them. The lack of prepared surrogates seems yet another byproduct of the intense secrecy that shrouded Black’s appointment. “I don’t think anyone but the mayor knew this was coming,” said one Bloomberg ally. “The administration was taken completely off guard.”

So the vaunted Bloomberg administrative efficiency is trumped by his hubris-and there has to be a collective cry here of, "No Mas!" The Black appointment needs to be challenged legally and politically-and Steiner needs to be put on notice that his supine actions are not acceptable. It's time that the people of the City of New York reclaimed their city from the elite usurpers.