Monday, February 07, 2011

Mayor $anctimoney

Some folks are getting into high dungeon over the fact that a group of parents-as well as the head of the UFT-didn't treat the highly decorated educator/chancellor with the proper respect at a meeting concerning the closure of a number of city schools. First the NY Post editorializes with umbrage: "Mayor Bloomberg got it right yesterday when he called the disgraceful verbal savaging of Schools Chancellor Cathie Black Thursday night an assault on the entire school system. So much for post-Tucson civility. The chancellor, in fact, showed great patience as she tried to deliver her remarks through an unending cascade of jeering, booing and catcalls -- before nearly 2,000 people in the audience at a schools-closing hearing got up and stomped out."

The Post laments that this may be part of a pattern of growing disrespect: "This just 24 hours after Black received an equally harsh greeting -- by many of the same culprits -- during a meeting at which the Panel for Educational Policy voted to shut 10 failing high schools and open a new Upper West Side charter school run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz."

The NY Daily News sings in the same key: "Fools that we are, we approached Thursday night's Panel for Educational Policy public hearing with the hope that a call for civility would prove Tuesday's shoutfest to have been an aberration. Well, no. The body's second session, focusing on the proposed closure of a dozen incorrigibly failing schools, may have been rowdier than the first. The normally staid New York Times called it a "Lollapalooza of anti-Bloomberg fury."

Well we certainly agree with the first part of the opening sentence in the News editorial, but what both paper's are lacking in their usual defense of ciivility in the defense of privilege, is the deep and rising anger at the imperiousness-as well as ineffectiveness-of the Bloomberg educational regime. And UFT head Mulgrew has it just right: "Teachers union official Michael Mulgrew, who joined in chants of "fraud" on Wednesday and a walkout during Thursday's meeting, suggested a nickname for Bloomberg based on his remarks:  "Mayor Hosni Mubarak." "It's clear that Mike Bloomberg has the same idea of democracy as Hosni," he said, referring to the protests in Egypt. "For him to bring up democracy -- anything about democracy -- when speaking about a (Panel for Educational Policy) meeting is beyond hypocrisy, because the last time the PEP panel said the mayor was wrong, they were fired."

But what was the purpose of the hearing? To consider closing certain schools-and here's how the Post characterizes this need: "As Black tried to explain why the Department of Education wants to close schools -- a decade or more of "persistently poor performance" -- she was drowned out by a torrent of rowdy heckling and personal abuse. "So, after a decade of spending roughly $9 billion more a year than previously spent, we still are getting "persistently poor performance," from our schools? Who would have thought? On top of this persistent failure of performance, we are made to suffer the indignity of having a dilettante foisted on us to lead the DOE.

But the mayor-who we last saw chiding government workers for failing to show up in a snowstorm on a day he had mistakenly called for them to stay home-has the unmitigated gall to chastise the protestors in the name of democracy. As the Post reports: "This is embarrassing for New York City, New York state [and] for America," the mayor said yesterday on his weekly radio broadcast. "This is not democracy -- letting people yell and scream. That's not freedom of expression. That's just trying to take away somebody else's rights."

Here's someone who overrode the will of  two voter referendums, with what amounted to as little more than bribery and chicanery, so that he could get an unethical third term, chastising others in the name of democracy? He had more credibility busting the city workers over their no show snow day. As News pointed out about the Kremlin-like Panel for Educational Policy that both local papers feel is sacred space: "In 2004, the mayor removed panel appointees critical of his plan requiring students to earn a minimum score on state exams before being promoted to the next grade. The panel, which functions as a school board, is seen as a rubber stamp to Education Department policy since the majority of the members are appointed by the mayor. Panel members have  never voted down a school closing - or any significant policy made by the agency."

Michael Daly at the News dramatizes the charade: "Bloomberg is no Mubarak, silly sound bites by teacher's union boss Michael Mulgrew aside. But, the folks in that auditorium at Brooklyn Tech had no more real voice than the folks in Egypt. Schools Chancellor Cathie Black and the ruling majority of the panel on stage are mayoral puppets. They hardly even pretended that whatever the people in the auditorium had to say made much difference. "Not one person on the panel was actually listening," said Charm Rhoomes, who was there Thursday night as the mother of a student at Jamaica High School and the president of its PTA. "Even Cathie Black. She was on her BlackBerry."

Now that's the kind of democracy that the mayor enthuses about-a government where his decisions are unchallenged and the folks are impolitely ignored. But the News takes this to another silly level: "Not to be outdone in immature behavior, Brooklyn City Councilmen Charles Barron and Jumaane Williams took the microphone to lecture Black about respect. They professed to find it reprehensible that on Tuesday she had responded to hecklers drowning her out by saying, "Ooooh." Barron called that "jeering at our parents" and "the height of disrespect." His hypocrisy knows no bounds. When the Council holds hearings, disruptions are forbidden. Security personnel stand ready to eject hecklers, and even polite criticism of members is strictly against the rules. That sort of respect for the proper workings of government institutions gets thrown in the garbage when it comes to education officials who happen not to agree with Barron and Williams."

Of course, unlike Black and the PEP panel, both Barron and Williams were actually elected-and managed to do so without spending hundreds of millions of disinformation dollars to do so. So what is truly disrespectful to us, is the usurpation of the local government by money and privilege-with an educational achievement that can only be characterized as meager-even with the huge additional outlays. There is a growing resentment in the city about an arrogant and out-of -touch narcissistic mayor; and the New Yorker cartoon of Narcissus Bloomberg is precisely on target-as is the mayor's sanguine approbation of the caricature: "It was great,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters on Thursday. “I thought it was cute looking into the mirror.”

Of course, not everyone is a fan of onanism-and what we witnessed over the past week is just the tip of an expanding ice berg of discontent. But the mayor. for his part, remains unperturbed by the tumult, as he spends yet another weekend celebrating democracy- with no public schedule-on a golf course in Bermuda.