Mayor Michael Bloomberg as Co-Partner in Chief of the New York City Department of Education: Performance Review
The E-Accountability OPINION: Could do better, has given too much power to others - Iris Weinshall, the Chancellor and his appointed Deputy Chancellors -has disdain for the victims of policies that do not work, people who complain about him, or who hold his people accountable for anything; his money allows him to buy media and people rather than curry favor with others and be bought. Recommendation: Stay on, if he fires everyone at the NYC Department of Education, Office of Legal Affairs, and Law Department . Michael Cardozo's ties to Judith Kaye is a conflict of interest.
A New York Times article ["Councilwoman Says Council Speaker Was Informed of Harassment" By JENNIFER STEINHAUER, April 16, 2004] states that a report presented to the NY City Council's Standards and Ethics Committee found that Councilmember Alan Jennings created a hostile work environment. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in reply to comments made about Council Speaker Gifford Miller not doing something about these allegations when asked last spring, suggested that the Council speaker's leadership skills need improvement:
You "shouldn't just worry about this when there is a big blow-up in the newspapers. That's part of management. You will always have in the complex world disagreements, and unfortunately you'll probably always have some behavior that is disgraceful and inappropriate, and if that's the case then you as a manager do something about it."
Perhaps this should be the standard that we use to review the performance of Michael Bloomberg
who is not only the billionaire Mayor of New York City, but also the person in control of the New York City education system, the nation's largest.
He believes that he is doing a good job.
Or, is he? Most importantly, does he care? Indeed, 62% of New Yorkers polled ("On Mayor's Favorite Issue, Poll Offers No Pat on Back", By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, April 26, 2004, NYT) say that Mayor Bloomberg is not doing enough for the children. We say "Mayor, we have repeatedly asked you to take control of your inner circle, open your door to the public, and put a stop to the corruption and false claims coming from your inner circle. Due process rights and common decency have disappeared so that people with problems can be punished for asking for solutions, or merely saying they have a problem. The public schools are no better than they were, only now the staff is angry and alienated by your autocratic rule, making everything worse than ever. And, what is frightening us the most, is that you have silenced the media and pro-parent groups and have taken away parent involvement so that no one can speak about the horror of public school education as it really is today. Please resign, or please dont run again for any public position. Please.
Whatever Mayor Mike does, he does it without public debate:
December 2, 2002 8:30 a.m.
The Madness of King Michael
New York's Thanksgiving Turkey
By Robert A. George, National Review Online, December 2, 2002
It's very tough times in the Big Apple these days. The Big Apple faces a $1 billion gap in the current budget and another $6 billion deficit in next year's.
Still, the largest property-tax hike in the history of New York City was passed last Monday with phantom spending cuts, if any. At 18 percent, the tax hike was dropped on New Yorkers with no public debate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg simply cut a weekend deal with City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, which was then rubber-stamped it, 41-6.
As a measure of the Politburo-like aspect of raw political muscle, the New York Times reported that the six council members voting against the deal three Republicans and three Democrats were likely to face retribution from Bloomberg and Miller, up to and including leaving them in more vulnerable districts during the next round of city redistricting.
Meanwhile, a Manhattan Institute study estimates that the city will lose 68,000 private-sector jobs because of the tax increase.
In a word, this is madness.
Unfortunately, it is something that is becoming all-too-familiar in Michael Bloomberg's New York. It is a world where petty squabbles and personal tiffs seem to crowd out the very important questions of how to keep the world's greatest city from falling apart during a national recession exacerbated by the hangover of the 9/11 attacks.
Conservatives can't truly be said to be disappointed by Michael Bloomberg considering he was never one of them to begin with. Bloomberg had been a lifelong Democrat until switching parties shortly before he announced his candidacy.
However, Bloomberg stressed his business credentials during his mayoral race. Many businessmen black, white, and Hispanic endorsed his candidacy. A little more than a week before Election Day 2001, outgoing Mayor Rudy Giuliani a man who had gained near-mythic status following the attacks formally endorsed Bloomberg as his preferred successor. The endorsement was turned into a memorable campaign ad which ran practically 24/7 for the rest of the campaign. Bloomberg overtook his hapless Democratic opponent Mark Green (a man whose personality compares unfavorably with Al Gore).
While most conservatives despised Green, they didn't fully warm up to Bloomberg (the New York Post pointedly endorsed neither man). Yet, at his inauguration, he said all the right things. He noted that the city was in a fiscal crisis, yet observed that it had to "learn from the lessons of the past" and avoid raising taxes in the middle of an economic downturn. Because of 1990 and '91 city and state-tax hikes, New York took a whole lot longer to experience the '90s economic recovery than the rest of the country.
However, Bloomberg's honeymoon continued here in the city when he doggedly worked and finally succeeded in gaining mayoral control of the city school system something that his predecessors had been trying to do for nearly three decades.
One of his first major decisions in exercising this authority was hiring Joel Klein (the Clinton administration's antitrust litigator) as schools chancellor. The pick was a little odd, because Klein had hardly any education experience. However, conservatives thought: "Let's give the guy sometime to see what he can do." And, fairly, Klein has been as engaged a schools chancellor as New York has had. No, there hasn't been any talk about school vouchers or anything like that. But, that's not exactly a surprise in New York City (indeed, one interpretation of the state constitution even suggests that vouchers are illegal).
However, that's been about it for the mayor a few appropriate words in his inaugural address and getting control of the school system.
And so, little more than ten months into his first term and a recent poll (taken before the tax increase was voted in, but after Bloomberg first announced it) shows that for the first time in five years, New Yorkers are unhappy with the direction of the city by a margin of 44-54. Bloomberg's own approval/disapproval is 41-46. He received similar failing grades for both his handling of the budget and, surprisingly, even the schools.
This is the result one might expect because, nearly eleven months in office, Bloomberg has allowed himself to be dominated by tax increases and rumors of more tax increases. Worse, when the budget and restoring economic activity should have been up there with education as his major priorities, Bloomberg has permitted himself to be distracted by petty public squabbles and ill-advised decisions that, collectively, have left the man with hardly any political capital.
Smoking. Bloomberg is obsessed with banning smoking in just about every possible public venue in New York City. This includes, in particular, in restaurants and bars even outside restaurants. Ostensibly, the reason is to protect the health of employees who have to work in these environments. Of course, Bloomberg accepts as faith that secondhand smoke poses such a danger that a total ban is a necessity. What is remarkable, however, is that Bloomberg refuses to compromise on the ban. The aforementioned city council, which has been itching to pass a sweeping anti-smoking initiative for years, has remarkably attempted to be a moderating influence by suggesting exceptions such as cigar bars and certain other specialized establishments.
Bloomberg will hear none of it. It has to be his way or no way.
Amazingly, the leftist city council actually behaved in a similar way with the property tax. The mayor's original proposal was a 25-percent tax increase! The council countered with 20 percent.
Cigarette Tax/Bodegas. Related to his war on smoking, Bloomberg earlier this year raised the city tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.50. That means the average pack of cigarettes in New York City costs about $7.00 (the state had raised its own tax on the not-yet-illegal substance last year). Yet, two months ago, the association that represents bodega (Puerto Rican deli) owners, protested on the steps of city hall to say that the cigarette tax was killing their business. Bloomberg stunningly responded to the protests, "I just find it inconceivable that you could equate people's lives particularly children that buy cigarettes in bodegas with a minor economic issue&Let's get serious!"
The statement in itself was remarkable, all the more so coming from a onetime businessman. It was also profoundly disingenuous: He waved the "children's lives" flag, when he knows that no one under the age of 18 is legally permitted to purchase cigarettes anyway.
Columbus Day Parade. Bloomberg, defying recent precedent, blew off the Columbus Day Parade because organizers refused to permit Bloomberg's friends, actors Dominic Chianese and Lorraine Bracco, march in the parade. The two are stars of The Sopranos which organizers feel portrays Italians in a bad light. Bloomberg tried to force the organizers to let his pals walk with him. The organizers went to court to prove they could invite whomever they pleased.
Now, it can be easily said that those running the parade are overly sensitive and that The Sopranos is only a TV show. However, Bloomberg's reaction was bizarre, to say the least. He decided he wouldn't march and would just have lunch "with his friends" Bracco and Chianese. What started out looking like an action of principle, in the end looked like Bloomberg got miffed because he couldn't be seen in public with his big-time actor friends. Silly as the parade organizers might have been, they represent a sizeable slice of the Italian-American community that shouldn't be dismissed by the mayor so cavalierly.
Bloomberg even hinted that he might also blow off the St. Patrick's Day parade next year if his guests aren't invited. Every year, there is a battle between organizers and gay activists over allowing openly gay groups to march. Politicians are usually pressured to demonstrate their "solidarity" with gays by boycotting the parade. Most politicians choose to march anyway even such gay-friendly types as Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.
Traffic. The Bloomberg administration decided again, with hardly any public comment to label a half-dozen cross-town streets "thru" streets. Anyone driving on these streets between 8 A.M. and 6 P.M. including taxis is not permitted to make a right or left turn on any of the major roadways between Third and Sixth Avenues. That obviously includes Park, Madison, and Fifth Avenues. Curses in multiple languages and accents will greet any passenger who steps into a cab and asks the driver how they feel about the so-called "thru" streets and their impact on the cab driver's livelihood. Of course, the plan has failed in its central goal of making traffic flow better. In many cases, it has made cross-town traffic worse.
Homelessness. Due to a restrictive reading of the state constitution identifying a "right to shelter" and twenty-year old consent decrees, the city finds itself resorting to expensive and destabilizing plans such as contracting with nonprofit groups who run so-called "hotels" to serve as temporary housing. The city pays these groups nearly $3,000 a month per room for a homeless family. The hotels pop up in various middle-class communities with hardly any advance warning. A given neighborhood can consider itself lucky if word leaks out giving residents enough time to demand consultation. However, even then it seems to matter little. The Bloomberg administration dismisses community criticism as so much "not-in-my-backyard" carping. While these shelters began during the Giuliani administration, they have exploded in Bloomberg's first year.
The homeless situation went from the sublime to the ridiculous a week or so ago as word got out that the commissioner of homeless services was scouting mothballed cruise ships as possible shelter venues. You can't make this stuff up. As Eric McErlain of the Off-Wing Opinion blog points out, this sounds like the late '80s Saturday Night Live skit where artist "Leroy Neiman" visits the pad of "Michael Dukakis" and shows him a mural that imagines the nuclear-aircraft carrier Nimitz turned into "a floating shelter for the homeless." Can Capt. Steubing and Isaac the bartender be far behind?
Is this New York in 2002? Apparently so.
No wonder that a recent New York Times poll discovered that the public feels less safe than they were five years ago even though actual crime has gone down. Yes, this sentiment is partly grounded in post-9/11 fears. But, there is also a feeling that the mayor seems caught up in himself in a different way than his predecessor.
Did Rudy Giuliani have an ego? Of course. Could he be imperious and dismissive at times. Absolutely.
But did the average middle-class New Yorker believe that Rudy was "one of them"? Yes, and, notwithstanding the awful Amadou Diallo shooting, a fair section of the black community undoubtedly felt that way as well. As a politician, Rudy had an instinct as to who the core of his constituents were and he strived to stay connected to them, even, especially, when he got involved in high-profile (though, ultimately losing) public fights, such as the "Sensation" exhibit in the Brooklyn Museum.
Bloomberg has never been a politician and it's showing. He is someone used to making decisions either by himself or with one or two other people in the room. He is not used to having to make a public case for it, so he doesn't bother. Again, it's his way or no way. He's a man with no discernible political philosophy except, perhaps, expedience. He's a man with no definitive political "base" in the city. No wonder he jets off to the Bahamas as often as possible.
This administration will be a long one for New York City for conservatives, taxpayers, everybody.
Mr. George is an editorial writer for the New York Post.
E-Accountability: In our opinion, if Mayor Bloomberg is in control of the New York City Department of Education, then either of two things are happening:
1. He is being misled by those who work immediately underneath him, the Chancellor (Joel Klein), Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, and other Tweed educrats;
2. He is deliberately falsifying information on the condition of our cities' schools and what the DOE
is doing in order to...well, pick your motive.
We believe that the state of our city's public schools has never been worse. By this we mean we have never seen such a lack of respect for professionalism and such arrogance openly displayed toward all who work in the schools with kids. There has also never been, in anyone's memory, the level of fear of retaliation, anger and disgust on the part of our city's teachers and parents that there is right now throughout the city. Parents see the Chancellor's Regulations changed without notice or discussion, and people fired for disagreeing with the Mayor. Teachers are very distressed over what they feel is rude behavior by education officials, who do not know what is really the culture of the school they order change.
Rivals Open Mouth, Mayor Applies Foot
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN [NY Times, May 15, 2004]
The city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., now knows what Gifford Miller, the City Council speaker, has learned the hard way: criticizing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg can be a bit like playing the critter in Whack-a-Mole, the carnival game where contestants use a mallet to slap down moles wherever they pop up.
Mr. Miller, as the most aggressive of the Democratic mayoral hopefuls, has found himself on the receiving end of the mayor's mallet most often.
But there was Mr. Thompson this week, getting what mayoral aides refer to as the "Gifford treatment." After popping up to challenge Mr. Bloomberg on control over education contracts, Mr. Bloomberg struck back without so much as wrinkling his crisp blue suit or jostling his neatly knotted tie.
"If I understand," the mayor said, "the bill is being pushed by somebody who used to run the Board of Education and didn't seem to have any problems back then with one-source contracts, so maybe there is sort of a short-term memory loss here."
The "Gifford treatment" is something the mayor has used sparingly - though with increasing regularity - on his potential Democratic opponents in the mayoral race, and only when they have had the temerity to criticize him. But it may foreshadow the tone and tenor of a campaign that is still more than a year away, while also highlighting the evolution of Mr. Bloomberg's own political operation from one hampered by freshman missteps to a more sophisticated rapid response posture.
"Leo Durocher pretty much summed up politics in New York: nice guys do finish last," said a Democratic political consultant who, however reluctantly, acknowledged the wisdom of the mayor's eye-for-an-eye approach. "David Dinkins was a nice guy; he did one term. Abe Beame was a nice guy and he did one term. If you are going to be mayor, you have to fight back."
More than half a dozen Democrats have expressed an interest in running for mayor, and from time to time almost every one has popped up to challenge the Republican mayor, charging that his policies are misguided or his motives too political. And almost without fail Mr. Bloomberg has responded; not always immediately, but with the type of comeback that reverberates when it comes from a sitting mayor or one of his surrogates. One potential opponent was called a "three-time loser," another was criticized for being against jobs, another chastised for being a hypocrite.
But none have been hit as hard and as often as Mr. Miller, the Council speaker who has all but declared his own candidacy for Mr. Bloomberg's job.
When Mr. Miller called for reopening firehouses that were closed, the mayor accused him of pandering to firefighters' unions. And when Mr. Miller criticized the mayor's plan for tough promotion standards for third graders, the mayor's office said he was pandering to the teachers' union. When Mr. Miller found himself criticized for his handling of a sexual harassment case involving another councilman, the mayor found a way to criticize Mr. Miller's management skills.
Each time, the speaker tried to fire back, but in the battlefield of New York politics, the speaker holds a peashooter compared with the mayor's howitzer - especially this far in advance of the actual campaign season. The final retort to come from the speaker has been that the mayor is being too political.
"It is increasingly clear that our formerly nonpolitical mayor is putting politics ahead of the issues that New Yorkers care about," said Stephen Sigmund, the speaker's director of communications.
Whatever his defense, the assaults on Mr. Miller have been so aggressive, and coupled with the speaker's own political missteps so effective, that the mayor's staff has hoped that other would-be critics might have been persuaded to remain silent in their criticism of Mr. Bloomberg. But when pre-emption has not worked, the mayor's aides have been prepared to make it clear: recently, an adviser to the mayor warned one of Mr. Thompson's aides that if the comptroller did not refrain from what Mr. Bloomberg viewed as political shots, he would be subject to the "Gifford treatment."
Like Mr. Miller, the comptroller's office ultimately had little recourse other than to accuse the mayor of being too political.
"There is supposed to be a dialogue in government, there is supposed to be a divergence of opinion," said Karen Crowe, Mr. Thompson's director of communications. "To constantly attack the other side implies you can't speak to the substance of what is being raised."
There have been moments when the mayor has sent another signal. Be nice, or at least not too aggressive with Mr. Bloomberg, and well, he might even be chummy. Earlier in the week Mr. Bloomberg found himself standing beside C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president, who is also considering running for mayor. When it came time to introduce Ms. Fields to speak, Mr. Bloomberg said, "Let me introduce to you the best borough president that I have ever had, since I have always lived in Manhattan."
A kinder, gentler Mr. Bloomberg? Don't count on it, said Edward Skyler, Mr. Bloomberg's press secretary.
"Anyone who panders or takes cheap shots at the mayor's expense only has themselves to blame if they don't like the response," he said.
Mr. Thompson was, of course, the President of the Board of Education for several years, and when he formally announces his intent to run for Mayor we, the public, may ask him whether or not he signed no-bid contracts for school-related vendors and contractors. The consequences of those actions, if there were any, will be part of the record we hold Mr. Thompson accountable for when we go to the voting booth. Similarly, we will hold Mr. Bloomberg accountable for signing no bid contracts, attacking anyone who asks him why he did it, firing Panel for Educational Policy members who disagree with him to pass a promotion policy that becomes the biggest testing mess this city has ever seen. Voters will weigh these and all the other issues and decide which candidate best represents the manner that New Yorkers want to do business.
Mike Bloomberg does not negotiate, discuss or have a conversation with, the average New Yorker; he dictates or says nothing. On Monday, March 15, 2004, he fired three members of the Panel For Educational Policy a few hours before a vote on ending social promotion because these three people were going to vote no, and he would not allow that, despite inconclusive evidence that retention works:
Retention, Social Promotion, and Student Outcomes
and, "Does Governance Matter?"
Mr. Bloomberg has shown himself to be vindictive and a man who does not allow anyone to step on his toes. This is a very dangerous characteristic when you are in the public position of Mayor in control of the education system, because people around you are too afraid of retribution to tell you what is really going on. Thus, our Mayor is now in the unfortunate position of being accountable for all of the following listed below, due to his - in our opinion - misplaced trust in Joel Klein. We recommend that, due to massive mismanagement and disarray within both general as well as special education in our New York City schools, that Mayor Bloomberg ask for the resignation of Chancellor Klein and all the Deputy Chancellors, including Carmen Farina.
Mike Bloomberg must be held accountable for:
1. expanding the payroll of the Department of Education's central administration 27 percent, with 352 educrats paid $100,000 or more, (a 16 percent increase from last year), despite promises to abolish the Central Board during his campaign. There are now 708 managers whereas there were 557 last June, costing the taxpayer $74 million, $10 million more than previously.[NY POST, April 6, 2004]. Oh, sorry - you promised to abolish the Board of Education, which you did, then you spent $2 million changing the stationery to "Department" of Education, so perhaps we must give you credit for some changes. This amount does not reflect the countless (literally) number of "consultants" who walk away with $millions and are hired secretly. Nor does this amount touch the $millions that are given to intermediaries for setting up no-bid contracts. Mike Bloomberg may have taken a large percentage of the tax levy - from Federal, State, and City funds - away from the Superintendents, but he is giving it to his and the Chancellor's people, not the children. In fact, "Where is the money?" is the one question that, once asked, will get you fired, harassed, and blacklisted. You may even receive a few audit notices from the IRS in your mailbox. So, Mr. Bloomberg, "Where is the money?" Where are the Federal, State and City funds for Special Education, Full Inclusion, and IEPs? Where are Title I funds, and, even more importantly, why will you not give us a transparent budget?
2. creating the biggest new bureaucracy ever created solely to keep parents away from the Principals of their children's schools. The hiring of Parent Coordinators established a wall between the Principal and parents in this city, all to the tune of possibly $50 million+. While in some cases the PC is helpful, reports
on the school-based PCs and especially the Regional PCs are not positive. When the children have no toilet paper, no security guards during the school day and no textbooks, these new bureaucrats are inappropriate. If a Principal needs to be shielded from parental concerns, should this person be in his/her job at all? This bureaucratic stonewall is an insult to every child and his/her parent who needs special services and hears that there is no money.
3.denying parents their right to be involved in their child's school:
Parents claim Klein shuts them out
BY MARIANNA HERNANDEZ
Staff Writer, Newsday
April 23, 2004, 6:55 PM EDT
"When a curious parent in the Bronx showed Randi Martos a pamphlet about a new school opening in their Riverdale district, Martos was outraged.
As president of the District 10 Parent's Association, Martos thought she should have been consulted about a decision that she said affects her district as well as the future of a school she has helped to shape for more than seven years.
Kingsbridge Riverdale Academy, MS/HS 141, the only high school in Riverdale that merges middle school and high school, has been troubled by overcrowding for three years because MS 368 has been sharing the academy's space while its new building is built.
With MS 368 scheduled to move this fall to its new home, many in District 10 had their own ideas about how to use the freed-up space at Kingsbridge.
Ray Noberto, 43, a recording secretary at the academy, said, "We were just discussing placing early childhood education into the available annex, when the Board of Education is issuing a notice of a school being put there."
District officials and parents said they didn't learn about the plan by the Department of Education until last week, when the pamphlet advertising the "Fun Math School" surfaced. At a rally Friday on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse Friday, they said they should have been consulted before a decision was made.
The Department of Education and the mayor's office declined to comment.
Martos and Noberto were joined at the rally by Assemb. Jeffrey Dinowitz, Rep. Eliot Engel, Councilman Oliver Koppell and State Senator Eric Schneiderman.
"It's shocking that the administration would advocate for such a bad idea and do it in such secrecy," Dinowitz said. "Community input, parental involvement and an open, public process have been totally discarded by the chancellor."
Joan Kuzniar, 48, co-president of the Parent's Association at PS 81 in District 10, said, "While we are spending millions of dollars on programs involving parents, we are taking away their voice in the very matters of education."
There is no parent involvement in New York City. Sure, there are bake sales, yearbook parties, wrapping paper sales, events, etc. But when there is a problem, such as a child is harassed in school and wants a safety transfer, the child is out of luck. No one returns telephone calls or letters, and every effort is made to have the parent go away quietly. Parents who ask where the money is being spent are hustled out the door quickly, and their children are punished because their parents asked "the" question. Whereas parents used to have a small role in choosing Principals and Superintendents, one of the first things the new administration did was to take this away. Now, the c-30 process involves only School Leadership Team members, and perhaps some PTA Executive Board members. And in New York City, elections for many - too many - PA and PTA Executive Boards are unfair and not democratic, and there is nothing that a parent can do to change this. School Leadership Teams have rules and regulations, yet these are not followed by most SLTs, and the DOE does not require compliance. Parents who ask why laws rules and/or regulations are broken are punished, or their child comes home with absences on the report card that are not true (and impossible to change), a bad grade unjustified by any classwork or behavior, etc. We know better than to be involved in our child's school...we cannot take the risk.
In April, 2004, the NYC Department of Education issued a new directive forbidding grandparents from PTA/PA Executive Board positions.
4. illegally taking Federal funding away from special education students. New York City has almost no special ed full inclusion programs that are in compliance with federal regulations. Restricted environment classrooms are institutionalized mayhem. Occupational therapists working inside the Department of Education are being told to take lunch every day, effectively denying 4 children their services daily. The Corporation Counsel is brought in to fight any parent in court who wants the benefits listed on their child's Individualized Education Plan. Personnel of the Regional offices and Regional Committees on Special Education have been told to not refer any child to special ed. Most of the children who have been given IEPs have been told that these legal contracts are missing, and the educrats say "it's because of the re-organization." Principals throughout the city are refusing to comply with special ed rules saying "I dont want any of this money being taken out of my budget"...
5. City schools are breaking the law by not having defibrillators on hand ready for an emergency. Physical education in our city's schools almost doesn't exist, despite a required two times/week. No one is in charge, there are no consequences for non-compliance.
6. City schools are randomly filling out safety plans, completing Comprehensive Education Plans, and complying with School Leadership Team Bylaws and Regulations, with disdain for rules or regulations. If a Principal wants to make the budget transparent, he or she does so; if he or she wants to shut every