All Power is Fungible

de Blasio in Albany

Photo: NY Daily News

Bill de Blasio shlepped to Albany this week to convince the state senate to extend mayoral control of NYC schools for seven more years. Control had been granted to his predecessor, Mike Bloomberg, for seven years in 2002, and extended for six additional years in 2009.

When de Blasio asked the legislature in 2015 to approve mayoral control on a permanent basis, the senate rebuffed him, granting him a one-year extension instead.

Legislators stated they wanted to assess the city’s educational progress before making a permanent commitment. Left unstated was that they didn’t want to give up their opportunity to use periodic renewal of mayoral control as a way to remind de Blasio and his successors that the city is a creature of the state.

Albany’s legislators also know that a mayor who must ask them repeatedly for authorization to run his school system will be more apt to urge his commissioners to be responsive when legislators seek help for their constituents.

Governor Andrew Cuomo stated early this year that he favors a three-year term for mayoral control.

Predictably, de Blasio’s supporters included his popular schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña. Just as predictably, de Blasio received support from Partnership for New York City CEO Kathryn Wylde, who was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as commenting after the meeting that “The business community would like to see permanent extension and not have this be a political issue.”

Evidently, like the state legislators, Wylde understands that the issue is not only about education but also is about fungible power: A mayor free of obligations to Albany’s elected officials is a mayor freer to support the needs of his most influential constituency, the city’s business community.

What’s a Sanbot?

What’s a Sanbot?

a.  a miniature PB&J sandwich robot
b.  a 6” heel woman’s shoe style
c.  the URL for the Jarrett Meeker Foundation
d.  a garbage truck driver in Flatbush
e.  all of the above

Letter e. became the right answer when NYC Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith — the famous “Missing Man” of the 2010 Blizzard — designated BK14 (Flatbush-Midwood) as the pilot district for garbage truck-tracking by GPS. Continue reading

Even Larry Has No Answer

Larry’s Favorite Former Jet, Santana Moss

Larry is one of the smartest guys in Flatbush. So when he started defending Brooklyn’s lack of clout at City Hall, I did a double take.

“The Board of Estimate was a bad idea. Staten Island didn’t deserve to have the same power as Brooklyn.”

But isn’t it worse for Brooklyn to have no power, because the mayor — most responsive to Manhattan media  — controls almost everything?

Larry shrugged and turned back to the TV. It was easier for him to watch his beloved Jets self-destruct than to grapple with one of the thorniest issues facing New Yorkers in 2011: how to ensure that Mike Bloomberg’s successor — whoever he or she is — will balance the needs of the BBQSI boroughs against those of the Manhattan business community. Continue reading

Where are NYC’s Science Talent Winners?

Leonie Haimson documents a precipitous drop in NYC’s share of semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search program during the Bloomberg/Klein administration.

Let’s see how this one gets spun.

Like a Cheap Guitar


The San Men were played like cheap guitars.

Bloomberg and Goldsmith are very smart — no one denies that. They surely were smart enough to know that staff reductions and the October edict demoting 100 Sanitation supervisors would provoke a DSNY job action —formal or not — at the winter’s first big snow storm.

As predictable as worker backlash was, so was the anger that many New Yorkers are feeling today.

Is there anyone out there naïve enough to believe the Bloomberg crew didn’t expect both of these responses?

Who, then, do we hold responsible for how the blizzard was handled?

The instruments, or the musicians?

And what’s the tune?

A 311 Bone for Community Boards, or a Snow Job?

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith

Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith said today that “we’re 30 days away” from giving community boards “real-time 311 data,” but that he would have to confirm this.

He made his comment in response to a question by Councilmember Gale Brewer at today’s City Council hearings on the Blizzard of 2010.

But a Brooklyn community board district manager who has seen a prototype of the system cautions that the 311 data will not be what the boards had requested.

Despite some incisive questioning, especially by Councilmember Jumaane Williams (45CD), the mayor’s representatives toughed it out and protected Bloomberg by saying that they, not he, had made the crucial decisions.

Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty

But when it came time to specify which managers had made which decisions, no one took responsibility. Goldsmith called himself a “coordinator” who had left it to commissioners John Doherty (DSNY) and Joe Bruno (OEM) to make the critical operational calls. They said the decision-making scenario was a group process.

No one admitted City Hall had erred in delaying declaration of a snow emergency.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s political operatives are working in Albany on their real agenda: gutting the civil service merit system.

Making Lemonade

Stephen Goldsmith and Michael Bloomberg photo: City Limits

“Let’s remember what we really want. This is about getting rid of civil service. It’s my last term. No one can hurt me. We’ve already lined up our media friends. By next year, all anyone will remember is that the San Men pulled a slow-down and we instituted measures to prevent that from happening again.”

“But Mr. Mayor, what about our decision not to declare a snow emergency?”

“I was out of town. Goldsmith was in D.C. They’ll beat us up mercilessly about it, but we’ll just tough it out, the way we did with Cathie Black’s appointment. When we’re ready, we’ll admit some errors.”

“Everyone will blame John and Joe anyway. They won’t talk. No one knows who said what. We’ve already thrown in EMS. And the Federal investigation will muzzle the union. All they can say is, ‘We can’t comment on that now. It’s part of a criminal inquiry.’ We can use the same excuse until we’re ready to go public. By the time the press figures things out, we’ll have what we need from Albany.” Continue reading