Tag Archives: mayoral control

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.

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(Class) Size Matters, but Power Matters More

Leonie Haimson

Leonie Haimson needs help. New York’s most passionate education blogger has not appreciably changed the way the city’s public schools are run. A persistent critic of Mike Bloomberg’s educational policies, and president of a group called Class Size Matters, Haimson gets noticed but continues to be shrugged off by City Hall.

It doesn’t matter how many “ordinary” New Yorkers agree with Haimson. City voters have almost no power to shape municipal policy. They lost most of their clout two decades ago when they approved a new government structure that gave the mayor almost sole control over the city’s budget, land use, contracts, and, de facto, over the City Council itself. (Most Council members would deny this.)

Even a local referendum to change the city charter can be preempted by the mayor. Today, New Yorkers usually must resort to litigation or to state intervention to derail an initiative the mayor truly wants. Continue reading

An Equal-Opportunity Offender

Bloomberg, Black, and Klein

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s designation of Cathie Black as the next schools chancellor offends almost everyone.

To educators, Black’s lack of education credentials (like Joel Klein’s) shows Bloomberg’s basic disrespect for their profession. How would physicians react to the designation of a publishing executive as Surgeon General, or lawyers to Black’s designation as U.S. Attorney General? Continue reading

Who’s Accountable?

Since July, 2004, when Public Law 108-271 changed the name of the General Accounting Office to the Government Accountability Office, “accountability” has dominated discourse in our political arena.

When a disaster hits, whether it’s a construction crane collapse, a gas line explosion, an oil platform disaster, a municipal budget shortfall, or the perceived failure of the nation’s educational system, editorial writers, politicians, and pundits pile on, demanding “accountability.” Continue reading