Whispering in de Blasio’s Ear: Running a City Versus Winning an Election: Who is Advising the Mayor Presumptive?

The day after Bill Thompson conceded the folks who ran de Blasio’s campaign packed up their laptops and moved on to the next race. They earned their fees.

600,000 Democratic voters selected a mayor for eight million New Yorkers, the de Blasio team knew how to push the right buttons. The TV commercial featuring his son’s Afro, the constant drumbeat on “stop-and-frisk,” the “tale of two cities” scenario carried the day for the 270,000 voters, the 40.3% who “elected” Bill de Blasio.

With a forty point bulge in the polls Bill de Blasio will be swept to victory on November 5th – his opponent’s chance of winning is about the same as the Mets winning the World Series and the Jets winning the Super Bowl.

The team that won the election is not the team who will run the city and the mayor presumptive is faced with a pre-election dilemma. How does he go about assembling a team that can satisfy his campaign promises? How does he address the long line at the Gracie Mansion door wanting to be paid back for their support?

Bill has to be careful; friends he trusts may not be giving him the professional advice he needs.

In the Carter administration I was having lunch with a “mover and shaker,” a partner in an important law firm that had guided national policy on a wide range of issues – he was bemoaning the selection of Carter’s fellow Georgians as his inner circle.

“This Carter guy told me, ‘You think only the Northeastern elite can run the country, only the Harvard/Yale crowd?’ to be perfectly honest, yes, we are the only ones.” BTW, the nine members of the Supreme Court come from, yes; you guessed it, only Harvard and Yale.

Carter felt “comfortable” with his good old boy pals, and he turned out to be a one- term president.

The two most important appointments to de Blasio’s administration, appointments that will frame his administration will be a new police commissioner and a new chancellor for the school system.

The speculation about the police commissioner was featured in the NY Times,

“For a change-oriented mayor, there’s a benefit to bringing in somebody from the outside,” said Jeremy Travis, the president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has discussed policing policy with Mr. de Blasio. “The next police commissioner faces two equally compelling imperatives: first to continue to bring crime down, and second to help the city navigate its way out of the current conundrum about the stop-and-frisk tactics.”

There appear to be a number of highly regarded candidates ranging from Bill Bratton to others both in and out of the current police hierarchy.

On the school front the choice is far more complex, there is no obvious candidate; there are many suitors.

Rumor has it that a former superintendent, Carmen Farina is the “whisperer” in the presumptive mayor’s ear.

A mistake.

Farina had a long career: principal to superintendent to regional superintendent to deputy chancellor, she left under a cloud. (Read details here)

Sources tell parent advocates’ reporters that Ms. Farina placed the daughter of former Brooklyn Technological High School Principal Lee McCaskill in PS 29, a violation of NYC BOE policies (McCaskill lived in New Jersey). Special Investigators were angry with Mr. Klein for permitting Mrs. Farina to retire before she was convicted. Farina, as well as Chancellor Joel Klein, have no contracts with the NYC DOE, and there’s the rub: How Do they get away with this?

While it may be comfortable to sit down with someone you know critical decisions must be made with the advice of the “wise men,” the city fathers (and daughters) who understand both the complexities, the skills required to govern as well as the politics.

De Blasio should listen to Randi Weingarten, Bill Thompson, Dick Parsons, Diane Ravitch, Mathew Goldstein, David Steiner … the best minds in the city.

His high profile campaign pledge, full day pre-kindergarten appears “dead-on-arrival” in Albany. In an election year, all of Albany is up for re-election, the Republicans on the Senate side and the Governor are openly cool to any increase in taxes to fund anything; by the 4th week in March the budget will be done – does de Blasio “fight the good fight,” and lose – or is there a way to “save face?”

Police commissioners and chancellors must support the policies of the mayor; earn the support of the public and the employees they lead.

The mayor needs a chancellor who can navigate Scylla and Charybdis, who can steer around the whirlpools and eddies and not be tempted by the bewitching song of the sirens. The chancellor, learning from Odysseus may have to bind himself tightly to the mast, his men blocking their ears with wax to avoid the alluring seductive melodies that would bring him, and the administration to doom.

Enough Greek mythology, although we can learn a great deal from the Greeks; listening to the guy next to you on the bar stool will empty your wallet and chase away your girlfriend.

Finding sages who have “been there and done that,” who have a vested interest in your success, crafting polices that are morally, ethically and politically attainable is the path a mayor must follow.

7 responses to “Whispering in de Blasio’s Ear: Running a City Versus Winning an Election: Who is Advising the Mayor Presumptive?

  1. I was Carmen’s student teacher. I became close to her


  2. I find it mind bnoggling that The Overreactionary Bloomburg disenfranchised , were so blindsided by scorn that they have irrationally elected a leftist dare I say communist Mayor in our city. Re-distribution of the wealth, tax the wealthy, are both socialist and marxist based philosophies well intended as anti capitalist in their roots. We hear it in DC and now in NYC. For all of you data based excuse makers, the very minorities that your hearts bleed for are the ones who will be most negatively impacted by a watering down of stop and frisk. For those of you who fostered decentralized school districts in the 70’s and then hid out while it failed and literally fed on itself owing to corruption, cronyism, nepotism, have no fear, its coming back, much like a dormant fungus that wreaks havoc the 2nd time around. You could have done better for NY, for yourselves, for your children, but you chose not to. Pity!


  3. It is foolish to label every Progressive as a Socialist or Communist (as if those were terms so negative as to rule out any Progressive ideas). It is McCarthyism pure and simple and has been one of the reasons for the growth of income inequality in the United States to levels seen only in the Third World. The same approbations were hurled at labor organizers in the thirties and forties, but it was the success of the Union movement that created an American Middle Class and its decline has been one of the key factors in our slumping economic growth.

    That said, the question of who any politician will listen to once in office is central to the kind of government they will create. I can only hope that DeBlasio listens to real educators like Diane Ravitch and Michael Mulgrew as he looks for someone to reshape the NYC Public Schools.

    Most of all we need a Chancellor who is committed to educating students, not testing them. We need someone who is willing to look seriously at what it means to be college ready (something that no test score, including the SAT, really predicts). We need a Chancellor who is committed to working with industry to create programs that will help students who don’t want to go on to college get good paying (Union) jobs in the trades. (Consider that one of the last acts of the current administration is to close CoOp Tech, the only vocational training program of its type in the city which denies students access to programs that train them to become welders, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, cosmetologists, etc).

    We need a chancellor who will embrace collaboration with teachers and parents to create a school system we can all be proud of.


    • Hi Marc…
      Amira El here. How much influence does the UFT really have in the Chancellor selection ? Do you truly think if de Blasio gets elected (don’t want to be presumptuous) there will really be a place setting at the kitchen table for the UFT to really have input on REAL decisions rearguarding the DOE restructuring?


  4. Mr. DeBlasio is capable of making right decisions regarding his team. He might consider appointing someone of stature to conduct a search. I think Stanley Litow, former Deputy Chancellor under Fernandez and now President of the IBM foundation is the kind of expert to consult. I am sure the DeBlasio staff has reached out to many potential candidates. In the end they will select the right person.


  5. David Bloomfield

    Jim, remember that Stan did this before: heading the search that produced Joe Fernandez as Chancellor, then, Cheney-like, he became Joe’s Deputy.


  6. I hope he doesn’t have Randi Weingarten on his staff. She has already screwed the teachers enough. Let her stay in Washington D.C. and fail others as she has failed us.


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