I was at a celebration of The City College (CCNY) at the Center for Jewish History, a packed auditorium, panels about the college from the 30’s to the 60’s, and, Sid Davidoff, one of the closest advisors to former mayor John Lindsay was one of the panelists. I started to talk with him and led off by saying we crossed path during the teacher strike in ’68; he turned away and rushed down the hallway. It was the teacher union that derailed Lindsay’s run for the White House in 1972.
John Lindsay, a progressive, Rockefeller Republican, btw, an extinct breed, was both exalted and despised as mayor (1965-73).
Lindsay was elected mayor to 1965, cities were on fire!! Riots in Los Angeles, Detroit and Newark, troops and tanks in the streets, the nation seemed on the verge of another civil war.
The Watts riots in Los Angeles (August 11 to 16, 1965); 34 deaths and 1.032 injuries.
The Detroit riot, known as the “Detroit Rebellion,” (July 23 – 28, 1967) was one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history. Governor George Romney ordered the Michigan Army National Guard into Detroit to help end the disturbance. President Lyndon Johnson sent in the United States Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The result was 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed...
The scale of the uprising was the worst in the United States since the 1863 New York City draft riots during the American Civil War.
There were 159 race riots that swept cities in the United States during the “Long Hot Summer of 1967.” The Newark riot, July 12-17, 1967 resulted in 26 deaths and 727 injuries.
New York City danced around the chaos that was enveloping cities; we’ll never know whether Lindsay’s policies averted riots in New York City.
Two sociologists at Columbia University, Richard Andrew Cloward and his wife Frances Fox Piven postulated an “answer,” referred to as the Cloward- Piven Strategy, “…forcing political change through orchestrated crisis;” a strategy adopted by Lindsay and his team.
Lindsay, with support from the Ford Foundation, created three demonstration school districts with elected governing boards (I lived in one of the districts, “Two Bridges,” and attended the rambunctious meetings). In the spring,1968, one of the governing board “fired” a group of white teachers, the Board of Education and the mayor took no action, a grinding contentious strike lasted two months (See Martin Mayer, The Teacher Strike,1968 and Dana Goldstein The Teacher Wars, 2014, and, of course, Diane Ravitch, The Great School Wars, 1973.
In my view Lindsay saw “creating” a racially charged confrontation with two goals, satisfying the “demands” of activists and disempowering an aggressive union.
The riots that engulfed cities never reached New York City; however, as Lindsay tried to move to the next step, a run for the White House, he was derailed by New Yorkers, clearly influenced by the corrosive, racially-charged teacher strike.
… residual anger against Lindsay from transplanted New Yorkers in Florida was symbolized by the presence of an airplane flying over the Miami beaches as Lindsay was campaigning below. The plane was hired by a former New Yorker, and the banner read: “Lindsay Spells Tsuris,” the Yiddish word for trouble.
After the defeat, Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito put the final nail in Lindsay’s campaign by announcing: “Little Sheba better come home.” The humbled mayor did return home to finish out the remainder of his mayoralty, but his political career was over.
In the 70’s the union began an oral history project, interviews with union leaders and others involved in the creation of the union, the only person who refused to participate was John Lindsay.
Three decades later anotherRockefeller Republcan was running for office.
The mayoral election in 2001 was unique; the attack on the Twin Towers took place on the 9/11, the same day as the Democratic primary. The primary was voided and postponed, in the rescheduled primary no candidate received 40% of the vote, a runoff three weeks later, the exhausted Democratic candidate was defeated by the political novice, Mike Bloomberg.
Bloomberg’s first initiative, with support of the teacher union, ran up to Albany, and ended decentralization of schools, mayoral control: the mayor was fully responsible for educational policy and the day-to-day operation of schools. Bloomberg selected a lawyer, a litigator with absolutely no education credentials as chancellor.
Bloomberg began by working with the union, in the 2005 and 2007 teacher contracts sharply increased: teacher salalry increases of over 40%; and, yes, there union agreed to an extended school day and ended the seniority transfer plan.
Bloomberg increasingly challenged the union; he closed 150 schools and opened 200 charter schools. Instead of placing teachers excessed from closing schools in regular school assignments he placed them in a pool, the Absent Teacher Reserve, and to tried to emulate Chicago where teachers from closed schools were laid off if they couldn’t find a job, in other words, end tenure. The union fought back and thwarted Bloomberg. The relationship continued to deteriorate, the number of unsatisfactory ratings increased three-fold, 40% of teachers up for tenure had their tenure extended.
An angry mayor became a vindictive mayor.
The union waited him out, in New York State public employee contracts that expire remain in effect until the successor contract is negotiated. The successor mayor, Bill de Blasio has been extremely supportive of schools and teachers.
In November I blogged about a possible Bloomberg candidacy, “Can Bloomberg Win the Democratic Nomination for President? Can Bloomberg Defeat Trump?”
Three month later Bloomberg has jumped into the fetid pool
In a February 10th Qunnipiac poll, Bloomberg, without running in a single primary, is solidly in the mix with 15% in a national poll. RealClearPoltics lists polls across the upcoming primary states and Bloomberg is doing even better.
As his polling numbers rise so will the attacks, his steadfast support for “stop and frisk,” eventually found to be unconstitutional by the courts. His apparent defense of “redlining” and defense of bank foreclosures during the 2008 recessions, and, of course, his steadfast support of Eva Moskowitz and charter schools. Will these attacks resonate?Is Bloomberg “Tsuris?”
At the February teacher union (UFT) Delegate Assembly (about 1,000 elected school delegates who meet every month) a delegate, a supporter of Bernie, asked whether the union leadership was considering an endorsement. UFT Preisdent Mulgrew replied, with union members engaged in all the camps why discourage their advocacy, the union did make endorsements in local campaigns, endorsements widely supported by the delegates.
Perhaps teacher antipathy will, once again, derail a presidential campaign; on the other hand, with untold millions to spend, who knows? Will the union make an endorsement before the April 28 New York State primary? (I am a delegate)
Will the Bloomberg candidacy glow, fade, and crash, and replcate the rising star/faded star of the Lindsay candidacy?
If not, and, the ultimate question: will you get out there vote for and campaign for Bloomberg against Trump?