Tag Archives: Dick Parsons

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.

Who Will de Blasio Appoint to the Panel for Educational Priorities (PEP), the School Board?

The original concept of “mayoral control” did not abolish school boards; the governance structure was envisioned as the mayor and the borough presidents appointing a school board that would set policy for the school district. New York City has always had appointed school boards. Prior to 1970 school boards were appointed from a list approved by a screening panel. After 1970 the school board consisted of members appointed by the borough presidents (one each) and the mayor (two members).

Mayors, if they choose, could always round up sufficient votes if the issue was important enough. Rudy Giuliani was masterful; he used the school board to fire and hire chancellors of his choice, claimed credit for successes and flailed the school board to deflect criticisms.

Mayor Bloomberg chose to directly control education, initially he basked in the apparent successes of Joel Klein policies, and, as the public began to reject his policies he squirmed as his approval rating plummeted.

Sol Stern, in the City Journal points to a recent poll,

The public, for its part, remains dissatisfied with Gotham’s schools, according to a poll of city voters commissioned by the Manhattan Institute and conducted earlier this year by Zogby Analytics. Sixty-four percent of respondents rated school performance as either fair or poor, … New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

From a political perspective Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy is deeply tarnished as he leaves office – education moved from his crowning jewel to dross.

Bill de Blasio, the presumptive mayor, has the opportunity to move back to the goal of the 2002 mayoral reform law – to appoint well-respected citizens to set educational policy within the broad goals of a de Blasio administration.

The current law establishes a thirteen member board – eight appointed by the mayor and one by each borough president. The current mayoral appointees are completely anonymous and come and go. In the single instance that mayoral appointees voted against a policy the mayor replaced the members.

The PEP meetings are not open discussions of policies, they are a succession of 3-minute speeches from the public opposing whatever policy is on the agenda ending in a vote in which all eight of the mayoral appointees affirm the issue. Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan Borough President appointee has been the only board member who has consistently challenged Bloomberg agenda items.

Sadly, while the PEP members commonly have impressive resumes in fact they are Pinocchios manipulated by Geppetto, the mayor.

It would be an important signal to the city if de Blasio appointed a highly respected board – a broad spectrum of New Yorkers with the expertise to work with a chancellor to create policies that support children and families.

Some have argued for board members who represent constituencies – I disagree. Parents are represented by the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee (CPAC) and similar organizations represent English language learners and children with disabilities. Unions represent employees.

I would suggest people of the caliber of David Jones, Community Service Society, James Hennessy, Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University, Mary Driscoll, Dean of the School of Education at CCNY, Dick Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners, LLC, Michael Rebell
Co-Founder; Executive Director, Campaign for Educational Equity, Ronald F. Ferguson
Senior Lecturer in Education and Public Policy, Harvard University, Mathew Goldstein, former Chancellor of the City University of New York, Luis O. Reyes Research Associate at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies/Centro De Estudios Puertorriqueños of Hunter College, CUNY, Kim Sweet, Executive Director, Advocates for Children, Joe Wayland, Simpson, Thatcher, LLP, Diane Ravitch, Historian, New York University, as examples. The city deserves an educational leadership that is immune to petty politics and can withstand the editorials in the NY Post.

Bill de Blasio is currently under attack from the right, his opponent points to support for the Sandinistas in the 80s and a honeymoon trip to Cuba. Sol Stern in the City Journal predicts the left, the far left, will be “feeding at the public trough,”

No group or individual will be deemed too far to the left as long as they jump on the de Blasio bandwagon. Lining up to receive their fair share of the spoils will be the old Acorn organization, now renamed New York Communities for Change; the far-left Working Families Party; the United Federation of Teachers and other municipal unions; the radical Service Employees International Union, including the former Communist-led health-care workers’ union Local 1199; the civil liberties and homeless lobbies; and, of course, the onetime racial arsonist Al Sharpton, now posing as a wise elder and political power broker. To varying degrees, each will have a place at the municipal trough. Meanwhile, at the other end of City Hall—thanks to the successful efforts of the Working Families Party in many local races this year—the newly elected city council will tilt further left and will dole out even more cash to radical and activist community groups.

A few months into his mayoralty the left will begin bashing de Blasio, he’s moving too slowly, why hasn’t he created the Socialist nirvana that they thought he espoused, or, ended “stop and frisk” and crime, why isn’t soma being handed out on street corners?

de Blasio needs the real estate developers, the investors, the Wall Street magnets, he needs the 1% to continue and invest and create jobs.

If the economy continues to improve, if tourists and their dollars continue to flock to the Apple, if some sense of sanity returns to Congress, the new mayor will have the dollars to address his “tale of two cities” campaign punditry.

If the gods are kind the next mayor can address the economic inequalities, if not, the city and the mayor will stumble.

A glittering panel of mayoral appointees can provide the new mayor with cover – can act as the “wise men (and women),” supporting policies to improve the lot for children and families.

The school board of the 70s, 80s and 90s were riven by petty politics, much more concerned with carrying out the political contracts of their patrons, the borough presidents, than reading scores or graduation rates. A school board with credentials, similar to the CUNY, SUNY and the Board Regents can serve as a true policy board engaging and supporting mayoral policies, as well as, on occasion, telling the mayor he should consider moving in a different direction.

And, BTW, does the current Board realize that barring a Weiner-esque disclosure they will be gone in three months?