Mayor Michael Bloomberg has at last outdone himself. Absolute power not only corrupts absolutely but it makes some people act breathtakingly foolish. Fresh from trying to ban smoking in public spaces and other such dictatorial loony offerings, Emperor Mike's new lark is to name a magazine executive to head the New York Public Schools system as replacement for outgoing Chancellor Joe Klein. Granted the mayor has all the authority to name a Gulf Coast shrimp fisherman to the position since he's been given near universal powers by the State on matters pertinent to New York City's children's education.
As I ponder the mayor's latest move to foist upon us hapless New Yorkers a woman named Cathleen Black whose fitness for the job of Chancellor of New York's public schools with a combined population of 1.1 million and 1,600 schools, is that she was a successful magazine publisher. Ah, Mr. Mayor may I be so bold as to recommend Dentist Doctor X as the next police commissioner?
Well, you see he is great at pulling and filling teeth and his practice has been an exceptional model of fiscal and managerial success. I believe that his years as a manager added to the fact that his record of success is unquestioned qualifies him to be the next police manager. Law enforcement expertise he can get. After all there are a number of cops who can "pitch in" to help. And since he's not expected to arrest or change anyone he does not really need to understand the NYPD does he?
Mr. Mayor I am using you rationale and reasoning for picking Ms. Black who from the onset would be a "square peg in a round hole." Maybe an insurance salesman who does great work can, using your reasoning, be your next health commissioner. What do you think? See, nobody doubts her skill as a magazine editor and publisher. Nobody doubts that she is a successful businesswoman. What most rational and sane people doubt is just how these two things make her the best possible choice to run New York City's public school system. The math is wrong here.
Maybe Joel Klein, New York City's schools chancellor, who is quitting to go to work for Rupert Murdoch - to help him put the News Corp. empire "in the education marketplace " needs someone in the New York Public schools that the can deal with. Cathie Black is best known as the former publisher of USA Today. She currently runs Hearst Magazines, which publishes periodicals like Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and Good Housekeeping. Klein and Murdoch both want a bigger slice of the publishing and education pie. Black is just a female version of Klein and no matter what Emperor Mike says "if it quacks like a duck...." well, you know the rest.
So, okay. The mayor does not want or trust anyone from the education industry to fill the position. And perhaps with good reason. But he never even gave the possibility of finding someone qualified within the industry a thought. What about looking in New York State? In recent times Mayor Bloomberg has been saturating his administration with a whole bunch of out of towners while overlooking and not even considering qualified and experienced people from within this state. The Black appointment is a continuation of this policy that says a lot about the mayor.
Me? I'm sorry for Ms. Black --" should she become chancellor after getting the state waiver that she needs. First and foremost New York City's public school system is not anything like a publishing house. It is unwieldy, treacherous and difficult. This system has quite a few more moving parts than Cosmopolitan Magazine. And too, New York's public schools system is filled with, well, lots of children --" about 1.1 million of them. Ms. Black's world and contact with education has to do with her children's private schools that are filled with a bunch of spoiled little brats.
However, Mayor Bloomberg's choice is vintage Mike Bloomberg. He's made his money and reputation by being unorthodox. He's gambled and won more times than he's lost. But gambling with the city's money and the life and future of 1.1 million children is not exactly the same thing as fiddling around with "your billions." Still, after nine years of Emperor Mike's rule people should be used to how he does business and his testiness when called out by John Public.
It therefore was no surprise given his record that he chose someone with absolutely no connection to or relationship or experience with New York City's public school system and education. He selected someone from his ultra-wealthy elitist clique and an alumna of Chicago's parochial schools instead of a New York state educator, or minimally, someone who knew something about education and how to run the nation's largest public school system. Trouble is will this greenhorn be able to handle the teachers union, the custodians union, the principals union, and a dizzyingly diverse student population?
So what in tarnation was Mayor Bloomberg thinking when he appointed Ms. Black for this position? And what credentials did he think qualify her for the job? Perhaps Ms. Black's most impressive credential for the job of New York City's Schools Chancellor is that she is a friend of the mayor's current squeeze, Diana Taylor. That and the fact that she's also a prominent member of the Upper East Side social elite orbit as the mayor and his girlfriend. Or maybe it is the fact that they all merrily meet each year at an ultra-elite retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho, that is a hang-out for the super rich?
For now there's an ongoing fight between those supporting Mayor Bloomberg and Cathleen Black and those urging Education Commissioner David M. Steiner to deny her the waiver needed to take the job. "The children, parents, and educational community of New York City deserve a leader with experience in education. Ms. Black's corporate experience may well qualify her for executive positions in business, but the education of our children and the training of our teachers is not corporate business," says the denial petition.
Maybe good sense and sanity will ultimately prevail. But this is New York and anything can happen. That's why I am rooting for Dentist Doctor X to be the next Police Commissioner.