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Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Look Back: Andrew Wolf On "Banana King Bloomberg", 2008, And "The Fix Is In", 2010

One of the best journalists around, in my opinion, is Andrew Wolf of the New York Sun. He seems to always hit the nail right on the head as far as Mike Bloomberg's education mess is concerned.

As you read the articles below, dont forget that NYC has just suffered under the worst leadership of the public school system ever. Three articles I posted on this blog, "Kleingate", Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein, Inc., and "Score Scandal" are just the tip of the iceberg I have named, somewhat affectionally, "violation of rights" that freezes the mind with just how much lawlessness the Bloomberg/Klein regime has gotten away with over the past nine years ("The Gotcha Squad" is still alive and putting teachers on suspension and/or terminating for no reason). Someone must be exceptionally gifted in pulling the wool over the eyes of the public in order to get away with long-term public fraud, and Joel Klein is not good at this. Neither is Mike Bloomberg. The fact is, when piercing, relevant questions are asked about some policy or rule that doesn't make sense, both Bloomberg and Klein attack, belittle, or ignore the person asking the questions. This doesn't work with me and others who know what is going on.

I'll give you one example that will be in my book:

In November 2006 I wrote an article for my website on teacher Hipolito "Polo" Colon who sued his NYSUT Attorney Steve Friedman, Joel Klein, and the NYC Board of Education (Panel For Educational Policy - PEP) in New York State Supreme Court. His cause of action was told he would be terminated on September 19, 2006 at an Executive Session of the Panel because he did not request a 3020-a hearing after getting charged. Problem was, he was out of state when the BOE sent the charges to him the last day of school, and he didnt get any notice until he found 3 return notices in his post office box when he returned in August. Anyway, on September 18, 2006 I served BOE General Counsel Michael Best with an Affidavit that stated the facts of how the vote on the termination could not go forward, and it didnt. On October 13, 2006 Polo filed a lawsuit for violation of his due process rights as a tenured teacher using the lawless PEP Executive Session termination hearings as one part of his whistleblower complaints. The PEP kept meeting in secret Executive Sessions through the 2009-2010 school year. I dont believe that an Executive Session has been held this year, but if you have any information on this, please email me at

What has been overlooked by the media and everyone else, is the fact that the PEP members have routinely violated the rights of tenured teachers since the lawless Panel was set up in 2002. Bloomberg did away with a vote for school boards and local school boards. We, the public, have no representation by election of any person currently sitting in positions of deciding our children's futures.

In 2002-2003 the PEP started immediately voting to terminate tenured teachers who did not return the form asking for a 3020-a hearing (pursuant to Education Law 3020) to the General Counsel within 10 days after receiving their charges. But they did not vote properly. The PEP members read the charges and voted on termination behind closed doors at an Executive Session BEFORE the regular public meeting began. This is a violation of Open Meetings Law Section 105. I contacted Bob Freeman at the Committee on Open Government and he agreed with me that this was indeed a violation of section 105. (See Mr. Freeman on youtube, May 2010).

While you are at it, read Section 106 about minutes. Today, if you go to the PEP website you will see "Minutes of Action". Interesting title, but not really what I, a former PTA President, would call the rundown of the PEP meeting. These postings are new, by the way. Attorney and General Counsel Michael Best has the job, as Secretary of the PEP, to write minutes of each meeting and post on the NYC BOE. Several years ago I filed a Freedom of information request for his minutes, because I've never seen any posted on the BOE website, and I received a couple of agendas. Watch Mr. Best, you will see that he never writes the minutes, and it seems no one else does either. Considering the technologically advanced posibilities for the PEP to take advantage of, one might wonder why there is all the secrecy.

Of course I dont. And now, you dont either. Back to the present, with a waiver being given to Cathie Black who has, unlike Joel Klein, absolutely no public service in her past nor any public/private teaching experience. But Mike Bloomberg wanted her. So, he appointed her. Why didn't he wait until he had given her an Honorary Degree at some University before he made the appointment??? Then he may have gotten away with his bully pulpit, and not been sued by Eric Snyder, a brilliant attorney who saw that once again, the agenda of Mike doesn't comply with the law. I posted his Article 78 so everyone can read the lawsuit. Kudos Mr. Snyder!!!!

Have a great day.

Betsy Combier
Banana King Bloomberg
By Andrew Wolf, Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 7:01:16 PM

New York City is about to become a “banana republic,” ruled not by the will of the people, but rather by the will of one man, our “benevolent” dictator, King Michael Bloomberg.

Twice the voters mandated term limits for city elected officials. They spoke clearly and their desires were respected. As a result, some very fine public officials were forced to step down. And it must be pointed out that the current crop of City Council members, beneficiaries of the law and the mayor knew exactly the terms of their employment.

Earlier suggestions that the Council repeal term limits so that their members could run for a third term or beyond were called “disgusting,” by Mayor Bloomberg himself.

But now as his own clock winds down, King Mike is attempting what is nothing more than a Beer Hall Putsch, and the Beer Hall is the City Council chamber. Enlisting the pliable, gutless and morally bankrupt Council Speaker, Christine “Lap Dog” Quinn, the mayor is about to “steal” an illegal third term. No matter what you think of Bloomberg as mayor, you should fear this gambit, and resist it with every fiber in your being. Rules are rules and respect for the law must not be tampered with. Ever.

Let’s start with the premise that the mayor is the only person who has the ability to “save” the city during the financial crisis. This is the same argument made by Mayor Giuliani, somewhat more persuasively, after 9/11.

Certainly with smoke still rising from the site of the World Trade Center, daily updates in the body counts, and disarray in the financial markets, a real crisis was at hand. All Giuliani asked for was a few extra months. Yet the plan was dropped as cooler heads prevailed. In a democracy, no one man is indispensable.

Now the “Indispensable Emperor” wants an extra four years. As the old Mike Bloomberg would say, it’s “disgusting.”

Before we end democracy in New York, we should closely examine the record of Michael Bloomberg. Is he indispensable? No. In fact in my view he hasn’t even been a good mayor, and continuing him in office would be a disaster.

In a city where the town’s richest man serves as mayor, and the media is greatly compromised by his wealth and influence, sometimes all news appears good, even when it is not.

And there has been plenty of bad news in Bloomberg’s New York. Here’s the truth:

I certainly can’t blame the world financial crisis on King Mike. But everyone should understand that he has failed to prepare us for the uncertain times we face today. He has had no cogent policy to diversify the city’s economy, and now we will pay the price. And more than any person, he was uniquely positioned to see the fragile state of the financial markets, as the leading supplier of information to Wall Street.

When the dust clears, New York City will have tens of thousands fewer jobs in the financial sector, the best and most productive jobs in town, from the perspective of raising tax revenue. And those jobs are not coming back, no matter what King Mike does. This will lead to a glut of residential and office space, and further declining real estate values. Where was our fearless all-knowing leader when we needed someone to sound the alarm?

Because this is a world crisis, the tourist boom, fed by a cheap dollar will also end. Even as the stock markets declined, the dollar has made a comeback, regaining 15% of its value against the euro. In other words, good for you and me when we travel abroad, but not so good for Europeans who have been filling our high end retail stores, getting bargains courtesy of the exchange rate. Look for lots of empty hotel rooms here.

And the mayor - with the connivance of the City Council — has mismanaged the budget. Unlike Mayor Giuliani, King Mike hasn’t shown budgetary restraint, and now we will pay. He already increased property taxes by 18% after 9/11, failed to give us the 1% sales tax break promised a generation ago during an earlier budget crisis, and has new plans to raise property taxes now. Look for more taxes and deep cuts, and give blame where blame is due - right with the Imperial Mayor.

The World Trade Center site, Ground Zero, is still an empty hole. Whose fault is that? King Mike has been our ruler now for seven years. He should have been screaming for action. Now it is clear that even a memorial will not be completed even in time for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 outrage. Another victory for the terrorists.

What of the mayor’s other “accomplishments?”

You will hear much talk of better schools. Where? Certainly not here in Riverdale, as every important indicator is way down. Our schools are now being run by unqualified, insensitive “instant principals,” whose loyalty is to King Mike and his Court Jester, Chancellor Joel Klein, and not to our children and our community.

Citywide, test scores key tests administered by those outside of New York are flat, even as the cost of running schools has increased by 79% and the number of students declined by 60,000. Amazingly, 5,000 extra teachers have disappeared into the system, but class size is as big as ever. The conclusion is inescapable. King Mike has botched the job.

The State Legislature, blessedly, rejected the burden that congestion pricing would place on us. But if King Mike stages his coup, can we count on them to continue to protect those of us who, here in the outer boroughs, will surely be victimized by this wacky scheme?

As he has failed with the big things, the out-of-touch Emperor, perhaps spending too much time with his billionaire pals at his estate in Bermuda, has put through some small projects which reveals how disconnected from our lives he is.

He boasts of a new bus line to speed travel time across Fordham Road. And it has. But it comes at the expense of every single parking space along Fordham Road between University Avenue and Southern Boulevard. The result? Retail business has suffered greatly. But hey, when was the last time unthinking King Mike shopped on Fordham Road?

The Benevolent Dictator likes to tell us what we can eat and what we can’t. So he (and the mental midgets on the City Council) came up with the craziest scheme of all, to place hundreds of pushcarts on the streets to sell fresh fruits and vegetables to “underserved” poor communities. King Mike failed to realize that if there was a real demand for more availability of fruit and vegetables, the free market would satisfy it.

So what happened? Only eight vendors came forward, and as of now, they are doing miserably. You see even his highness, Emperor Mike, the Banana King, can’t repeal the laws of supply and demand.

And he shouldn’t be allowed to try and repeal our term limits law, either.

Even if he was doing a great job, repeal of term limits would be morally wrong. Because this king has failed us, repeal would be a disaster for our city on every level.

Fix Appears To Be In at Secret Hearing on Next City Schools Chancellor
By ANDREW WOLF, Special to the Sun, November 22, 2010
The growing movement to deny Cathie Black, Mayor Bloomberg’s friend and choice to become New York schools chancellor has, I suspect, ground to a halt.

The New York State Education Commissioner, David Steiner, has appointed an advisory committee so heavily stacked with former employees of the Bloomberg administration’s education department and recipients of Bloomberg’s charitable largesse that it is hard not to draw the conclusion that the “fix is in.”

One can only conclude that Mr. Steiner:

· has decided, for whatever reason, not to challenge the mayor.

· fears that the mayor’s nominee is so controversial that he must have a near-unanimous vote of the advisory committee recommending Ms. Black’s appointment.

· calculates that unless the committee is top-heavy with “sure votes” for any choice of the mayor, it would reject Ms. Black.

I have heard that this is a “line in the sand” moment for the mayor and that he has telegraphed this to both Mr. Steiner, and the chancellor of the state education department, Merryl Tisch, though what Ms. Tisch will do behind the scenes is difficult to predict. She has shown courage is challenging New York’s test scores, publicly questioning the results in 2009 when the mayor was running for reelection, reportedly enraging him, even though she held back on what should have been done back then, which is withhold that year’s results.

In any event, it is hard to conceive that a candidate possessing as thin an educational resume as Ms. Black would be considered if nominated by another mayor.

The saddest part of this story is that the meetings of the advisory committee to decide whether Ms. Black deserves a waiver from the statutory requirements will apparently by done in secret.

Under New York State’s Open Meetings Law, the deliberations of this panel should be open. Personnel matters can be held in executive session, but this is not a personnel decision. Any confidential information regarding Ms. Black’s previous employment — not much of a secret because of her high profile position in a public company — falls into the mayor’s purview in selecting her. This is merely a review of whether her professional qualifications can be considered as meeting the specific requirements outlined under state law, arguably a matter of public concern.

No doubt running New York’s schools requires a great manager, but not just any manager. The job requires a manager with a particular understanding of this field and its issues, such as curriculum and pedagogy. It is easy for professional managers to imagine that they can run a school or a school district, but quite another to actually do it.

Joel Klein, the non-educator who currently leads the school system, is being lauded as a transformational chancellor, but that assessment will be adjusted as the scale of the test results balloon comes into perspective. Test scores have barely budged, while school expenditures have skyrocketed.

It is widely acknowledged that now, with the impending absence of federal stimulus funds, major cuts will have to be made. But what should be cut? How do we more efficiently use resources and get positive educational results?

Compared with Ms. Black, Mr. Klein’s resume held far more promise. He had a long history of government service, right up to the White House. He had actually served, if briefly, as a classroom teacher and was himself a graduate of the New York City public schools. Ms. Black main qualification in education is that she sent her children to a private boarding school.

Now we’re being told by Oprah Winfrey, of all people, that Ms. Black is the best choice for the job.

Ms. Winfrey opened a small school for girls in South Africa that, by next year, is slated to grow to just 450 young women. This is a particular interest of Ms. Winfrey, who has often discussed being sexually abused as a child. But the school has been rocked by at least two sex scandals since the day it opened and has been mired in controversy. One school. Maybe it isn’t so easy, even for the well-meaning rich. Imagine running 1,400 schools with well over a million students.

I’m willing to give Ms. Black the benefit of the doubt. But hold the meeting of the advisory committee in public. Let’s hear what she and they have to say. No one is served by holding this deliberation in secret, certainly not the public or the children attending our schools. Ultimately, it will ill serve Ms. Black — and Mr. Steiner as well.

Mr. Wolf is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.

Public Deserves Full Hearing on Bloomberg’s Nominee for Chancellor of Schools
How Far Has the City Come Under Mayoral Control?
By ANDREW WOLF, Special to the Sun, November 14, 2010

Before Cathie Black gets a waiver to come in as Mayor Bloomberg’s schools chancellor, there should be a proper hearing in Albany. It would provide a moment not only to explore whether Ms. Black is the right person for the job but to assess how far the city has actually come under mayoral control of the schools.

The mayor, who fashions himself as a great educational reformer, wants New Yorkers to believe that he has found the magic formula that can be executed by any fine manager, even one who, like Ms. Black, is without any educational experience. But where’s the magic?

The fact is that under Mr. Bloomberg’s formula, New Yorkers have increased the education budget to $21 billion a year from $13 billion but have seen only the tiniest increase in student performance, continuing a pattern of similar (and often larger) gains that were being posted by the old, much maligned and allegedly “dysfunctional” Board of Education.

The “historic gains” boasted of last year, when the mayor won reelection, evaporated this year with the admission by the newly installed State Education Commissioner, David Steiner, that New York State tests in grades 3 through 8 had, for the past few years, been wildly inflated. The extreme nature of this situation has, in my opinion, been largely understated.

This deception — and no one should think that it is anything but — was not to help the children, who are, after all, demonstrably worse off by not having been told the truth, but rather to benefit the adults who run the schools. Beneficiaries included Mr. Steiner’s predecessor, Richard Mills, who boasted of the state’s soaring test scores as proof of his success, and Mayor Bloomberg, who used those scores as part of his $100 million campaign for re-election.

The federal No Child Left Behind law has its critics, but it did force policy makers to try to achieve increased scores, with the unrealistic goal of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014. It was an invitation to game the system by allowing each state to determine proficiency, resulting in the New York state debacle. This compromised the education of hundreds of thousands of students here, denying many of them essential remediation, while facilitating their unearned promotion to the next grade. The concept of “ending” social promotion, central to the Bloomberg educational program, now lies in tatters.

Just as the academic program is emerging as in need of rethinking comes the fiscal bad news. The full effect of the recession, blunted for a while by the infusion of billions in federal stimulus funds, is now upon us. With billions less to spend, we’ve got to achieve the academic gains that we now know weren’t reached when the cash spigot flowed freely. This is a daunting task.

The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that one exists. That is what Mr. Steiner did at the state level with the test scores in July. I suggest that the solution to creating real, not illusive, academic gains will come from better pedagogy, not better management.

Which brings us to Cathie Black. I fear that the mayor still believes his own 2009 press releases and has told Ms. Black that, as far as academics are concerned, all is well with the city’s schools. All she needs to do as chancellor would then be to follow through on the programs the outgoing chancellor, Joel Klein, and his staff have already put in place. But in the harsh light of the revised test scores, what kind of success has Mr. Klein truly accomplished? Achievement has not dramatically increased, while funding has. New educational programs will need to be developed.

There are those who suggest that the mayor, in total control of the schools, have free reign to pick his chancellor. But the mayor, even within the overly-liberal terms of the renewal of his control of the schools in 2009, has control only within state law. That law clearly enumerates certain pedagogical qualifications for district superintendents, and New York City is the largest school district in the state (not to mention the country). Those requirements, not unique to the city, can be waived only for those possessing extraordinary skills.

There have been three waiver requests in my memory. Mr. Klein, in the euphoria of the initial adding of the school system to the mayor’s portfolio, won such a waiver. But he brought extensive government service to the table, at a time when all of the stakeholders, including the teacher’s union, were supportive. His predecessor, Harold Levy, whom the mayor would dismiss as part of the old “dysfunction,” also won a waiver. He had considerable experience as an education advocate in the private sector and had served on the State Board of Regents.

The third application for a waiver, which was denied, was for Robert F. Wagner, Jr., who was — he has since died — the scion of a distinguished New York political family and who was a widely recognized student of public policy. Many at the time were shocked by Wagner’s rejection. Mayor Koch responded by orchestrating Wagner’s election as president of the Board of Education, where he served with distinction.

In Ms. Black’s case, what would be appropriate would be a public hearing at which Ms. Black would be entitled to testify and face questions from a panel of Regents, state and city legislative leaders, and state education department staffers. This would enable Commissioner Steiner, who knows better than anyone the challenges that lie ahead, to make an informed and transparent decision.

It would also enable Ms. Black, a social friend of Mr. Bloomberg, to prove that she is not the education world’s equivalent of Harriet Miers, the ill-fated Bush nominee to the Supreme Court. Or perhaps give her pause, as with Ms. Miers, to withdraw rather than face questions for which she is ill-prepared to answer.

Laurence Tribe, US Department of Justice Senior Counsel, Speaks About The Disintegration of Justice In America

U.S. Department of Justice challenges state Chief Justices to fix access to justice systemic deficiencies

On July 26, 2010, Laurence Tribe, Senior Counsel for the United States Department of Justice, Access to Justice Initiative, delivered an important speech to the Conference of Chief Justices, challenging them to halt the disintegration of our state justice systems before they become indistinguishable from courts of third world nations. “If some of the things I’ll be asking of you, in your capacity as chief justices and as occupants of the bully pulpits in your respective states, will resemble judicial ‘activism,’ they will bear no resemblance to activism of an ideological stripe, right or left, but will bear the ‘activist’ label only to the degree that activism is understood as the opposite of passivity – a passivity that disclaims responsibility for the systems of which you are, after all, the stewards.”

The active participation of Chief Justices in reform is critical, Professor Tribe noted, to counterbalance the “hydra-headed monster” of “too many people to be served effectively” in the face of state legislators’ “appetite for imprisonment that ignores the veritable mountain of evidence which shows that alternatives to incarceration are often more effective at reducing recidivism while also less costly” and their “unwillingness to provide the legal assistance needed to provide meaningful, adequate defense.”

The often overlooked linked between broken justice systems – both civil and criminal – and escalating risks to public safety was of particular focus in the speech. Tribe stated that “clogged” and at times “corrupt” public courts lead to a “vicious cycle of cynicism and disaffection in which the system’s democratic legitimacy, the very foundation of its capacity to articulate and enforce the rule of law, disintegrates.” Tribe continued: “[T]hat in turn leads increasing numbers to flout the law.”

Tribe was particularly concerned about the plight of juveniles in our nation’s courts: “[W]ithout any credible defense, those young people are far more likely to end up in detention or incarceration, where they’re much more likely to be exposed to assault or sexual abuse, much more vulnerable to suicide, and far more likely to commit further crimes after their release. You, as our chief justices, can make a difference. Every child in delinquency proceedings should have access to justice via a right to counsel at every important step of the way: before a judicial determination regarding detention, and during probation interviews, pre-trial motions and hearings, adjudications and dispositions, determination of placement, and appeals. The changes you can bring about will affect these young people for the rest of their lives. And you could save not only their lives but the lives of those they might otherwise endanger years into the future.”

The DOJ gave very specific recommendations to the state chief justices. Recognizing that the “consequences of juvenile adjudications are serious and long term” and that “the lack of representation can reshape a child’s entire life” from “expulsion from school, exclusion from the job market, eviction from public housing, and exclusion from the opportunity to enlist in the military,” DOJ challenged the state chief justices to be the protectors of the right to counsel. Lauding those states that “do not accept a waiver of counsel from juveniles under any circumstances,” DOJ recommends that “every state in the country should adopt a rule that at the very least requires consultation with an attorney prior to waiver of counsel.” Furthermore, the DOJ recommends that each Chief Justice create a state task force – a la Nevada -- to evaluate “the adequacy of the way your state is discharging its federal constitutional duty under Gideon.”

In closing, Tribe stated, “[t]here may well be times when, as you contemplate the enormity of this challenge, the task ahead will seem so daunting that paralysis is the first reaction. Believe me – I’ve felt that, too. But, if the search for a universal solvent for the intractable problems of justice can be paralyzing, the commitment to these achievable reforms can be empowering.”

Scandal in the Los Angeles Justice System