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Friday, September 2, 2011

Mayor Mike: Throw Away Honesty In Government

Stephen and Margaret Goldsmith

The Secretive Dictatorship of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Betsy Combier,

Bloomberg, Giuliani, Bernard Kerik, and hundreds more are getting paid to ignore what to me is everything: good faith and honesty in service to the public. All of us who have documented what is really going on hope that the backstory to all these people will be told, and the truth will come out about the payoffs and playoffs that were maintained, paid for, and initiated because of greed, desire for power, and outright fear.

Mr. Bloomberg has a view of public service that places him outside of the "good faith" clause found in
Uniform Commercial Code Article 1-Section 1-201, General Provisions: "(19) "Good faith" means honesty in fact in the conduct or transaction concerned."

We should consider the effect this behavior has on the City of New York.

Remember the blizzard of 2010? Mike Bloomberg refused to say where he was, although the media reported his staying outside of New York City in the Caribbean. He left NYC in the hands of his Deputy Mayor, Stephen Goldsmith, who stayed in Washington DC. In other words, no one was in charge of the cleanup, and no one was overseeing the transportation cost of several deaths due to the fact that ambulances, police, and fire safety could not clear the snow to provide adequate public safety. Several people died because of this.

Yet after this fiasco it was back to "muddle plus" where Bloomberg's incredible public relations team keeps his image up in all the subways and buses as a "wonderful" Mayor, kind of like the false image being marketed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his team. (Read "Grand Illusion" by Wayne Barrett, and you will not have to believe what is said about Giuliani).

Bloomberg, Giuliani, Bernard Kerik, and hundreds more are getting paid to ignore what to me is everything: good faith and honesty in service to the public. All of us who have documented what is really going on hope that the backstory to all these people will be told, and the truth will come out about the payoffs and playoffs that were maintained, paid for, and initiated because of greed, desire for power, and outright fear.

I am not buying.

Betsy Combier

Deputy mayor quit after being busted for domestic violence
The blizzard didn't bury him -- roughing up his wife did.

Former Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith -- who drew sharp criticism for bungling the Christmas storm that shut down the city -- actually resigned in disgrace after his wife, fearing for her life, had him arrested during an argument turned violent, The Post has learned.

Just days before he suddenly stepped down as Mayor Bloomberg's chief of operations, Goldsmith was arrested at his Georgetown home after his wife, Margaret, told cops he smashed a phone and grabbed her as she desperately tried to call cops, a Washington, DC, police report reveals.


The shocking report describes in dramatic detail how a "verbal altercation" between the former Indianapolis mayor, 64, and his wife in their ritzy house turned ugly at around 11:30 p.m. July 30.

"I should have put a bullet through you years ago!" Margaret, 59, allegedly told Goldsmith, the report revealed.

Stephen Goldsmith then "shoved [Margaret into] the kitchen counter," according to the report.

"You're not going to do this to me again, I'm calling the police," Margaret responded, the report said.

Goldsmith "then grabbed the phone from her hands and threw it onto the ground, breaking the phone. He then grabbed [Margaret] and refused to let her go."

"She kept screaming, 'Let me go, let me go,' " as Stephen refused to let her out of his grasp, according to the report.

"She dug her nails into [Stephen's] forearms," causing him to release Margaret, who then "ran to the other room to call police."

Cops arrived and arrested Stephen for "simple assault domestic violence," the report said. Margaret complained of back pain but refused medical attention.

Goldsmith spent two days locked up in a DC jail, but prosecutors declined to press the case after Margaret decided not to pursue it.

It was that shameful incident that spurred Goldsmith to resign Aug. 4 after just 14 months as the city's operations chief -- not, as first reported, his botched handling of the city's response to the blizzard.

The July 30 arrest was "the overriding reason," Margaret Goldsmith told The Post yesterday. "It would become a huge distraction to Bloomberg, and Stephen would never allow that to happen. He wasn't planning to resign when he resigned."

Bloomberg was informed of the arrest, and Goldsmith then quit, a source said yesterday.

"The mayor did not feel he should play judge or jury, but innocent or guilty, it was clear [Goldsmith's] service at City Hall was no longer tenable," said the source.

Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna declined to comment.

Margaret Goldsmith, who suffers from lupus, yesterday strenuously denied that her husband got violent with her.

"There was no domestic violence that occurred between my husband and myself," said Margaret, who wed Stephen in 1988 after prior marriages for both. "Nor has there ever been in the history of the marriage.

"It was a big mistake," she said of his arrest. "I can only tell you it was an enormous misunderstanding. It just got out of control."

Stephen said, "Because, according to the officers, DC law required an arrest, one was made over the objection of my wife, and no charges were ever filed.

"Although Margaret, under oath, has affirmed the absence of violence and my actual innocence, I offered my resignation in order not to be a distraction to the mayor and his important agenda for the city."

He added that his family has "faced difficult times," but "anyone who knows us as a couple understands that this is not who we are."
September 1, 2011
Bloomberg Hid Crucial Detail as Aide Resigned: An Arrest

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s management style has its hallmarks: unwavering loyalty to aides and a deep distaste for exposing private lives to public scrutiny.

So when he described the resignation of a deputy mayor a few weeks ago, Mr. Bloomberg left out a crucial detail — the aide had just been arrested over a domestic violence complaint.

On Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg’s instinct to protect, rather than disclose, engulfed his administration in controversy, as prominent city officials harshly criticized his decision to keep the episode hidden from the public.

The deputy mayor, Stephen Goldsmith, who had overseen the city’s Police, Fire and Transportation Departments, was arrested on July 30 after an altercation with his wife at their home in Washington. His wife told officers that he had shoved her and smashed a telephone against the floor.

Mr. Goldsmith, who spent at least 36 hours in police detention after the episode, immediately reported the matter to Mr. Bloomberg. But when Mr. Goldsmith abruptly resigned five days later, the mayor’s office declared in a statement that he was “leaving to pursue private-sector opportunities in infrastructure finance,” language that was reviewed by the mayor himself, people with knowledge of the situation said.

While acknowledging that Mr. Goldsmith, 64, had to step down, these people said, Mr. Bloomberg insisted that the departing aide, a former mayor of Indianapolis and a well-known expert on municipal government, be allowed to characterize the move on his own terms.

Pressed on why City Hall had not disclosed the arrest or the reason Mr. Goldsmith had stepped down, a spokesman for the mayor, Marc La Vorgna, declined to comment.

Mr. Goldsmith’s departure from City Hall had already seemed all but inevitable: it capped a tumultuous 14-month tenure in which he clashed with city commissioners, inflamed municipal unions and oversaw the much-criticized response to the December blizzard, which he coordinated from Washington, where he spent many weekends. When he resigned, many assumed he was ousted for poor performance, a perception City Hall did nothing to dispel. On Thursday, Mr. Goldsmith said that he had actually resigned so that his arrest would not “be a distraction to the mayor.”

Mr. Goldsmith’s arrest, made over his wife’s strenuous objections, first became public in The New York Post on Thursday. The revelation, and the decision by the administration to cloak the circumstances surrounding Mr. Goldsmith’s resignation, roiled New York’s political world, especially because the mayor has made government transparency and combating domestic violence priorities during his tenure.

“It appears that the mayor was not up front with New Yorkers,” said John C. Liu, the city’s comptroller, who called on the mayor to “level with the city” about Mr. Goldsmith’s conduct.

Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, said he was “very troubled that this information was purposely withheld from the public” and suggested that, in this case, the mayor’s penchant for privacy had crossed the line.

“You don’t want to tell the people where you go on the weekends? We can have that discussion,” Mr. Stringer said, alluding to the mayor’s frequent trips out of town. “But it’s absolutely unacceptable to conceal a set of circumstances like this.”

Even domestic violence experts who have worked closely with the administration and spoke glowingly of its track record on the issue said they were unsettled by the situation.

“If we are going to hold the regular people of New York City accountable for not being violent in their relationships, we need to hold our senior leaders and officials, too,” said Liz Roberts, the chief program officer at Safe Horizon, a group that has worked with the mayor to pass laws protecting victims of domestic abuse.

“It’s troubling — absolutely,” she said.

Based on the police report, it appears that prosecutors did not want to charge Mr. Goldsmith, because his wife did not want to pursue the case.

His arrest, according to a report released Thursday by the Washington police, stemmed from a loud and at times violent argument starting around 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday in the couple’s red-brick town house in the wealthy Georgetown neighborhood.

“I should have put a bullet through you years ago,” Margaret Goldsmith, 59, screamed at her husband, according to the report. Mr. Goldsmith then shoved her into a kitchen counter, she told the police.

Mrs. Goldsmith threatened to call the police. According to the report, she told him, “You’re not going to do this to me again.”

At that, Mr. Goldsmith grabbed the telephone and threw it to the ground, breaking it, Mrs. Goldsmith told the police. He grabbed her and refused to let her go, the report said.

Mrs. Goldsmith said she yelled, “Let me go, let me go,” and dug her nails into her husband’s forearms; when he released her, she ran to another room and called the police, the report said.

Mr. Goldsmith was arrested around 10 p.m. on a charge of simple assault domestic violence.

The Goldsmiths, in a statement released Thursday morning, confirmed the arrest but denied that they had engaged in any violence and suggested that the police report had misrepresented their behavior.

The report, Mrs. Goldsmith said, “is a summary of what discussions occurred that evening in our home, and those comments have been misconstrued as well as taken out of context.”

Mrs. Goldsmith said the arrest, which was required under Washington’s domestic violence laws, “was made over my strong objections and numerous appeals to the officers.”

Mr. La Vorgna, the spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, said the mayor’s office had “nothing to add to Mrs. Goldsmith’s account of the incident.” Once Mr. Goldsmith had brought the arrest to Mr. Bloomberg’s attention, Mr. La Vorgna said, “it was clear to the mayor and Mr. Goldsmith that he could no longer serve at City Hall, regardless of his guilt or innocence.”

Mr. Bloomberg, 69, has long prided himself on standing by employees who run into trouble, both at his company and in City Hall, expressing disgust for executives who abandoned aides at the first whiff of scandal.

He stuck by Steven Rattner, who managed Mr. Bloomberg’s personal wealth, after the financier was caught up in an investigation into kickbacks to New York State’s pension system. He defended Nicholas Scoppetta, then the city’s fire commissioner, amid intense criticism of the city’s role in the deadly fire at the former Deutsche Bank building. And he declined to dismiss Mr. Goldsmith even as doubts intensified about his competence.

With a mix of admiration and dismay, even those closest to the mayor describe him as loyal to a fault.

Susan Lerner, the head of Common Cause New York, a good-government group, said that Mr. Bloomberg faced “a tricky situation,” given that Mr. Goldsmith had not been charged with a crime.

“I don’t think you need to necessarily say what happened,” she said. However, she added, “It’s never, to us, a good idea to misrepresent to the public, even with the motives of trying to prevent a trial by the media.”

On Thursday, Councilwoman Letitia James, a Democrat from Brooklyn, said that she had spoken with several members of the administration who argued that Mr. Goldsmith’s resignation was a “private matter.”

Ms. James called that explanation jarring. “They huddled together and they maintained silence,” she said. “They tend to protect their own.”

Reporting was contributed by David W. Chen, Raymond Hernandez, William K. Rashbaum and Liz Robbins.

Budgets chopped at 51 failing middle schools, despite funding initiative designed to help
by Rachel Monahan, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, Friday, September 2nd 2011, 4:00 AM

A parent of a student who graduated from Middle School 22 in the Bronx said the school suffered from high teacher turnover and needed more funding.

The 51 troubled middle schools the city wants to turn around with an infusion of cash have instead had their budgets slashed over the last two years, the Daily News has learned.

At the same time, their standardized test scores have remained far below average, an analysis by the Coalition for Educational Justice found.

"The whole thing has virtually unraveled," said Carol Boyd, a CEJ parent leader. "These are schools where students struggle on a daily basis."

The middle school initiative, supported by the City Council, sent $5 million to the schools over the last four years - or an average of nearly $100,000 a year to each.

Meanwhile, each school's budget has been hacked by an average of more than $125,000 a year for the last two years, the CEJ analysis found.

The schools - five have closed and another two are phasing out - face additional cuts this fall because these guaranteed grants have ended.

At the schools still open this year, fewer than a fifth of the students passed the state reading exams and just a third passed the math tests.

Esperanza Vasquez, whose son, Alexis, 15, graduated Middle School 22 in the Bronx a year ago, said the school suffered from high teacher turnover and could have benefited from more funding.

"The principal has really good ideas. She doesn't have enough support from the Department of Education to do those programs," she said.

"Low-performing schools need enough funding to provide sports and arts - programs to keep the students motivated."

City Department of Education officials yesterday provided no new specifics on how they intend to improve their middle schools.

"While the current fiscal reality has necessitated budget cuts across all schools, we remain committed to improving the educational outcomes for our middle school students," said spokeswoman Barbara Morgan.

Statistics, Beloved by Mayor, Show a Slump in City Services

“In God we trust,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is fond of saying, before invariably adding a caveat: “Everyone else, bring data.”

Mr. Bloomberg, after all, became a billionaire by founding a company that was built on mining statistics.

And since becoming mayor nearly a decade ago, he has minutely quantified virtually every detail of his government, from the number of mentally ill inmates in city jails to the days left in his current term. A video screen at City Hall regularly updates the progress of dozens of agencies in meeting their goals.

But for a mayor who advertised his managerial expertise to win a third term, some of his administration’s own numbers show a clear slump in the performance of agencies Mr. Bloomberg oversees as the city’s chief executive.

While many performance indicators registered gains since 2001, a higher share declined and fewer improved during most of the last fiscal year than in any year since Mr. Bloomberg’s first term. The slump, magnified in the past two years, has apparently not been lost on his constituents. Before the mayor’s timely, aggressive, reassuring and highly visible response to Tropical Storm Irene — in contrast to his administration’s lackadaisical handling of last December’s blizzard — his job approval rating had declined to its lowest point since 2005, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.

“Clearly you get a sense of a city straining, certainly in some areas,” said Doug Turetsky, chief of staff of the city’s Independent Budget Office. “You can see families staying longer in shelters. Child welfare workers’ caseloads are creeping up. It certainly gives pause.”

For most of the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the Citywide Performance Reporting system initiated by the mayor, responses to emergencies by the Police, Fire and Buildings Departments were slower than in the year before. More water mains broke, the streets were dirtier, the backlog of broken hydrants increased and the time it took to arrange for a home health attendant doubled to 26 days, according to the administration’s report card on how city services were delivered. Medical examiners took a week longer to sift DNA evidence in sexual assault cases. The average time between a passenger’s request for a taxi complaint hearing and a final decision rose to 63 days from 56 the year before.

Among seven broad services provided by the city, a majority of indicators improved in only a single category: economic development. In two categories, public safety and education, more indicators declined than improved.

Among all of the 478 indicators or measurements of progress monitored by the mayor’s office, about 48 percent improved and 45 percent declined, according to an analysis by The New York Times — a record that may undercut Mr. Bloomberg’s reputation for applying business skills to city government even during a recession. Administration officials defended their performance, saying the sagging economy inevitably led to some service cuts, even as agencies are still expected to show year-to-year improvements.

“It’s very important to remember the premise here,” said Stu Loeser, the mayor’s chief spokesman, referring to the online color-coded Citywide Performance Rating. “The dashboard is designed with the expectation that we do better than the previous year — if agencies don’t do as well as before, they get a yellow or red. Green only goes for significant improvements — hard to do. It’s a high standard we set for ourselves.”

Henry J. Stern, a former parks commissioner who is the director of New York Civic, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, said the decline in services was self-evident. “The snow wasn’t picked up,” he said, referring to the city’s slow response to the blizzard in December. “People know that; you don’t need statistics.” Some of the sheen of Mr. Bloomberg’s business acumen has also faded as a result of the corruption charges and investigation involving CityTime, the administration’s automated payroll project and another data-driven effort embraced by the mayor.

“Given the magnitude of the CityTime scandal, I think the mayor has already squandered most of his smart management reputation,” said James A. Parrott, chief economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-supported research and advocacy group.

Of course, even if some services have started to slip, most New Yorkers are experiencing a generally safer and cleaner city than the one Mr. Bloomberg inherited.

Since 2001, when Mr. Bloomberg was first elected, major felony crimes have declined by 39 percent (though murders have increased since 2009) and traffic fatalities have declined by nearly 40 percent, according to a 10-year snapshot of indicators chosen by the mayor’s office.

The response time for crimes in progress is 8 minutes 54 seconds, better than in 2001, when it was 10 minutes 6 seconds, but is climbing again. So is the response time to medical emergencies (a full minute higher than in 2001 after declining). Street cleanliness is higher, but slipping again. The number of children in foster care, civilian fire fatalities and the infant mortality rate have all plunged and the number of families placed in permanent housing has increased.

More potholes have been repaired (305,001 in 2011 compared with 121,331 in 2001), and response times to complaints about clogged sewers have improved.

“While overall performance is important, we think New Yorkers care most about key quality of life measures like crime and cleanliness, which have dramatically improved over the past 10 years,” said Julie Wood, a mayoral spokeswoman.

Elizabeth Weinstein, director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, said that the raw accounting of declining and improving performance could be misleading. For example, the number of building-related fatalities has declined, but is that because of better safety monitoring or because the economy has put a crimp in construction? That senior centers are serving fewer lunches is considered a decline, but maybe it means fewer elderly people are hungry or more are relying on food stamps or other substitutes.

Moreover, managing a city is not necessarily the same as running a business, where improved productivity might generate more sales and revenue that could be invested to improve results further.

“If they have one fabulous February, then this year you’re going to be yellow or red unless you match it,” Ms. Weinstein said, referring to the color codes the city uses to grade agencies.

Some analysts gave Mr. Bloomberg credit for being transparent about his administration’s performance, be it good or bad, especially compared with some of his City Hall predecessors.

“I was surprised when I saw the amount that was declining,” said Mr. Turetsky of the Independent Budget Office, “but you could actually give the Bloomberg administration a high mark for honesty when you think back to the Giuliani era, when the sun was always shining.”