Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mr. Bloomberg's Minions Explain

Mr. Bloomberg himself appears unavailable, but nonetheless, as Leonie Haimson has demonstrated, people are paid to peddle his POV on blogs. There are several posters over at Gotham Schools, and officials from Joel Klein to Goeffrey Canada make remarkable statements in defense of the current system.

As I wrote a while back, Chancellor Klein's position is that under this system, we have a longtime chancellor. Never mind how you feel about me, he says, it's important to keep the same person in for a long time. Unfortunately, being appointed solely by the mayor, and serving at the mayor's pleasure, the Chancellor tends to serve as the mayor's mouthpiece rather than an advocate for the city's 1.1 million schoolchildren. I became acutely aware of this when I heard Mr. Klein on NPR. He railed against state budget cuts, but pooh-poohed city budget cuts as just one of those things. A good chancellor would work in kids' interest, and having their school budgets cut was clearly not in their interest.

Another argument is that advanced by Goeffrey Canada, who runs a few charter schools as well as Mayor Bloomberg's school propaganda campaign. Mr. Canada suggests that either one person is in charge or no one is. A commenter on Gotham Schools suggested this was similar to Harry Truman's famous plaque declaring "The buck stops here." Actually, though, anyone marginally familiar with the Constitution knows that our system is built on checks and balances. They may not always be perfect, but they certainly exist. Mr. Canada, whose charters are supported by the city, has every reason to be happy with things the way they are. From my vantage point, a trailer with plumbing that's been broken for years, and a school at over 200% capacity, it's hard to share Mr. Canada's enthusiasm.

My favorite Bloomberg argument, though, is the one I've been seeing Gotham commenters trot out of late. They ask--do you want to go back to the old days when nothing got done? Then they talk about all the things that could potentially occur under this mayor. The fact that he's getting nothing done does not merit even a mention. But do you want to go back to those bad old days?

This argument reminds me of nothing more than Squealer the pig in Animal Farm asking the miserable animals, "You don't want Jones to come back, do you?" That was the ultimate threat. Even though they were overworked, and tired, and hungry, and many of them didn't even remember Jones, that question worked wonders.

And it's a very good question indeed, for the many people who don't know what really goes on in Mayor Bloomberg's New York.
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