Monday, February 07, 2011

Getting to Know You

It's encouraging, on rare occasions, to see major media face reality straight-on. While upstart GothamSchools lingers behind the curve, pushing blather from union-busting billionaire shills, Daily News columnist Michael Daly steps up to highlight the hypocrisy of Emperor Mike lecturing demonstrators about democracy. Having attended numerous hearings, I'm very encouraged to see such a mainstream voice describing them to a wide audience.

I've seen criticism of Mulgrew's remarks comparing Bloomberg to Egypt's Mubarak.  Actually, he was far from the first to make that comparison. Speaker after speaker said it. And sitting there, with what purported to be a panel  (though filled with Bloomberg appointees), one could certainly mistake if for a democratic process. However, if you know that Bloomberg controls the majority and fires anyone who disagrees with him, it's tough to sustain that illusion. Daly writes:

...the folks in that auditorium at Brooklyn Tech had no more real voice than the folks in Egypt.
Schools Chancellor Cathie Black and the ruling majority of the panel on stage are mayoral puppets. They hardly even pretended that whatever the people in the auditorium had to say made much difference.

"Not one person on the panel was actually listening," said Charm Rhoomes, who was there Thursday night as the mother of a student at Jamaica High School and the president of its PTA. "Even Cathie Black. She was on her BlackBerry."

Anyone who's attended these meetings knows the score. There's little immediate practicality in getting up to speak, as you'll certainly be ignored. That's why it's tough to discount the frustration in the crowd manifesting itself in chanting and loud criticism. I'm open to better ways of getting through to the likes of socialite Cathie Black, (whose behavior, it must be said, has been snide and unprofessional, whose contempt for the people whose children attend public schools is palpable).  I haven't got any, though.

I'd planned to go to the demonstration and go home, as it broke my heart to see the school closings, but a UFT contact alerted me to the walkout and persuaded me to stay later. At first blush, the UFT walkout seemed a good idea, showing we knew the futility of staying. I'm now getting messages we should have stayed all night, disrupting the meeting to the point where they could not have voted. Would delaying the meeting a week have really prevented the vote? If so, how? Wouldn't they have simply taken the vote at another venue? It's worth examining. Certainly playing by Bloomberg's rules hasn't benefited schools like Jamaica, blatantly closed on false premises.

Frankly, as someone who gets up at 5 AM to go to work, the notion of staying all night holds little appeal for me. Perhaps that's part of the DOE's plan--wear out the public and then do their dirty work in peace. Last year they stayed until the wee hours of the morning, waiting out most of the crowd. The main difference this year was most of their critics left earlier.

One important thing is what we agree on, and what many are finally, finally, beginning to see--that the dictatorial reign of Mayor4Life Bloomberg is an outright affront to democracy. That's our common ground, and that's what we build on.

The question is simple--what's the best way to do it?
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