Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cathie Black and Bloomberg's Judgment

Cathie Black is rapidly becoming the symbol of the mayor's lack of good judgment-and why the third term was such a bad idea. The chancellor, who has no educational background and no other rationale for her elevation that we can see, now has poll numbers rapidly approaching negative integers:

"Cathie Black's rough start as schools chancellor is not getting any better. In fact, her approval rating is even worse than it was earlier this year, just a few weeks after she started her new job. An exclusive NY1-Marist Poll finds that just 17 percent of voters think Black is doing an excellent or a good job. That's down from January, when 21 percent of voters said they approved of the job she was doing.The number of respondents who think she is doing a fair or poor job has also increased to 63 percent, compared to 54 percent in January. The former Hearst Magazines chairwoman took heat from the beginning of her tenure over her lack of education credentials. Gaffes, like in February when she mocked an angry crowd at a schools meeting, have also not helped her win over the public."Not a good picture in terms of trying to get the kind of passing grades she would want to get from New York voters," says NY1/Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff. "So this has not been a success to this point."

How bad is she? Well, according to the NY Times, she has to have her public appearances carefully controlled lest she stick her foot in her mouth as she has done in the past: "Ms. Black has remained largely sequestered from the public since taking over in January from Joel I. Klein, and at public functions she commonly hews to scripted remarks or takes limited questions. She made a couple of gaffes in her first weeks in office, including one in which she jokingly recommended birth control as a solution to school overcrowding in Lower Manhattan."

It's almost as if she is in the witness protection program: "On policy matters like high school admissions and graduation rates, deputy chancellors — particularly Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer — often speak for the Education Department. State officials made Mr. Polakow-Suransky’s appointment to that role a condition for permitting Ms. Black to take the chancellorship, because of concerns about her lack of experience in education."

Which gets us to the mayor's lack of good judgment, something we commented on over the weekend. Mike Bloomberg used muscle and guile to steal a third term that he didn't deserve-everything has gone down hill ever since.

Which brings us to our own Iron Triangle struggle. It is now two and a half years since the City Council passed the Willets Point land use application-and the city remains stuck in the mud because of the actions of the intrepid band of Willets Point United who simply would not quit even when EDC made sweetheart deals with their former allies in the original coalition. EDC thought that by taking out the bigger property owners, the others would fold up like cheap suits. That didn't happen, and in the process WPU has demonstrated-even while the city council has remained frozen in amber-that this project cannot work, and will destroy local road infrastructure and jam mass transit beyond its current capacity to handle the overflow.

What WPU has also done, utilizing its other team of lawyers from Mike Rikon's firm. is to dramatize the extent to which the mayor's minions have flouted the law-once again-in the abuse of the eminent domain procedures. It wasn't bad enough that EDC used extra-legal lobbying methods to gain city council approval. Buoyed by the abuse of power, EDC went ahead and spit in the face of the EDPL by offering lucrative deals to some and bupkis to others who were lacking in means. We will talk about this outrage in more detail at a later time, but suffice it to say that this was an outrageous example of the illegal abuse of power-and we think that the courts will eventually agree with us.

But this all goes back to the mayor, someone who is used to bogarting the little guys. This is the same man who, when confronted with the illegal Claire Shulman lobbying told the local press that it might not be legal, but its done all the time. All the time by him, perhaps-as was the case with the Coney Island Development Corporation as well.

As the Times has reported, "

In a recent example, the Coney Island Development Corporation, essentially a subsidiary of the Economic Development Corporation, hired three buses to carry people to a hearing last month on the mayor’s proposal to revitalize 19 blocks of the Coney Island amusement district. Officials say the buses were open to those who favored or opposed the plan, but council members say it was clear that most riders were supporters.

“I don’t ever remember L.D.C.’s lobbying council members or elected officials the way they have been to promote Bloomberg projects,” said Councilman Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat who is chairman of the Council’s subcommittee on zoning and franchises and who is a candidate for mayor.

The Coney Island group also paid more than $182,000 to Yoswein New York, another of the city’s major lobbying firms, to help promote its efforts to help the mayor gain public approval for his redevelopment plan, records show. “We do public relations as well, and for this client we were hired to do marketing and public relations,” said Jamie Van Bramer, who handled the account for Yoswein. “We did no lobbying on this one at all.”

Fast forward to today.Unable to get the state to approve the ramps because his pet consultants fudged the traffic data, the mayor's crew is once again skirting the law by creating a phony Phase I development plan-and thankfully, Judge Madden has intervened and called the city on this maneuver.

So the mayor who believes like Louis the IV, that "l'etat c'est moi," isn't constrained from resorting to illegal bullying methods; forcing Cathie Black down our throats, and trying to do the same with Willets Point. The major point here is that the mayor, with few peers to counsel him wisely, believes that he is infallible and it is all the rest of us who are in need of his guidance.

The snowstorm, CityTime scandal and Cathie Black provide empirical evidence that infallibility is not, by a long shot, a Bloomberg personality trait. The decision to plow forward on Willets Point only confirms this evident lack of judgment. It will, given the catatonic state of legislative oversight, probably be left to the courts to disabuse the mayor of his grandiose vision. It's only a matter of time before Willets Point joins the other debacles as a testament to the value of term limits.