Monday, December 21, 2009

Bloomberg Loses Morgenthau Fight and Sets School Closing Showdown

Mayor Bloomberg was embarrassed by his decision to engage in a feud with the Manhattan District Attorney, and he correctly decided to move the upcoming high school closing showdown meeting from Staten Island to Brooklyn in order to make it accessible to a larger number of New Yorkers.

Poorly Chosen Fight

Mayor Bloomberg picked a fight with retiring Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau earlier this month. Last week, the fight ended with a humiliating defeat for Bloomberg on several fronts. Manhattan Viewpoint endorsed Morgenthau's successor, Cy Vance, and hopes that the incoming District Attorney will be as determined as his legendary predecessor to refuse to be intimidated by the Mayor.

The Mayor demanded that the Manhattan District Attorney provide all of the proceeds of a large recent legal settlement to New York City. Morgenthau had traditionally split the funds 60/40 between NYC and New York State with the City getting the larger portion.

Angered by the Mayor's arrogance (and undoubtedly frustrated that NYC had refused to take responsibility for the deaths of New York City Firefighters that were clearly caused by the City's criminal negligence), Morgenthau guided the New York State Legislature and Governor Paterson to pass a law that would specifically target the large settlement in question and divide the proceeds 50/50 between New York City and the state.

When the settlement was received, the city received $27 million less than it would have received if the 60/40 approach had remained in place. The Mayor's arrogance cost all of us in New York City $27 million.

Bloomberg threatened Morgenthau with a scandal during the fight for the 50/50 legislation, saying that if he continued to push for the 50/50 split, the Mayor would release information showing that Morgenthau had millions of dollars in "secret" accounts. Morgenthau continued to push for the 50/50 split and was hit with the "scandal" of the "secret" accounts, and the Mayor went on the attack against the legendary District Attorney, whose office brought nearly $200 million to New York City in 2009 without including the settlement generated the controversy. But the attack backfired.

There turned out to be more than 2,200 secret accounts within the New York City government, and Morgenthau had 48 such accounts. It turned out that all of the so-called "secret" accounts had been known to New York City for years and that the Mayor was using the idea of the "secret" accounts as a failed attempt to exact revenge.

The Mayor finished the fight embarrassed that he overlooked the "secret" accounts of Morgenthau for years and failed to notice the other 2,100 "secret" accounts within his government. He also lost $27 million in the process.

Brooklyn Showdown on School Closings

New York City is planning to close 20 high schools. While many parents and observers oppose the closings and even suggest that the wrong schools are on the list to be closed for the wrong reasons, the closings are certain to occur because the Mayor controls the Board that will decide whether to approve the City's plan.

Amazingly, the City originally scheduled the first an only public hearing on the issue for a January date in Staten Island despite the fact that most of the schools scheduled for closing are in the Bronx. None of the schools scheduled for closing are in Staten Island. The location was more than a 2 hour trip from the location where the largest number of school closings are proposed, and the length of the trip and the 6pm start time would create a major impediment to attendance by the parents of the students in the schools scheduled for closing.

Thankfully, the meeting has been moved to Brooklyn, which is a long way from the Bronx. But, Brooklyn is not nearly as remote as Staten Island, and Brooklyn is our City's most populous borough. One struggles to criticize the scheduling of any city-wide hearing for a Brooklyn location, even when Brooklyn seems to have been chosen in a cynical effort to select the borough furthest from the Bronx that would not create the obviously sense of bad faith that a Staten Island location suggests.

Feel free to attend the meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School on January 26 at 6pm.


    Bloomberg is still getting beaten up by his own decision to focus on "secret" accounts. It is an old saying, "Those who live in glass houses . . ."

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