2009-05-13 / Political Page

Mayor's Campaign And Extended School Control Going Well

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is breezing along in his quest for re-election, propelled by a well-organized, well-funded campaign and high approval ratings that place him in a comfortable lead.

Even when the real fighting begins, the mayor seems positioned well enough to cope with any threat that presumptive Democratic Party candidate Comptroller William Thompson Jr.—or any candidate—would be able to mount.

The only major problem the mayor has at the moment is opposition to the renewal of legislation continuing mayoral control of the city public school system. The present law expires on June 30 and the only serious opposition to it is focused on changing the makeup of the key 13-member panel which sets education policy. The mayor appoints eight of those members and can fire them if he sees fit, and this gives him virtual control over setting educational policy. This section also authorizes the mayor to hire or fire the chancellor.

Opponents, who include parental groups, schools activists and mainly the United Federation of Teachers union, have mounted a serious campaign to change the status quo by changing the present law so that the mayor would appoint only four, or fewer, members when and if the legislature votes to extend the law.

Even when the real fighting begins, the mayor seems positioned well enough to cope with any threat that presumptive Democratic Party candidate Comptroller William Thompson Jr.—or any candidate—would be able to mount. Even when the real fighting begins, the mayor seems positioned well enough to cope with any threat that presumptive Democratic Party candidate Comptroller William Thompson Jr.—or any candidate—would be able to mount. The mayor strongly opposes any change in the law, specifically, as it relates to the education policy panel. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who's been leading the mayor's battle to get the law extended unchanged, has also been firm on this point.

On Monday, in fact, Klein stated, "If the mayor is overridden by the board, then he's no longer accountable." Klein was speaking at a forum on mayoral control sponsored by the Citizens Union and Baruch College.

Klein added, "You're going back to the old Board of Education. It was a prescription for failure and paralysis."

The mayor also addressed the proposed changes which would destroy mayoral control. He said on Monday, "That's not mayoral control. You can call it anything you want, but it's not mayoral control."

At this point, both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D- Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D- St. Albans) have stated they support continued mayoral control, but that's not the end of the story, nor is it a guarantee that the

law will be extended unchanged. Silver and Smith have also hedged at times on the questionable status of the panel on educational policy, citing the calls for change from the UFT and others, including a state senate member who issued a report supporting changes in the key policy panel.

However, on Monday, Silver gave his strongest endorsement yet of continuing total mayoral control.

Silver said, "I support the mayor continuing to control the board." On the question of assuring more involvement for parents and more transparency in board activities, Silver answered, "Ultimately, I think, it's the mayoral appointees who'll make the ultimate decision. I'm fine with that."

Smith also spoke out on the mayor continuing to maintain full control over the policy panel. "That the mayor has most of those appointees, I don't have a problem with that," he said.

It appears at this point that the two officials who have most real control over this controversy— Silver and Smith—are in favor of going forward with complete control remaining in the mayor's hands.

RIDGEWOOD DEMS' DINNER: Assemblymember Catherine Nolan and the Ridgewood Democratic Club have planned a huge celebration for the club's 101st anniversary dinnerdance on Wednesday evening June 10 at the Douglaston Manor in Douglaston. Nolan and codistrict leader Tom Bornemann will honor City Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D- Glendale) and state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D- Howard Beach) as lawmakers of the year and Hector J. Figuerora, Ernest A. Logan and John Norbury as labor leaders of the year; and will present Community Service Awards to Kate Ann Brennan, Dmytro Fedkowskyj and Make the Road New York. Tickets are $75 per person. For more information, call 718-224-4201.

SUING YANKEES: Norman Siegel, seeking the Democratic nomination for Public Advocate, along with City Councilmember Eric Gioia and former Public Advocate Mark Green, is suing the New York Yankees for not setting aside sufficient parkland in The Bronx when the team gave up its former ballpark to build the new Yankee Stadium. The old site was turned over to the Department of Parks to build baseball fields for neighborhood kids. Responding to Siegel, a parks Department spokesperson says it's creating more parkland, not less.

COUNCIL CAMPAIGNS: Heidi Harrison Chain, a candidate in the 29th City Council District Democratic primary, drew a good-sized crowd when her recent campaign headquarters opened at 118-20 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills. Her audience pledged to volunteer to work in her campaign, she said, and also contributed almost $2,000 to her campaign.

Chain, who has worked in the city Department of Finance for the past 20 years, serves as president of the 112th Precinct Community Council and is also active in other community efforts.

Chain's opponents in the primary include Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz, a former city councilmember, and former Assemblymember Michael Cohen. The 29th Council District seat is presently occupied by Councilmember Melinda Katz, who's competing for the city comptroller's job against Councilmembers David Weprin and John Liu of Queens, and Councilmember David Yassky of Brooklyn.

KOO RUNNING FOR FLUSHING COUNCIL SEAT: Peter Koo, who operates a chain of pharmacies, has announced he will run as the Republican Party candidate for the 20th City Council District seat being vacated by Councilmember John Liu (D- Flushing) to run for city comptroller.

Seeking the Democratic Party nomination in the 20th Council District are S.J. Jung, a community organizer, and Ronald Kim, regional representative for Queens for Governor David Paterson. Both Jung and Kim are Korean-Americans. John Chou, Liu's chief of staff, may also be getting into the primary, along with several others. The district takes in mostly Flushing and parts of Auburndale and Whitestone.

Koo, who previously ran and lost a bid for the local state senate seat held by Toby Ann Stavisky, recently addressed a College Point Civic/Taxpayer Association meeting and talked about the importance of civic involvement.

WEINER WANTS HISPANIC AS SUPREME CT. JUDGE: Congressmember Anthony Weiner urged President Barack Obama to appoint the first person of Hispanic ancestry to fill the vacancy that will arise on the U.S. Supreme Court when Justice David H. Souter retires. "Appointing a Latino judge to the Supreme Court will recognize the important contributions by Hispanics to our nation's legal community," Weiner (D- Queens/Brooklyn) wrote. Such an appointment would also add diversity to the nation's highest tribunal, Weiner added, as he suggested either a man or woman judge to fill the vacancy.

CROWLEY APPLAUDS OBAMA BUDGET: President Barack Obama's first budget, a $3.5 trillion spending plan is "honest and straight-forward with the American people about our nation's fiscal status—something we haven't seen in almost a decade," Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx) said. "In order to put our nation's long-term fiscal health back on track, we have to deal with the issues we are facing in an open, transparent and responsible way— and this economic blueprint does just that." Crowley is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

MONSERRATE BACKS MORTGAGE BILLS: A bill sponsored by state Senator Hiram Monserrate (D- Jackson Heights) called the Residential Mortgage Bill of Rights, was voted out of the Banking Committee last week. The legislation, Monserrate said, would offer "a clear and truthful" explanation of mortgage terms and conditions to the borrower, explain in writing why the mortgage was denied or conditionally approved and permit cancellation within three days of a refinancing application that had been approved—but only by written notification to the lender or bank.

In addition, mortgage providers would be required to offer consumers a bill of rights brochure that would have to be signed by the applicant prior to finalization of the mortgage.

Monserrate said the bill was designed to help consumers avoid deceptive marketing practices about loan offers.

A second Monserrate bill approved by the banking committee would exclude proceeds received from a reverse mortgage being deemed income when seniors file for a partial property tax exemption.

PRESIDENT HEEDS VALLONE'S ADVICE: City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D- Astoria), who had called for the removal of the official who gave the go-ahead for the flyover of Manhattan, said after Louis Caldera was removed, "President Obama made the right decision in accepting the resignation of Louis Caldera. There have to be ramifications when lifethreatening mistakes are made, and this was a necessary one."

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