At a forum last night (March 19th) at Brooklyn’s St. Francis College, our executive director joined fellow panelists John Avlon of CNN, Michael Powell, columnist for the New York Times, Maggie Haberman, writer for Politico, and Harry Siegel, an editor at the Daily Beast, for a discussion on the topic, “WHO SHOULD BE THE NEXT MAYOR OF NEW YORK?” It was a candid discussion on a wide open race inasmuch as Mayor Bloomberg is term-limited and cannot run for a fourth term.
Michael Meyers’ prepared opening remarks for the forum follow.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE NEXT MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY?
Remarks by Michael Meyers, Executive Director, New York Civil Rights Coalition
March 19, 2013
We can finally look beyond Bloomberg because of Terms Limits….and we shall remember Bloomberg because of his end-run around the voters’ two-successive terms are enough referenda. This will be the case in spite of the electorate’s notorious short-term memory. For instance, who remembers much less talks about the scandals associated with the City Council’s and Speaker Quinn’s funding of phantom organizations—something attorney Norman Siegel attempted to get to the bottom of but was thwarted by the Feds—who insisted they were probing the matter but never concluded or reported out findings.
The recent and current headlines seem to be written against Controller Liu and they emphasize the allegations of wrongdoing of his fund raising operatives—even though Liu himself has not been charged with any crimes. The ink and photo spreads of Christine Quinn have on the other hand been remarkable and geared in favor of her firsts—as the first lesbian Speaker of the City Council, first woman, etc. The media while focused on identity politics-in the form of “firsts” are not attentive to follow up by way of measuring kept or broken promises, or competence by way of follow through with the promises of the politicians. Virtually every weekend we have a press conference from Charles Schumer—this past Sunday it was about a bill of rights for passengers on cruise ships. Has any journalist done a study of the legislation introduced by Schumer and tracked what he has accomplished since his press availabilities and announcements?
Polling has already begun….well in advance of a complete field of candidates for Mayor, perhaps. polls o early on are not very reliable. Bur media love polls. We were treated to the news tidbit that former Congressman Weiner spent a boatload of $$ to determine whether he can reenter politics, to test the public’s short term memory.
I say all this because I think accountability will be the measure of the next Mayor of New York—when the media barons will not be so enamored with a mayor who is not one of their own, or who did not self-finance his mayoral campaign. The current Mayor was given great leeway; his minions were allowed to call on charities and civic groups that were recipients of the Bloomberg fortune to get them to support the City Council overturning the Term Limits Law. I will long remember one of the now announced candidates for Mayor—whose group received governmental and Bloomberg funding—standing up at a civic meeting and when Bloomberg’s name was mentioned, the now announced candidate for Mayor shouted, “Bloomberg forever!” And I shall remember the incongruity to my eyes of one of Mayor Bloomberg’s deputy mayors also heading up his philanthropic foundation without a whimper from many governmental and non-governmental watchdogs.
If we are to have and exact accountability from the next mayor we will have to do better by way of examining the record of their promises—those kept and broken, and tracking as well the next mayor’s appointees to boards and commissions like the Ethics Board and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The next Mayor will have to do better by way of police accountability, too—the police will need to protect and serve and keep our city safe and at the same time respect and uphold civil rights. Police-Race Relations have not been good under Bloomberg—although they were admittedly worse under Giuliani. Police-Community Relations remains bad because of stop, frisk and question—and because of a moribund, ineffective Civilian Complaint Review Board—a Mayoral puppet agency. For the duration of the Bloomberg Administration, the CCRB has been chaired and led by ciphers. Who here can name the current Chair of the CCRB? Who here can name the current or past three executive directors of the CCRB? Such names should be on the tongues of every informed citizen—and known to every journalist.
Given the tensions and pitiable record of civil rights infractions of stop, frisk and question, many New Yorkers will be looking for a new Police Commissioner. Any Mayoral candidate who has already signaled an intention to reappoint Ray Kelly will be risking alienation from the minority community—especially if young minorities go out to vote and urge their elders to vote their way. Police Commissioner Kelly’s going to black churches to speak is PR gimmickry. He won’t find there the young black and Hispanic males he needs to listen to, as he reflexively and routinely defends NYPD’s stop and frisk practices, and widespread police surveillance of Muslims groups and mosques.
Here, too, the media have been suckers for Bloomberg and governmental prattle. The Daily News just the other day decried a single federal judge being the arbiter of the constitutionality of NYPD’s stop and frisk practices. As Ira Glasser, former ED of the ACLU pointed out in his response to the Daily News editorial, posted yesterday on-line, that’s what single federal judges do—they preside at federal trials, and rule on law and evidence all the time. Glasser’s response also rebutted and destroyed the Daily News’ defense of stop and frisk: Glasser wrote:
“In 2011, according to the NYPD’s own reports, there were 685,724 stops …[Out of these] 819 guns were recovered, a success rate of less than one-tenth of one percent. This woeful success rate has been about the same over the past 5 years. In 2012, there were 533,042 stops, and 780 guns recovered as a result, a success rate of .146%. Police say…that the reason why upwards of 85-88% of these stops are of young blacks and Latinos, mostly male, is because ‘the police go where the guns are,’ as one member of the City Council recently asserted. But, in fact, in stopping and frisking these targeted youth, the police are going where the guns AREN’T. They’re not finding more than a negligible number; either they are targeting minority youth as the critics claim, or they are spectacularly incompetent.”
The next mayor will especially have to be better evaluated by way of success or failure of the schools since our public schools are under mayoral control. The next mayor must choose a Schools Chancellor whom educators and students and parents and the citizenry at large can respect—who isn’t a crony, who doesn’t need a waiver of the statutory qualifications for School Superintendent of the State’s largest and most diverse school district. Also, there must be an EEO search for the next Schools Chancellor rather than an insular, “let’s have breakfast” meeting at which the Mayor picks the man or woman he knows. The next schools Chancellor should know about curriculum, class size, teacher evaluation and supervision, and how to get principals to evaluate teachers with other than pass or fail—mostly “satisfactory” even for the ineffective and the burned out teachers in the worst schools.
The next mayor must insist on a streamlined teachers’ contract, with accountability measurements or else be prepared to take and punish severely any strike by the teachers union. If the Mayor is going to be the boss of the schools, the next Mayor must show the staff who’s boss, and know how and whether to test children to the curriculum. Every teacher and every child should be asking what Ed Koch used to ask of us: “How am I doing?” …And every teacher and every pupil should be prepared for honest and reliable answers.
The same accountability must be applied to our higher education authorities and to other boards to which the next Mayor makes appointments. Board members must be chosen on the basis of intelligence, their own success, guts, and willingness to buck the system and to buck the man or woman who appoints them to the board. That is what is needed if we’re finally going to have trustees of the CUNY who hold themselves individually and collectively accountable for understanding and fulfilling the mission of their public trust. Their resolve must be to keep faith with the mission of the public university, to believe in and insist on high standards, on equity, on access, affordability, and diversity. Those principles—standards, achievement, access, and equity—should not be at war with each other; what the trustees should be doing is declaring war on paternalism and on differential standards for minority students.
The next Mayor should insist on moving away from racially-identifiable colleges and racially-isolated and single-sex schools, too, and reject “root and branch” racial chauvinism and paternalism as the modus operandi for either appeasing or serving minority populations. In this regard, the next Mayor should stop whispering and making public announcements about “at risk” young black and Hispanic males; the next Mayor should put an end to such inventions as the “Black Male Initiative”—and stop government from stereotyping and depicting blacks as a group different from other so-called “races.” There is no such thing as “the black male” just like there never was such as a thing as “the Negro;” these are discoveries of sick, race-obsessed academics, knee-jerking government bureaucrats, and scarety-kat, obliging pols.
If students need and want mentoring, counseling, guidance, job training, such services and all such help must be available to all students, without regard to their skin color or their gender. In other words, we need a Mayor who is not the least bit paternalistic. That is a tall order nowadays.
FINALLY, the next Mayor needs to declare war on patronage and declare war on the political bosses—those who prop up and allow for an inept Board of Elections, for example. Accountability has to be the order of the day—and an identification with the beleaguered New Yorker who finds it impossible to pay for housing, to meet rising fares on the subway and buses, who have been gentrified out of Manhattan and out of their non-Manhattan neighborhoods, and be the voice and leader into a better future for the young people who come to this city unable to find work, unable to enroll in quality schools, and at the higher education level unable to even afford dormitory housing. Who will speak for and represent these low-income and middle-class New Yorkers, the unemployed, the underemplyed, and the employed who find living in New York is above their means?