Archive for March, 2005

31st March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 31, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

Next Wednesday, the Manhattan borough president, C. Virginia Fields, who hopes to become the next mayor, will be getting up early, packing up her no. 2 pencils and spiral bound notebooks and heading to school. Not as a student but as a principal, or, more accurately, “Principal for a Day.” She will be participating in the annual program sponsored by Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning, or, Pencil, a group that seeks to harness the business community for the benefit of the public schools.

Ms. Fields has her lesson plans at the ready, and her unlikely student appears to be her former Bronx counterpart and mayoral rival, Fernando Ferrer. This is because the significance of her participation in the program this year is not that she’s participating but where she will be acting as principal. Ms. Fields is headed for a yet-to-be-decided school in the Bronx, at her own request, and her lesson for Mr. Ferrer is clear: she intends to take the mayoral race right to his door in his home borough. (more…)

29th March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 29, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

What is the biggest mistake so far in the mayoral campaign? Is it Fernando Ferrer’s flip-flop flub on the Diallo case? Or is it the idea of the “nonaggression” pact between mayoral hopefuls C.Virginia Fields and Mr. Ferrer?

This is an election between four people who seek the right to challenge Mayor Bloomberg as the Democratic standard bearer. If any of the four don’t believe that they are the best in the field, why are they running? This is not ballet.Voters want candidates to forcefully make their case. (more…)

24th March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 24, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

Poll results that show Mayor Bloomberg with a 48% favorable job rating have to give both pause and encouragement to the mayor’s political team. It could be worse. But it certainly should be better.
The fact is that there is no air of crisis in the city, as there was over crime when David Dinkins was mayor or racial tension as there was during Ed Koch’s last term, or a fiscal crisis, as there was during Abe Beame’s troubled tenure.
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22nd March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 22, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

The flap over mayoral hopeful Fernando Ferrer’s comments on the Diallo case has, even before a single poll has come out, seemingly reconfigured the Democratic mayoral race.Who benefits? For a start, all three of the former Bronx president’s opponents come out winners.
Mr. Ferrer’s huge lead in the polls suggested a first-round win in the Democratic primary, ending the hopes of the Manhattan borough president, C. Virginia Fields, Council Speaker Gifford Miller, and Rep. Anthony Weiner. To win the Democratic nomination for mayor outright, a candidate must win 40% of the vote.
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21st March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 21, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

My erstwhile Bronx High School of Science classmate, Arthur Levine of Columbia University Teachers College, was in the news last week. He is the author of a three-part report on the state of the nation’s education schools, the first part of which was released last week. It focuses on the programs designed to educate school leaders. Mr. Levine rejects every existing program as “inadequate and appalling.”
Financing this four-year project is a laundry list of the usual suspects, the foundations behind every hare-brained educational “reform.” Their ideas have taken American schools from among the world’s best to a solid position among the world’s most mediocre. Mr. Levine is not wrong about the uselessness of the current programs to train school leaders. He wants to eliminate the doctorate in education, and require a new master’s degree in educational administration for principals and other school system administrators. He charges, accurately, that many of the graduate courses required of teachers and principals, upon which increases in salary depends, are a waste of time.
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17th March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 17, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

Fernando Ferrer is a very cautious politician, one who usually measures his words very carefully. This is usually the mark of a good politician. Mr. Ferrer has the ability to be asked a tough question and respond with an answer that brings a line of questioning to a conclusion, but leaves the original query unanswered.
On Tuesday, Mr. Ferrer was asked by a member of the city’s police Sergeants Benevolent Association whether he thought the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo was a crime or a tragic accident. Mr. Ferrer candidly (and correctly) responded,“I don’t believe it was a crime. Do I believe there was an attempt by many to overindict? Sure.”
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15th March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 15, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

Each year the Riverdale Jewish Community Council holds a “legislative breakfast.” This is an opportunity for the city’s elected officials, and those who want to be elected officials, to strut their stuff before much of the leadership of one of New York’s most politically potent neighborhoods. About 375 people attended Sunday’s event, one of the biggest turnouts ever.
So it wasn’t surprising that Mayor Bloomberg made the scene, nor was it surprising that three of the four Democratic hopefuls trudged up to the northernmost outpost of the city. What was significant is which of the four Democrats didn’t bother to show.
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11th March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 11, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

There is a program now being produced for public television, a national primetime PBS documentary, “Schools That Work.” It will be reported by Hedrick Smith, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. I am distressed by this, just as I am upset by a continuing series of programs produced by Channel 13 on the Department of Education’s Leadership Academy.
Why? Because these are not the works of journalism that the unsuspecting public thinks they are. Rather, these two television shows are a breed of infomercial, masquerading as real, objective news. The programs are paid for, in significant part, by foundations that fund and promote the educational ideas being advanced.
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10th March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 10, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

In August 1997, Democratic mayoral hopeful Ruth Messinger filmed a television commercial that portrayed a class of public school students being taught in a bathroom, an attempt to highlight school overcrowding.The message was that Mayor Giuliani, who trimmed the budget of the school system, was responsible for this outrage.
Unfortunately for Ms. Messinger, the commercial was totally staged, filmed in a rented private school, portraying a condition that was totally atypical of the reality of the public school system. No one was more outraged than Rudolph Crew, who was then schools chancellor. He charged Ms. Messinger with “sordid duplicity” and that she “acted in very, very, very poor taste” and engaged in “gross misrepresentation” by depicting children “routinely being seated in urinals.”
(more…)

8th March
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, March 8, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

The Ognibene factor has already affected New York City public policy. The threat of losing the Republican line to former Council member Thomas Ognibene may have moved Mayor Bloomberg away from support of the proposed rail freight tunnel between New Jersey to Brooklyn. This is the kind of public work that the mayor usually favors: Big, bold, and funded by others, in this case the federal government.
So it came as a surprise when the mayor, speaking at a meeting last week in Queens, announced he now opposes the project, reversing nearly two years of support. Why? Despite polls that show Mr. Ognibene running behind the mayor among Republicans, there is no reason for confidence in the mayor’s camp. So few GOP voters have been surveyed, and so few can swing a primary that it becomes a priority for Mr. Bloomberg to do what he likes least: fashion his positions to shore up unhappy voting blocs. In this case, he is smoothing feathers among the residents of Maspeth, Queens, who fear increased truck traffic should the tunnel be built.
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