2008-10-17 / Columnists

School Scope

Randi, Bloomie and Term Limits
Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott Personally, I have always been opposed to term limits, as has this union. I am also, as are so many people, very concerned about the economy, and I am grateful the mayor is willing to step up. - Randi Weingarten

Of course Randi is opposed to term limits. She intends to be UFT and AFT president for life. But this is not what this is about. There has been speculation on the UFT position on Bloomberg's attempt to overturn term limits. Or "extend it to 12 years" in his words.

Randi's initial reaction in the lead quote was a strong indication that she would straddle the fence and not openly oppose the mayor's plan but call for the voters to decide. Which they have already done. Twice. Maybe three times is a charm.

Hey Randi, can we have another vote on the 2005 contract?

It is extremely unlikely there will be a referendum, which Bloomberg would win anyway. The UFT will do little to make it happen and will not hold any of the members of the City Council accountable for their actions. (Note how UFT uber ally Christine Quinn gave up the ship.) They are using the excuse that they need to focus on preventing budget cuts. Sure. We know where Bloomberg with a guaranteed 3rd term will cut - classroom services while keeping all the pet projects:

ARIS, high priced consultants, the leadership academy, and a cast of thousands at Tweed. Want to really fight cuts? Get rid of Bloomberg. Randi's so-called "tightrope" is how to sell the members who despise BloomKlein that she was putting up a fight to stop Bloomberg in the midst of her capitulation to the

mayor. The Mad Men (and Women) at the UFT have been using Klein as the bad guy, making it seem he was not attached at the hip to Bloomberg. They may even try to convince the members that they made a secret deal with Bloomie to dump Klein. Unless Klein wants to leave, (like for a cabinet position) why would Bloomberg dump the guy who has so successfully outwitted the UFT at every turn and used brilliant tactics to eliminate resistance at the ground level (the chapters)?

Just watch the marketing campaign to the rank and file, who despise BloomKlein, that our priority is to fight the cuts, not stop Bloomberg's bid. What balderdash.

The UFT has been telling the members for two years, "We just have to wait BloomKlein out and get a friendlier mayor," as a way to explain Weingarten's support for mayoral control since 2001.

The current Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) leaflet nails Weingarten:

"Weingarten told us it was all figured out. Our next contract would be negotiated under the next mayor. She accepted the change in the school funding formula, claiming senior teachers would be protected because, if they were already in a school, that school would not be charged for their higher salaries until 2010. Weingarten assumed that then, with Bloomberg gone, the DoE would go back to the old rules. If he is re-elected, all senior teachers will soon become cash liabilities for their schools. Also, the agreement that test scores cannot be used for tenure decisions expires in 2010. Weingarten accepted this, too, based on her assumption that when Bloomberg was gone, it would be a whole new ball game.

"Bloomberg has done an end run around Weingarten's strategy of waiting out unfriendly politicians.

Based on these risky assumptions, she's let the union's muscles go flabby, putting all her faith in the "next mayor." The union held only one street action in the past five years.

"Now, her folly is clear. Bloomberg has done an end run around term limits, and around Weingarten's "easy" strategy of waiting out unfriendly politicians. Bloomberg will be hard to beat, and chances are that we will be negotiating our next deal with him and Klein. Thanks to Weingarten, we are in no condition for the tough fight he will put up."

It all came to pass at the October 14 Executive Board meeting with a convoluted two page resolution that was presented to the Delegate Assembly with a call to "let the voters decide" buried in the body. Or rather, the body of resistance to Bloomberg's plans is just plain buried. This is a clear wink to City Council members there would be no UFT battle to stop Bloomberg. Of course, the UFT leadership will do little or nothing to make a voters' choice happen.

A Gotham Schools post before the UFT Executive Board meeting proclaimed:

"Whatever they decide, it will be a bombshell, since Randi Weingarten and the union could hold substantial sway over the undecided City Council members who will determine whether Mayor Bloomberg gets an open door to the mayoralty or not."

Bombshell? More like the last chirp of a cricket about to be gobbled up by a lizard.

Politically Unstable

I will occasionally be straying from the School Scope beat and commenting on politics and economics in The Wave under the title "Politically Unstable." I hope you got to read my column last week titled, "Will Obama or McCain Be FDR or Hoover?" My guess was that we are in 1928 territory and whoever wins will be a one-term president because he has to clean up a mess that cannot be managed effectively when we are due to be hit by what could turn out to be massive unemployment.

But I would ask, "What does this country need at this time? An FDR or a Herbert Hoover?" My answer is "FDR." Can either fill that role? Probably not. But I'm betting that in the long run a candidate like McCain who believes we have been over regulated is more Hoover than FDR. As for Palin? I trust Tina Fey more. Maybe they can make a switch.

No matter what the polls are showing, I find it hard to believe Obama can get elected. The latest is that race is being looked at as not as important as was once thought. I'm not so sure. Just check the kind of attacks on Obama in The Wave. The west end of Rockaway is considered overwhelmingly Democratic. While you see McCain/Palin signs, I see almost no Obama signs. A recent tour through Breezy Point turned up about 6 McCain/Palin and no Obama signs. Most homes had no signs. Is the lack of any signs a positive sign for Obama? In the summer, I felt that there would be few Obama votes from the west end. But the economic crisis and the McCain/Palin recent zigzags have led to some ambivalence on the part of people to whom I talk.

I, too, am ambivalent about Obama. But from the other direction. As an old leftie, he is too right for me and I considered Nader, for whom I voted in the past. But with civil war raging nationally and even within families (you should see the stuff going back and forth with my brother-in-law) I'm reluctantly moving right with Obama.

But since this country has gone socialist by nationalizing a good part of the financial system, I can still feel right at home.

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