The Mayor's Press Pass

The unexamined world of Mike Bloomberg

Bloomberg's biggest claim to mayoral fame as he grabs for the third term that he used to insist he would never seek is his success at the business of education. This is a debate worth having. But Bloomberg consistently wins by default because the other side never fully shows up. As the legislature was considering the renewal of Bloomberg's mayoral control law this year, Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan issued six lengthy reports on the law's impact on the schools. They were detailed and thoughtful critiques on student achievement, school organization, and contracting. Asked recently how much press he received about them, Brennan paused. "I'm not sure there was any," he said.

There have been scattered stories about instances of grade inflation and test-score manipulations (again, with the News in the lead). The startlingly poor results of national student tests this month prompted even the Post, whose news pages have steadily cheered Bloomberg's education policies, to suggest that fraud was afoot somewhere. But the big picture still escapes us, along with whatever role was played by the education bureaucrats at the Tweed Courthouse.

At the mayor's annual Gracie Mansion Christmas party for the press last year, those in attendance report that Bloomberg took the stage to offer his idea of a joke. "I see that my three best friends in the media—Mort, Rupert, and Arthur—aren't here," he quipped. Then he walked out, right past the grunts who cover him all year.

Actually, the joke's on us. Even as newspaper fortunes sank in recent years, Bloomberg diligently courted media barons like Zuckerman, Murdoch, and Sulzberger, who he understood could make his life difficult if they so chose. Minus their support, as Joyce Purnick's new Bloomberg biography proves, he would have never risked his end run around term limits. But he knew he had little to fear. As Purnick's book also tells us, even his weekend disappearing act to go to his mansion in Bermuda has gone unchallenged.

"He does his radio show Friday morning," a former aide told her. "At 11:05, the latest, he's in his car. At 11:30 he is at the airport. His plane is in the air at 11:40, he's in Bermuda at 2:10. He's on the golf course by 2:30. . . . Almost every weekend, spring and fall."

There's a photo op that's been even more closely guarded than military caskets arriving at Dover Air Force Base: Mayor Mike, golf bags over his shoulder, striding across the tarmac toward Air Bloomberg.

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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