When Michael Bloomberg took office as mayor 12 years ago, he inherited a ban on cellphones and pagers in New York public schools. During his tenure, Bloomberg strengthened and defended that ban. He called phones unnecessary distractions and warned they might be used for pornography. (No one tell him about computers, OK?)
Bloomberg likes the ban, but apparently, he doesn’t like talking about it. In an interview with New York magazine, Chirlane McCray describes how Bloomberg turned his back on her when she broached the subject during an event at Gracie Mansion.
McCray’s husband, Bill de Blasio, has long been critical of the cellphone ban. Back in 2006 then-City Councilman de Blasio participated in a press conference calling on Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein to reverse the ban. “I want to help school-age families and educators strike a balance that ensures parents are empowered to take responsibility for their children’s welfare,” he said.
He has reiterated the opinion at appearances throughout his mayoral campaign, emphasizing parents’ safety concerns. At a forum in April, de Blasio told reporters, “I tried talking to the mayor about this.”
Back in 2006, McCray, told New York, she tried talking to him about it too. Bloomberg wasn’t having it.
McCray’s memory of one visit to Gracie Mansion is still vivid. She remembers going to a reception there in 2006 for council members and spouses. Chiara de Blasio — now 18 and a sophomore at a college in Northern California — had just begun middle school, and Bloomberg’s Department of Education had instituted a ban on student cell phones. McCray approached the mayor. “I said, ‘Mayor Bloomberg, you are my hero! Because you instituted the smoking ban, which is so important and has done so much for people who have respiratory problems in this city and for our children. I want to thank you for that. But the cell phones in the schools’–and as soon as I said the words cell phones, he turned his back and walked away from me,” she tells me. “I was so shocked. I had never had that experience before–someone just turning and walking away like that! Bill shook his head and said, ‘That’s just how he is.’ ”
If de Blasio wins the election — and he is poised to, by the biggest margin since 1985 — he has said he will overturn the ban.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 28, 2013