Friday, November 26, 2010

Toady Steiner renders unto Caesar...

N.Y. State Education Commissioner David Steiner knew what he had to do, even after his hand-picked panel, heavy with Bloomberg friends, voted not to give the clearly unqualified Cathie Black a waiver from the state law requiring the chancellor to have certain education credentials.

The humiliated Steiner, as expected (by me, at least) rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. He knew, without being told, that if he ever wanted to go anywhere in politics in the state of New York, he would have to comply with the powerful autocrat's demand.

Bloomberg the slick billionaire media mogul, was careful to have the pre-arranged deal announced late on Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend with the press fast asleep and the bloggers and Tweeters still burping from Thanksgiving dinner. Is anyone even left in town to read the Saturday papers?

Bloomberg let Steiner save a little face by acceding to his request and changing the job title of his chief accountability officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, to that of chief academic officer in order to make it look like there's an experienced educator somewhere in sight when the corporate Ms. Black moves into Joel Klein's old office.

But Bloomberg and Black's problems have only just begun. The mayor's naked display of personal power will surely cause more resentment and anger, even within his own ranks. He also renders Black damaged goods and mucks up the reputation of the former head of the Hearst magazine empire. She will her take office under a cloud with zero credibility, serving only as a matter of political expediency and as a lackey of the mayor, and some tough battles ahead with the teachers union, parents and community groups.

My favorite line in all this comes from Bloomberg's letter to Steiner informing him of the appointment of Polakow-Suransky and making it seem as if Black had done it herself, rather than the mayor. 
Ms. Black's decision to appoint Mr. Polakow-Suransky as her senior deputy, reflects her commitment to a leadership principle that I view as absolutely essential to running any large organization, whether a private business, a public agency, or an entire city government: empowering those around you.

Stop it please, Mr. Mayor. You're killing me. Oh, my side...


  1. How shameful! Enjoyed reading your interpretation of events leading to Steiner issuing Black the waiver needed to be a NYC Schools Chancellor. After all didn't Joel Klein recommend him for the Commissioner of Education job? His name appears at the top of his CV. One of his top associate commissioners comes from charter schools. And Steiner criticized for coming from a school of education in colleges background instead of rising from the ranks of an education bureaucracy. The people recommending him for the post sounded like a who's who in the charter and privatization movement. So your correct Steiner render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, doing what his former bosses wanted him to do. That's why he is Commissioner. This is more bigger than the Mayor, it is about the privatization of public education and the few hedge fund investors and corporations benefiting from these arrangements. What better than to place a former advertising executive at the helm of a school system with over $23 billion. Yet, when Black's role on the Coca Cola board of directors for nearly 20 years continues to leak out to the public, the record of human rights abuses around the world, she might follow her own Black Book of Rules to Success and bow out. That controversy she would not be able to control or to apologize for the role.

  2. Actually it was Merryl Tisch, head of the New York State Board of Regents,who chose Steiner. Tish has been a strong supporter of the mayor and close pals with both Black and Bloomberg. I'm sure the powerful Tish told them both to relax. She had this one under control.

  3. Yes, how true, but as the head of the Regents board her name could not have appeared on the top of Steiner's CV.


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