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Red Aagainst Black
December 2nd, 2010

Cathie Black may have her waiver and be making her stealth tour of the city schools, but an array of diehard opponents still hope they can prevent her from occupying the chancellor’s office at Tweed Courthouse come Jan. 3.

A group of education activists,, some elected officials and parents — many wearing red, which has been adopted at the color of the opposition — stood at the Tweed Courthouse steps this evening to protests, Black’s appointment and what they decried as the arrogance of the mayor who appointed her and the spinelessness (actually Councilmember Jumaane Williams implied another part of Steiner’s anatomy was missing) of the man who approved that appointment — state education commissioner David Steiner.

Attorney Roger Wareham said he was filing suit in Albany in an effort to block the waiver that Steiner gave Black, who needed the special permission because of her lack of education experience or training. Meanwhile Noah Gotbaum of the Deny the Waiver Coalition said it had hired noted civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel to explore other possible legal avenues.

Ridiculing Steiner’s allowing Black to become chancellor after the city agreed to appointing an education deputy, Assemblywoman Inez Barron said, “We cannot have a person driving a car say to the police officer, ‘It’s OK. One of my passengers has a license.’”

Many of those in the crowd and the speakers, expressed sharp disagreement with the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s school agenda, which, they charged, had turned children into “test-taking widgets,” resulted in privatization of public schools and led to financial abuses, such as no-bid contracts. And while Assemblymember Charles Barron noted a broad cross section of New Yorkers opposed Black (something polls seem to confirm) the appointment of a rich, white woman with no apparent knowledge of the public schools clearly rankled many in the crowd.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on December 2, 2010, 6:23 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Education | Comments Off

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CCRB Slims Down Prosecution Unit (UPDATE)
November 23rd, 2010

Thanks to a $300,000 budget cut, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will drastically downsize its newly minted prosecution unit — part of a pilot program that allows the board to prosecute cases of police misconduct for the first time.

When first announced in February, the unit was set to have two attorneys, an investigator and a clerical worker. Now that the city faces a $3.3 billion budget deficit next year, the “unit” has been cut down to one attorney, said a board spokesperson. The decrease is part of $1.6 billion in cuts the mayor announced last week.

Despite the obvious setback, the board has pledged to move forward with the experiment.

“One attorney is going to be handling this start up phase,” said Linda Sachs, the board’s spokesperson. “She is a former federal prosecutor, and she is really good.”

While the board currently investigates complaints of police misconduct, it has never had the power to prosecute the claims it substantiates — only the Police Department has. For years, advocates and officials have pushed to bolster the board’s power as, some say, the police fail to prosecute its officers.

Even so, when the city announced the pilot earlier this year some were skeptical, claiming budget cuts could setback the program.

As part of the pilot, the board’s prosecution “unit” will not select cases to prosecute. Selection will be done randomly — one in every five cases set to go to trial will go to the CCRB. It will amount to approximately five cases a year, Sachs said.

UPDATE: The CCRB called in to reiterate its support for the program this morning, contending it will eventually come up with the money to fund it.
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By on November 23, 2010, 3:44 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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CCRB Considers Cutting Pilot Prosecution Program
November 22nd, 2010

Just nine months after the Civilian Complaint Review Board announced a pilot program to independently prosecute some cases of police misconduct, they are considering cutting it.

Faced with a budget deficit and a mandate from the Bloomberg adminsitration to cut costs, Ernest Hart, the chair of the board, told Gotham Gazette that nothing was off the chopping block, including the highly anticipated program.

“The final decision as to how we would implement the budget cut has not been made,” said Hart. “When we look at the budget, we look at all the programs. I wouldn’t say that it was not under consideration with everything else. Everything is under consideration.”

The pilot program, which was revealed in February, would give the civilian board the power to prosecute a handful of cases independently for the first time. Currently, the board investigates and substantiates complaints of police misconduct across the city, but the prosecution is left up to the Police Department. For years, critics have been calling for independent prosecution by the board, claiming the police department has increasingly failed to prosecute cases referred to it.

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed nearly $1.6 billion in cuts to help close a $3.3 billion budget gap in the next fiscal year. Under the proposal, the city’s work force could shrink by more than 10,000 employees, including 6,166 teachers. The adminsitration proposed about 6,200 layoffs.

The board faces a $300,000 cut in this fiscal year and a $157,000 cut in the next. According to a City Council report from June, the new prosecution unit would cost $366,000.

Should the board decide to slash the program, it would not be the first time a similar proposal fell through. The Giuliani administration promised to give the board independent power to prosecute cases in 2001, but the proposal was later abandoned.

The board is working with the Office of Management and Budget to determine the final cuts, which should be made shortly, Hart said.

The NYPD remains “fully supportive” of the prosecution program, Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said in an e-mailed statement.

By on November 22, 2010, 7:42 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Sick Leave Movement
October 7th, 2010

We got word Council Speaker Christine Quinn is sitting down with supporters and opponents of the sick leave bill today in hopes of potentially finding a compromise.

Supporters of the proposal, which would require businesses to provide sick days, take the sit-down as a good sign, saying the speaker has expressed willingness to create an open dialogue and negotiate.

One critic of the bill seemed less optimistic — saying only to check back in tomorrow.

Just last week, the opposing sides released dueling studies on the bill’s impact. The study from the Partnership for New York City put the proposal’s price tag at $789 million annually, while a study from the Drum Major Institute said it would have no deleterious effect on city business.

After the sit-downs were scheduled, a rally scheduled for this morning by supporters of the bill was abruptly canceled.

By on October 7, 2010, 2:14 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Economy,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,nextNY,Public Finance,Social Services,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Quinn Reacts to Sick Leave Study
September 29th, 2010

For months, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has put off opining on a proposal to require paid sick leave in the city, saying she wanted to wait for the results of a study on the issue by business leader, the Partnership for New York City.

That study came out yesterday, saying the proposal would cost $789 million. Also yesterday, the Drum Major Institute released its own study on the issue, saying the proposal wouldn’t harm job or business growth.

Quinn — granted she has had only one day to mull it over — isn’t ready to say which one she sides with.

“I am considering all of the pros, all the cons,” said Quinn. “There are few bills that are perfect.”

She said the council was “reviewing” the studies and would make a decision on the bill, which has a super majority of support in the council, “very soon.”

By on September 29, 2010, 2:58 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Environment,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Health,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | Comments Off

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Coffey Gets More Endorsements
August 26th, 2010

Gotham Gazette’s Alana Horowitz filed this from Brooklyn:

As Sen. Eric Schneiderman added another name — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer — to his rapidly growing list of endorsements for attorney general, fellow candidate Sean Coffey announced a few of his own.

Assemblyman Karim Camara and several members of the Brooklyn clergy convened at Brooklyn Borough Hall to show their support for the formal naval officer. Rep. Ed Towns, who endorsed Coffey earlier this month, also attended the event.

“He’s a man who comes in with a mind of reform,” said Camara, who stressed Coffey’s record as a litigator and a federal prosecutor. Coffey’s role in winning a $6 billion securities suit against WorldCom once earned him the nickname “Wall Street’s New Nemesis.”

Additional praise for Coffey included his commitment to creating affordable housing and fighting housing fraud.

“Sean Coffey knows the problems and pain that the people of Brooklyn are feeling and he has a plan to help relieve it,” said the Rev. Clinton Miller of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 26, 2010, 4:12 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Governing,Law,Measuring UP,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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Sharpton for Schneiderman
August 25th, 2010

The endorsements for Eric Schneiderman continue. Just a few minutes ago, Al Sharpton announced on the City Hall steps that he “unequivocally” and “enthusiastically” backed the state senator for state attorney general.

Apparently the announcement had been slated to take place later but Sharpton is about to leave to prepare for Saturday’s Reclaim the Dream march in Washington so made his declaration today.

By on August 25, 2010, 5:27 pm
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The Graduation Gap
August 25th, 2010

Now that the city’s scores on the state’s standardized tests no longer look quite so rosy, Chancellor Joel Klein has started touting other figures — the National Assessment of Educational Performance (which he once largely shunned) and the high school graduation rate. Weve closed the achievement gap with respect to graduation rates, Klein told Brian Lehrer last month.

A new report by the Schott Foundation, though, might give Klein some pause. The study looks particularly at the graduation rate for black males and finds, that in New York City, only 28 percent graduated with Regents or advanced Regents diplomas in 2007/8. The gap between black and white young men in New York City is less than it is nationally but only, the report says, because of the “low graduation rate of white male students.”

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress for reading, black fourth grade boys fare better in New York City than in the nation as a whole and in eight grade they are about on a par. The New York fourth graders also outperform the national average for math.

But by eight grade, New York black males have fallen behind the national level in math. More than half — 53 percent — of the students score below basic in math, leading one to wonder how they will fare with the math Regents tests in high school.

In all instances, the national and city achievement gap persists. In the nation as a whole, for example, 78 percent of white males graduated from high school in 2007-8; for black males, it was 47 percent. In the city, half of white males got Regents or advanced Regents diplomas that year, compared to 28 percent of black male students.

To look at the graduation gap another way, as this table on Gotham Schools does, about 53 percent of black and Asians — male and female — graduated in 2009, compared to slightly over three quarters of whites and Asians, for a gap of 22.5 percent.

By on August 25, 2010, 4:06 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City | Comments Off

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Rodriguez Loses Chairmanship (Update)
August 25th, 2010

Newly minted Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez will be officially stripped of his chairmanship of the Higher Education Committee this afternoon after the council’s Standards and Ethics Committee found he had poked a staff member during an argument over the budget.

rodriguez

Rodriguez did not appear at the final hearing on the matter this afternoon, but he sent a letter accepting the punishment, a council spokesperson said. Earlier this month, Rodriguez asserted his innocence, and said he would lobby other members to vote the ethics committee’s recommendation down.

Daily Politics reports the councilmember just wants to put the matter to rest.

Rodriguez will be allowed to resume his chairmanship once he apologizes to the staff member and completes an employee relations program.

The letter is on its way, and we will be posting it shortly.

UPDATE — Here it is:

Rodriguez Letter

By on August 25, 2010, 1:27 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Eye Opener,Gotham City,Governing,Law,nextNY | Comments Off

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Quinn Weighs in on Proposition 8
August 4th, 2010

Council Speaker Christin Quinn wasted no time weighing in on the overturning of proposition 8 in California.

This just landed in our inbox.

“Todays decision by the California District Court marks a historic day in the fight for LGBT equality. I am elated by the courage and wisdom demonstrated by District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in his decision to strike down Proposition 8, a law that unfairly targeted and harmed families across California.

I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation and thanks to David Boies and Ted Olson, who joined together in the common belief that same sex couples should be able to have access to civil marriage and those rights and responsibilities that go with it.

This is not just a win for same sex couples in California; its a victory for all of those who believe in full equality for all Americans.

I hope that members of our State Senate see this decision and decide to do the right thing for same-sex couples in New York.”

By on August 4, 2010, 4:58 pm
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The Mayor on the Mosque
August 3rd, 2010

A few hours after his Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the way for a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who previously voiced support for the project, went to Governors Island to deliver what the Daly News’ Adam Lisberg called “a stirring declaration of principle.”

In sharply distancing himself from Republican politicians and others who have assailed the project, Bloomberg reminded his listeners of the struggles for religious freedom in New York and of the many Muslims killed on Sept. 11. Saying that “to cave to popular sentiment” would hand a victory to terrorists, Bloomberg recalled the many who rushed to save people when the Twin Towers fell. “Not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?’” the mayor said. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.”

The full text is available here.

By on August 3, 2010, 2:31 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights | 2 Comments »

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Commission Clears Way for Mosque
August 3rd, 2010

As expected the Landmarks Preservation Commission just cleared the way for the construction of a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero. In a 9-0 vote, the commission ruled a 152-year-old building that once housed a Burlington Coat Factory store did not deserve preservation and so could be razed to make way for the 13-story proposed building.

The structure at 45-47 Park Place “does not rise to the level of an individual landmark,” commission chair Robert Tierney said.

By most accounts, this was the main regulatory hurdle the Islamic center had to clear, although it remains uncertain whether and how opponents, include an array of Republican politicians, will continue to press their case.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has supported the project on the grounds of religious freedom, has scheduled an event to discuss the vote on Governors Island at noon today. He will, according to the mayor’s press office, be joined by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and religious leaders. In case youre wondering what his message might be, the announcement notes the mayor will speak “with the Statue of Liberty in the background” and that Governors Island “is where the Dutch who founded New Amsterdam — the earliest religiously tolerant colonial settlement in America — first lived.”

By on August 3, 2010, 10:50 am
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Land Use | Comments Off

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Revisiting the Achievement Gap
July 30th, 2010

Earlier this week we reported the state’s new method of figuring tests results has widened the achievement gap and also hit English language learners and special ed students particularly hard. Today Juan Gonzalez takes that reporting further and finds that, by the new measures, the achievement gap among ethnic groups actually has grown since Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein took control of the city’s school system eight years ago.

“Back in 2003, 73.3 percent of white fourth-grade students met state standards, compared with only 46.3 percent of black pupils. The gap between the two groups was 26.9 points. This year, the gap between black and white fourth-graders increased to 31.7 points,” Gonzalez writes. “For Hispanic fourth-graders, there was a smaller rise, from 29.7 points in 2003 to 30.3 this year — but a rise nonetheless.”

Of the students who scored at the lowest level — Level 1 — 85 percent went black or Hispanic, according to Gonzalez..

With Bloomberg and Klein often portraying their battle to change the city schools as a civil rights crusade, the alleged reduction in the achievement gap has been one of their proudest achievements.

By on July 30, 2010, 1:06 pm
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Test Score Fallout
July 29th, 2010

In the less than 24 hours since the release of new test scores and the state’s new definition of educational proficiency, it seems clear that, however much Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein might like this to go away — it won’t.

For years Bloomberg and Klein saw their reputations soar based on rising scores in elementary and middle school standardized tests. People who cast doubt on the gains — from noted education historian Diane Ravitch to teachers to mayoral candidate William Thompson to City Councilmember Charles Barron — saw themselves dismissed and even ridiculed by the administration and its sycophants on newspaper editorial boards, in much of the nonprofit community and across the city. Other school districts and the Obama administration rushed to embrace the kinds of change Bloomberg and Klein had wrought.

Today, the Neighborhood Retail Alliance reminded us, “Remember all of the hoo-ha last year over the need, the absolute compelling need, to maintain mayoral control of the schools? Sure you do. The need devolved from the fact, the absolute and compelling fact, that there was a Bloomberg educational miracle that needed to be preserved.”

What a difference a new set of data makes.

In his lengthy press conference at Tweed Courthouse yesterday, Bloomberg quibbled about the definition of “proficiency” — it depends whether you want to run a restaurant or be a nuclear physicist, he said. He told the reporters they were going to be “writing a story about a change in definition” — not about changes in achievement.

Certainly the state’s increase in the score that students must attain to be considered proficient means that thousands of kids once viewed as meeting standards no longer do. But the changes did not fall evenly. They disproportionately lowered the results for black and Latino students, special education students and English language learners.

While “all the arrows that had been trending up for years suddenly took a nosedive,” WNYC’s Beth Fertig found, “they didn’t fall quite as much for white and Asian students and wealthy districts as they did for low-income districts, black and Hispanic pupils, English Language Learners and special education pupils.”

More reaction after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 29, 2010, 12:16 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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New York and Its Mosques
July 26th, 2010

Plans to build a mosque and Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero continue to attract comment from afar.

This morning, Canada’s premiere English-language newspaper the Globe and Mail weighed in accusing Sarah Palin and others who oppose the project of “flirting” with religious hatred. In a hats off to us, the editorial noted, “New Yorkers … dont seem to mind” the proposed mosque, it said, noting, “The proposal was convincing enough to lead a community board to vote 29 to 1 in favor of the project, which is also supported by the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg. … The area already includes churches, sex shops and department stores.”

The Chicago Tribune drew a similar distinction. Noting Newt Gingrich’s comment that there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York “so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia,” the paper commented, “It’s an interesting innovation to suggest that American freedoms should be no greater than those of repressive nations. What’s next? No political protests in Washington until political protests are allowed in Pyongyang?”

But while the project has caused some “Republicans to take leave of their better judgment,” the Tribune said, “The proposal hasn’t aroused much opposition among residents of the neighborhood. The local community board approved the center by a 29-1 vote, partly because it will provide amenities the area sorely lacks.”
Read the rest of this entry »

By on July 26, 2010, 3:09 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Community Development | 4 Comments »

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Silver Thanks Paterson
July 16th, 2010

Gov. David Paterson has signed a bill that would limit law enforcement from collecting and storing data on individuals not charged with a crime. The move has made Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver very happy.

Here is Silver’s statement:

“I want to thank Governor Paterson for signing this bill into law. It is important that we protect the privacy rights of innocent New Yorkers by not keeping databases with the personal information of people who have not been charged with a crime. I applaud Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries for his leadership and dedication on this issue and for sponsoring this legislation, which strikes the proper balance between public safety and individual rights.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly was lobbying Paterson not to sign the bill. Meanwhile, all the Democratic candidates for Attorney General came together earlier this week to ask Paterson to sign the bill.

By on July 16, 2010, 4:11 pm
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Horses Get Sick Time
July 15th, 2010

In an attempt to move the stalled paid sick leave bill, advocates showed up at Central Park yesterday to point out carriage horses get time off (the result of a bill passed earlier this year), but people aren’t guaranteed sick time.

We couldn’t make it, but they sent over photos.

What a juxtaposition.

horseaction 007

In March, the paid sick leave bill got a hearing, but nothing has happened since. Council Speaker Christine Quinn still hasn’t taken a position on it.

By on July 15, 2010, 10:30 am
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Health,Immigrants,Law,nextNY,Parks,Public Finance | Comments Off

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Protecting the Kids and the Guards
June 8th, 2010

Assemblyman Rory Lancman is not pleased with Gov. David Paterson’s bill that is designed to reform the state’s “violent and dysfunctional” juvenie justice system.

Lancman said in a statement that the bill does not take worker safety into account. Lancman wants to apply the Workplace Violence Prevention Act to the state’s juvenile justice system so that the state would have to set safety guidelines and implement other measures to protect staff. Lancman recently issued a report that found a 42 percent increase in assaults on staff at juvenile justice facilities between 2007 and 2009.

The Office of Children and Family Services has been trying to reform the system that is said rely heavily on staff using violence to control their wards. Workers and union officials say the reforms put staff in danger. Representatives of the Office of Children and Family Services say staff get injured when using violent techniques to restrain juveniles.

Here is Lancman’s statement on Paterson’s bill:

“While the sanctuary model and other reforms being implemented at OCFS have the potential to significantly improve workplace safety in the long term, this is only possible if workplace safety concerns are fully integrated into OCFS policymaking at both the agency and facility level, including at community residence facilities,” said Lancman. “At the very least, the Workplace Violence Prevention Act should be expanded to cover those entities which are taking on the custodial and rehabilitative responsibilities which Governor Paterson proposes to shift from OCFS.”

Here is the full release from Lancman’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 8, 2010, 5:50 pm
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Caught in the Act!
June 1st, 2010

Add council members Brad Lander, Danny Dromm and Julissa Ferreras to the recently arrested list at City Hall.

No, this wasn’t Larry Seabrook-style.

Lander, Dromm and Ferreras were arrested downtown today during a protest with the New York Immigration Coalition, which has demonstrated in front of the federal building in Lower Manhattan several times in the past month in support of comprehensive immigration reform. In May, council members Ydanis Rodriguez, Jumaane D. Williams, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat were all arrested in similar demonstrations.

After booking, Lander did have time to update his facebook status — see below.

Lander, Dromm and Ferreras have all been released.

arrest

By on June 1, 2010, 4:51 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Immigrants,Law,nextNY | 3 Comments »

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Power of the Press?
May 21st, 2010

At 4:36 this afternoon, or thereabouts, an email went out from Gay City News highlighting an article on opposition among some in the gay community to the appointment of Brian Ellner, a top aide to schools Chancellor Joel Klein, as chair of Empire State Pride Agenda, the leading gay rights lobbying group in New York.

At around 4:58, another email from Gay City News, this one saying that Ellner had withdrawn.

Did the article cause the withdrawal or was it a symptom of discontent that would have led Ellner to withdraw anyway? Let the speculation begin.

The original article quotes activists criticizing Ellner, an unsuccessful 2005 candidate for Manhattan borough president, for vociferously attacking Michael Bloomberg during the early stages of the 2005 mayoral campaign, wearing a Dump Bloomberg button and denouncing one of his opponents as a “Bloomberg lover.” Ellner then did a 180-degree turn after losing his borough president bid to back the mayor’s re-election. Ellner received (was rewarded with?) his education department job soon after.

As someone who covered Ellner’s ’05 campaign this is a somewhat dim memory –there were nine candidate in the primary for the beep job that year. Ellner’s campaign was a bit unusual, though for a less than all-powerful post: He attracted glamorous supporters in the fashion industry and was compared to a young John F. Kennedy.

I do remember visiting his campaign headquarters to hear him express dismay for and sympathy with all the young people who had been bitterly disappointed by George W. Bush’s defeat of John Kerry in the presidential election only months before. Ellner said that those young people could now find a renewed purpose in the campaign for the office of Manhattan borough president.

Well they both wanted to be presidents of something.

By on May 21, 2010, 5:41 pm
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