Mayoral Control Deal On Tap?

Shirley L. Huntley

July 24, 2009

By Elizabeth Benjamin: The Daily Politics

Mayor Bloomberg and Senate Democrats have reached a tentative deal to renew the expired law giving the mayor control over the school system, DN Capitol Bureau Chief Ken Lovett said.

The Democratic conference is convening right now at 250 Broadway to discuss the elements of the potential agreement.

I (Liz) caught Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. on his cell phone as he was waiting for the meeting to start. He cautioned against assuming everyone is going to sign off on this, despite the fact that Sampson - the conference leader and an outspoken opponent of reauthorizing mayoral control - brokered it along with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott.

"We are waiting for the meeting to start," Diaz Sr. said. "If somebody told you there was a deal, I don't know anything about a deal. What I see right now I don't like."

But Sen. Shirley Huntley, another holdout over the past several weeks, told Lovett she has signed off on the plan.

“I don’t think it’s a bad deal,” Huntley said, while warning: “All the members are not aware of what’s in the package. Until they approve it and say it’s good, there’s no final deal.”

Under the agreement, the Senate Democrats will get almost everything they had been seeking from the Bloomberg administration - with a minor change.

The deal calls for the creation of a council on school arts programs, a committee to look into school safety issues, and allowing district superintendents to oversee principals and other pedagogical issues.

Also agreed to, according to Huntley, is the creation of a parent activist training center.

But instead of being located at New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, as originally sought by the Democrats, it will be instead housed at the City University of New York, with one in each borough.

If the Democrats sign off today, the Senate expects to return early next month to pass the Assembly bill that extended mayoral control another six years along with four new amendments.

The sudden deal was a bit of a surprise given the recent acrimony between Bloomberg and the Senate Democrats.

Just yesterday, the four amigos and their allies stood on the steps of City Hall and railed against the mayor and the Education Department, pledging never to reauthorize parental control until parents were given "a voice."

Bloomberg last week referenced Britain’s Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement of Nazi Germany while slamming the recalcitrant Senate Democrats, who took offense blasted the mayor for acting like a dictator.

The heated rhetoric cooled down this week as talks went on behind the scenes.

“You can’t call names and still make deals,” Huntley said. “Both sides decided to just slow it down.”

The 2002 mayoral control law expired at the end of last month when the Senate was still in a stalemate following a June 8 GOP-led leadership coup.

That forced the city to go back to a seven-member Board of Education to which the mayor has two appointments and the borough presidents one each. The new board, packed with Bloomberg loyalists, met once and gave all control to Bloomberg's hand-picked chancellor, Joel Klein.

The Assembly passed a bill supported by the governor, but the Senate refused to go along without negotiated changes. An Assembly spokesman had no immediate comment on the tentative deal.