The UFT Scott Stringer endorsement is one I am a bit hesitant about. While Stringer brings some positive attributes in that he upset Charter Queen UFT bashing Eva Moskowitz in the Democratic primary to become the Manhattan Borough President and as Comptroller Stringer has audited the Department of Education and found waste (kind of like finding sand at the beach), his record on education is a bit mixed.
We enthusiastically salute Stringer for appointing Patrick Sullivan as the Manhattan representative on the Panel for Educational Policy. Sullivan was usually the only one critiquing Mayor Michael Bloomberg for years while on the PEP and Patrick was a vocal supporter of schools that were trying to remain open in the Bloomberg years including being the only vote to keep Jamaica High School open in 2011.
I had a longstanding relationship with Patrick and he gave me informal advice on how to approach the PEP. He was instrumental in working with us to make a presentation to the PEP. 89 of us showed up and we were at least successful in postponing our demise. These were the exact words I wrote on the blog back in 2008: "We would like to publicly thank Manhattan PEP member Patrick Sullivan for his support." Patrick was with us all the way through the phase-out and always had an encouraging word. For that, we have to thank Stringer for appointing him and standing by him. Yet when Stringer truly had a chance to make a difference on school governance in NYC in 2009, he did not come through.
Many of you may have forgotten that the law that gives the mayor control of the schools actually expired at the end of June 2009. Stringer had the opportunity to make some real noise that summer as the Bronx Borough President was already starting to call for discussion and debate on the schools. Who did Stringer send to the new Board of Education to represent Manhattan when the borough presidents had a temporary majority? He did not allow Patrick Sullivan near the Board of Ed when it had real power but instead appointed his general counsel, Jimmy Yan to rubber-stamp what Bloomberg wanted by reappointing Joel Klein as chancellor.
I am also concerned that Stringer's campaign manager as he runs for mayor in 2021 is pro-charter school one-time Bloomberg lackey Micah Lasher. I remember Bloomberg/Klein sent Lasher to the Community Board 8 Education Committee meeting to sell the Board on Jamaica High School closing. To say that this guy was tone-deaf and didn't hear a word the community said is a complete understatement. One Community Board 8 member after another raised issues on why closing Jamaica High School was a terrible proposal and how the community very much supported the school. Lasher didn't respond to concerns but instead repeated ridiculous talking points and inaccurate statistics. He didn't hear a word that was said. I very much doubt he took anything positive about how the community wanted to save Jamaica High School back to the mayor or chancellor. Lasher subsequently worked for StudentsfirstNY where he was a pro-charter UFT basher. In fairness, Lasher tried to soften some of his pro-charter positions when he ran for state senate but personnel is policy and this guy's history is not favorable and he is running Stringer's campaign.
What really worries me is none of these red flags concerning Stringer were raised in the extremely limited discussions that were held within the UFT. UFT President Michael Mulgrew claims the UFT had the most transparent process in deciding who the UFT would endorse for mayor. At Monday's Delegate Assembly, he repeatedly thanked the volunteers who donated their time in the political process. As a UFT member and long-time activist, I was never asked for my opinion on the mayor's race or any other endorsement. I don't know of anybody who was asked for an opinion.
We hear about the town halls the UFT did but besides getting to ask questions that were screened and then getting polled at the end, what was the role of the rank and file? We never saw any of the results of those polls but all of a sudden we made an endorsement of Stringer that the Delegate Assembly rubber-stamped on Monday.
The so-called debate Monday consisted mostly of Unity Caucus Mulgrew subordinates living up to their caucus obligation to support the decisions of the caucus in public and union forums by just parroting the party line and not dealing with any possible red flags on Stringer including the strong possibility that he won't win since viability seems to be a big UFT issue. There was also no discussion of the new ranked choice voting system NYC is using so we could possibly go for a second option or third option for mayor. We knew this mayoral endorsement was going to be another top-down decision as we were given a preview the night before at the Educators of NY forum on the endorsement.
Unity packed the is Zoom meeting. I have no problem with people attending open meetings but I do have major concerns when they come with preconceived ideas and they just try to ram them down everyone's throats. One of my main problems with how Unity runs the UFT is that they don't talk with us; they talk down at us. This is why you hear very little these days from the UFT on the many issues rank and file UFTers have in the schools. UFT leadership has their own agenda and their job is to sell it to us. If you don't believe me, read their mayoral talking points for yourself that DOENUTSblog printed and we copied below.
Please note that there are a bunch of statistics Unity sent around that are more like quotes from an analytics page but nothing on how the actual decision was made to endorse a mayoral candidate. We all know we were never polled en masse and any ballot that members may have filled out at town halls was never discussed with the rank and file or even the Delegates. As my wife said at the Educators of NYC event, the rank and file were used as window dressing to make it look like they played a key role in the endorsement decisions.
In addition, there is not a word in the talking points on why the UFT rejected a ranked-choice decision to endorse two or more candidates as this is the first time the city will use ranked choice voting. There also needed to be a real debate on whether we should endorse at all. The UFT Unity folks will talk down at us and say this is the greatest, most transparent process ever. Those who didn't like it, such as the 55% who voted against the UFT's comptroller endorsement at the DA last week, were just a bunch of "disgruntleds".
The UFT's track record since 2001 is that we have not picked a Democratic primary winner once in an open mayor's race. I am leaning toward making Scott Stringer one of my picks in this primary but what would it have hurt for the UFT to also back Dianne Morales and/or Maya Wiley who both seem to be on our side on many labor and education issues? I wish we had that discussion.
The Unity email and talking points: