Friday, February 02, 2007

Bloomberg's Arrogance

Mayor Moneybags Bloomberg is an arrogant prick.

New Yorkers who have had to work closely with him in various crises (like the people in Queens who went without power for over a week because of Con Edison mismanagement or parents of New York City public school kids who have had to deal with two chaotic system-wide school reorganizations and one chaotic system-wide school bus reorganization) know that Moneybags never takes the blame for any problems in the city, always deflects blame away from the high-priced consultants he hires to "increase productivity and accountability" in the city workforce, and will go to the ends of the earth to save executives and other business cronies (like Kevin Burke - chairman of Con Edison - the company that brought ruin to hundreds of Queens businesses and hardship to tens of thousands of Queens residents over the summer) from being held accountable for poor decisions and/or outright incompetence.

The New York City public school bus reorganization plan organized by a million dollar consulting firm, Alvarez & Marsal, that Bloomberg hired to save the city money is the latest piece of Bloombergian-created chaos the mayor is trying to duck responsibility for creating. The Daily News has found that the Alvarez & Marsal had created similar chaos in St. Louis where the firm was also hired to find ways to save the city money - and yet Bloomberg hired the firm here in the Big Apple and gave them carte blanche to slash budgets and make changes to the school system (all while charging millions of dollars to city tax payers and living off an unlimited expense account given to them by Mayor Moneybags.)

Here's what else the Daily News found:

* The reorganization was launched without so much as a single dry run. Route changes weren't finalized until late last week, leaving bus companies without enough time to do their usual test drives to spot construction delays and other problems before they affected kids.

* Bus companies weren't given the new routes until Jan. 25 - two school days before the buses were to roll. The companies said they were still getting last-minute changes as late as Sunday, just hours before they were to start picking up kids.

* Top school transportation official Martin Oestreicher went on vacation in Florida the week before the launch - a decision he insisted yesterday was not a factor in this week's headaches because he brought his BlackBerry along.

"I answered every e-mail and there were over 100 a day," he said. "I was perfectly tuned in."

* Dozens of emergency buses have had to be deployed at a cost of $17,500 per day since Monday - cutting into the $20 million a year a private consulting firm initially told school officials they could trim from the busing budget for use in city classrooms.

* The consulting firm behind the shuffle had created chaos in another city. Alvarez & Marsal implemented similar drastic bus cuts when it was running the St. Louis school system in 2003. Most high schoolers were bounced off yellow buses, forcing kids to walk through dangerous neighborhoods. Outrage from parents and school board members led to some of the cuts being restored.

The bus overhaul has been troubled from the start.

Alvarez & Marsal recommended last spring that schools crackdown on ineligible kids who were riding buses, and school officials tried to implement the policy and rejigger bus routes in September.

When that goal proved too difficult, the kickoff was pushed back until December, then delayed again when bus companies sued.

Even with the extra time, though, officials and consultants were scrambling to finish the routes by this week - without factoring in the freezing temperatures.

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott said at a hastily called press conference yesterday that city officials would "have liked to make sure the system worked a lot smoother this week," but he said the aggravation was worth it.

"Without question. I think any dollar that you can redirect in the classrooms is definitely worth it . . . You do not ignore any dollar you can redirect into the classrooms," he said.

Some 2,356 people called a special hotline yesterday - bringing the total to more than 24,000 families.

Even with thousands begging for help, officials have granted only 37 variances.

Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm defended the changes, saying the Education Department would not cave to pressure to bend eligibility rules for the roughly 7,000 kids who've been kicked off buses - not even for 5-year-olds who have been given MetroCards to get to school.

"Again, we want to address every situation where the child is eligible, but if a child is not eligible, they are not eligible," she said. The confusion may not be over.

Special education students so far have not been affected by the changes, but The News has learned Alvarez & Marsal is also turning its sights on special education busing, trying to find ways to lower costs.

It comes down to this - Bloomberg is happy to hold teachers accountable for nearly everything that goes wrong in the school system. But when it comes to his own multi-million dollar consultants with unlimited expense accounts creating chaos and hardship for thousands of families of New York City school children, there is no accountability.

Once again, the mayor has shown himself to be completely concerned with his constituency - billionaire businessmen and multi-million dollar consultants - and completely oblivious to the needs of ordinary New Yorkers.

And just wait until Alvarez & Marsal turns its attention to the special education bus routes. They'll be loads of kids in wheelchairs walking to school because they're "not eligible" for bus service.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?