When Fiorello LaGuardia made a poor judicial appointment, the man regarded as the greatest mayor New York City has ever had said, "When I make a mistake it’s a beaut."
When Mike Bloomberg, who just a few months ago said he wished to be regarded as the greatest Mayor New York City has ever had, had to push Schools Chancellor Cathie Black out the school-door, he said, "I take full responsibility for the fact that this has not worked out the way either of us hoped or expected."
Sounds a lot like, "I take responsibility but not the blame." In fact, when asked if he had made a mistake, the Mayor said something about "water under the bridge."
Cathie Black has not exactly been one to take responsibility, or blame, either. In one of the more bizarre exit interviews in recent memory, she told Fortune magazine, "If I were a guy, would I have had the pounding I did?"
Yes, she would have. Nobody, man or woman, gets away with stupid birth control jokes and ridiculing a crowd of parents ("Ohhhhh!" she sarcastically mocked).
Black also complained that the media published "the worst pictures."
There was also the problem that she was not absorbing the material for the exam. She described it like "having to learn Russian in a weekend… and then speak Russian in budget committees."
What is so surprising is that the Mayor’s own right-hand education man, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, was right there all along, the obvious choice. But Bloomberg apparently didn’t want to be obvious. He wanted to be mysterious, to be secretive, to make a splash with his appointment.
Walcott may not speak Russian, but he is a New York expert. He is the anti-Cathie Black, knowledgeable on the issues. He is unafraid of the media. And perhaps unlike so many in the Bloomberg administration, his goal is to NOT alienate people.
The chancellor’s job is the second toughest in New York. And Walcott takes over at a time of maximum stress to the city’s education system. Layoffs and cutbacks are looming. A battle over "lifo" may not be over.
The nation’s largest school system needs leadership, now.
The Walcott choice gives the Mayor a chance to start again, to turn the page. For the sake of 1.1 million schoolchildren, we wish the Chancellor well.