Monday, May 25, 2015

Judge Milton Shadur Gives The Chicago Teachers Union and Three Teachers Certification as a Class Action Against Racism by The Chicago Board of Education

Judge Milton Shadur

#BlackTeachersMatter. The suit against CPS and the larger national context.

MAY 25, 2015
Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 9.05.21 AM
Yesterday I posted on U.S. Judge Milton Shadur’s ruling that African American teachers who were laid off by the Chicago Public School constituted a class.
In other words, African American teachers were targeted.
The law suit will now proceed to trial and possible damages.
Today’s NY Times reports that public sector jobs have vanished.
And who have been the victims?
Because blacks hold a disproportionate share of the jobs, relative to their share of the population, the cutbacks naturally hit them harder.
But black workers overall, women in particular, also lost their jobs at a higher rate than whites, Ms. Laird found. There was a “double disadvantage for black public sector workers,” she said. “They are concentrated in a shrinking sector of the economy, and they are substantially more likely than other public sector workers to be without work.”

#BlackTeachersMatter. U.S. Judge Milton Shadur calls CPS response to teachers discrimination lawsuit, “totally irresponsible.”

In 2011 the Chicago school board carried out large-scale layoffs of teachers and paraprofessionals.
African American board employees bore the brunt of the layoffs just as the board’s closing of neighborhood public schools two years ago mainly impacted African American communities.
As a result of the layoffs in 2011 the Chicago Teachers Union and three impacted teachers filed suit.

CTU President Karen Lewis speaking at Daley Plaza during the protest of
Chicago school closings, 2013
As I understand it, a law suit like this has three components.  First, the plaintiffs must show that they represent a class of people by a preponderance of the evidence. They were not just individual victims. It was not a coincidence that they were mostly African American. The judge is asked to certify that it is a class action before the case can move on to trial and a ruling of damages.
On Friday, Senior U.S. Judge Milton Shadur ruled in favor of the CTU and the three teachers.
However Judge Shadur didn’t just rule in the plaintiff’s favor.
The Judge was scathing in his rebuke of the CPS board.
“What does Board say on the critical issue of disparate impact in this critical case? Here are Amended Complaint 7 and 8 and Board’s “responses”:
7. In June, 2011, the Board terminated the employment of 931 classroom teachers through a round of layoffs. 480 of these teachers were tenured. African Americans made up 42% of the tenure teachers terminated, although constituting less than 29% of all CPS tenured teachers.
ANSWER: The Board denies the allegations of paragraph 7.
8. Defendant’s pattern and practice of targeting schools with high African American teaching populations for layoffs has a disparate impact on African American tenured teachers and staff.
ANSWER: The Board denies the allegations of paragraph 8 and further states that the Board does not “target” schools, or any demographic of teachers or staff, for layoffs under any circumstance.
And that’s it — the sum total of Board’s purported input on the subject of disparate impact, which is of course the essential linchpin for class certification purposes. Board has said not a word, then or since then, about the claimed basis for its unsupported ipse dixit “denial.”
In candor, that is totally irresponsible. This action has been pending for just short of 2-1/2 years: Plaintiffs filed their initial Complaint on December 26, 2012, and Board has known from day one about plaintiffs’ disparate impact contention and about the asserted numbers upon which those contentions rely.”
Judge Shadur’s ruling and order then proceeded through each requirement for certification as a class and sided with the teachers on each one.
He concluded:
Board’s only challenge to certification under Rule 23(b)(3) is its broken-record-type reassertion that individual principals fired plaintiffs, so that common questions do not predominate on that skewed premise. And that means Board has simply failed to raise any substantial challenge at all to plaintiffs’ arguments.
The case now will proceed to trial and damages.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Wayne Barrett on Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and His Bronx Gang


Wayne Barrett

We are just getting to know Carl Heastie, the new speaker of the state Assembly, and there’s been no better introduction than the one that appeared in The New York Times recently.
The Times reporters, Russ Buettner and David Chen, had earlier taught us some dark lessons about Sheldon Silver, the now-indicted speaker that Heastie succeeded in February. This time, they wrote a very late obit about 
Carl Heastie

Heastie’s mother Helene, who died in 1999, three weeks after she was sentenced for stealing $197,000 from a Bronx nonprofit where she worked. The Times discovered that Carl Heastie then ignored a January 1999 court order that he sell the apartment his mother bought with some of the “moneys that were stolen,” as the sentencing judge put it. A co-owner of the property with his mother, Heastie had agreed to sell it as part of a plea bargain deal that would keep his mother out of jail. The Heasties were to transfer the proceeds of the sale, plus another $40,000 from a separate judgment, to the city and the looted nonprofit.
Instead, Carl Heastie kept the apartment plus $5,877 in furniture purchased with the fleeced proceeds, took $80,000 in mortgage and line of credit loans against it, lived there for another six years, ultimately sold it for $200,000 more than his mother paid for it, and kept the proceeds. Other than $10,000 Heastie came up with at the time of the sentencing, the $40,000 in restitution was similarly never paid. After the Times story appeared, a Heastie spokesman told NewYork magazine that Heastie had only netted $80,000 from the apartment, claiming that the mortgages he added to the purchase cost reduced his ultimate gain, without acknowledging that Heastie benefited for years from the money he borrowed against the house.
The Times said the apartment sale “appears to be the only financial windfall” of Heastie’s life.
How Heastie was able to sidestep the apartment and restitution court orders is described in the story—with Bronx District Attorney Rob Johnson, who was running for re-election in 1999, and BronxCounty Clerk Héctor Díaz, playing the lead roles. The judge required Johnson’s office to “monitor and determine the good-faith sale of the house,” but the district attorney didn’t get Heastie to sign a forfeiture agreement and never pursued any action to force a sale.
The same was true of the $40,000 judgment. Though the judge ordered “that the Bronx District Attorney’s Office file a certified copy of this Order in the Bronx County Clerk’s office” and that the clerk “shall docket the entered Orders as a money judgment,” neither did, despite the year and a half they had to comply. 
The failure of this duo to take actions that were explicitly ordered (and faithfully executed against two other defendants in the same case) was attributed by the Times to either “carelessness” or “something more unsettling.” Buettner and Chen speculate that the more unsettling explanation for the “unusual series of legal lapses” could have been the clandestine machinations of the Bronx Democratic Party, whose “influence on the court system” and “long history of back-room deal-making” may have prompted the repeated breakdowns that gave Heastie such a big break.
Actually, seen through the lens of Bronx politics in 1999 and subsequent events, there is every reason to believe that the Heastie bonanza was a conscious blessing from the party leaders who jumpstarted his political career around the same time, picking him to run for Assembly and sending him off on the road to the pinnacle of power he occupies today, where he is still in their grasp. It is far more likely that the second most powerful Democrat in Albany benefitted from crackerjack maneuvers than a fall through the cracks.
The chances that both Johnson and Díaz’s offices independently and accidentally failed to file routine court papers, mandated by a judge, seem slim. When City & State described this story and asked Heastie’s spokesman Michael Whyland for an interview with the speaker, Whyland emailed: “Not interested in discussing old insider politics or theories anyone might have.” 
The saga starts with a man unnamed in the Times account—Roberto Ramírez, who was an assemblyman and the Bronx County Democratic leader when the court orders were issued in 1999. In early 2000, with the orders still hanging over Heastie’s head, Ramírez announced that Heastie was the party’s candidate for an open Assembly seat.
Part of a musical-chair package of party selections for several legislative and other positions, Heastie’s designation had been in the works going back to 1998.
Ramírez was so committed that when his ally, attorney Joey Jackson, indicated he would run against Heastie, Ramírez stuck with Heastie, promising to back Jackson in a future city council or other race. Jackson, meanwhile, was so close to Ramírez that Ramírez had given him a top countywide party office and offered to make him the state committeeman from the Assembly district Heastie would represent.
But Jackson filed petitions to oppose Heastie anyway. He changed his mind, he told reporters, when he was “approached from behind on the street by two men who told him to drop out” and threatened to harm his wife and young child if he didn’t. Jackson said many of his friends and supporters thought the Bronx party “might be tied to the threats,” though he didn’t hold the organization responsible.
When Jackson decided to withdraw, Heastie and Ramírez’s attorney, Stanley Schlein, a fixture of the Bronx machine for four decades, brought a declination form to Jackson’s house, got his signature and rushed to the Board of Elections to file it. Two hours later, Jackson changed his mind again and dashed to the board, canceling his declination 15 minutes before a midnight deadline. Ramírez’s lawyers opposed Jackson’s attempt to rescind the declination and the board rejected it, paving the way for Heastie to win the Democratic primary without opposition.
Jackson went to District Attorney Johnson’s office about the threats to his family, but they did nothing. Jackson told City & State that he now believes “the people made an excellent choice” in 2000, apparently forgetting that the people actually had no choice but Heastie. He emailed that his “dispute back then was with the Party Leadership,” not Heastie. 
Johnson and Díaz also benefitted from Ramírez’s actions around the same time. County leader since 1994, Ramírez shepherded Johnson through his 1995 re-election for district attorney, helping to deliver all party lines to him, and virtually repeated that performance in 1999, when Johnson ran with only token rivals. Schlein was representing Johnson at the same time that he was representing Heastie, rebuffing a 1999 court challenge to Johnson’s Bronx residency. A committee controlled by Ramírez donated $3,000 to Johnson’s 1999 campaign, all while the Heastie court orders were still a live issue.
There’s nothing surprising about the Bronx party’s embrace of Johnson in 1999. He was first elected in a hotly contested special election in 1988, handpicked by Ramírez’s predecessor as county leader, George Friedman. The Bronx was aflame with scandal at the time—party boss Stanley Friedman had just received a 12-year sentence in 1987, with the borough president and two congressmen also going to prison. Mayor Ed Koch said his administration would not deal with George Friedman because Stanley Friedman (no relation) had installed him. After backing and dropping two other candidates, George Friedman seemed to pull Johnson’s name out of a hat. Ramírez was not yet an assemblyman (he was elected in 1990), but Ramírez ally Fernando Ferrer, the new borough president and the county’s most powerful minority leader, was instrumental in Johnson’s sudden rise from obscurity.
Johnson’s machine ties, lambasted by his opponents in the 1988 race, only grew after taking office. In 1997, Ramírez, three years after he became the Bronx’s first minority county leader, made Johnson’s wife, Dianne Renwick, a civil court judge. In 2001, after the judgments against Heastie were submarined, Ramírez handpicked Renwick for the Supreme Court.
It was Ramírez who installed his Assembly colleague Héctor Díaz, a lifelong soldier in the Bronx machine, as county clerk in 1996. When Díaz left the Assembly for the lucrative new job, it was Ramírez himself who replaced him as chair of the Assembly’s Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. DÍaz remained county clerk until 2008, when Ramírez’s chosen successor as county leader, José Rivera, got Council Speaker Christine Quinn to make Díaz city clerk, a primetime patronage plum.
These alliances continue to this day. In the fall of 2008, Heastie toppled Rivera and, recruiting a strong majority of the party’s district leaders, took control of the party. It was a bloody public battle, with Ramírez quietly backing Heastie’s rebel faction. In the middle of the war, Rívera, who gave Ramírez his first political job in the ’80s, went to dinner at the home of an assemblywoman who was supporting him in the battle with Heastie. He thought Ramírez and Ferrer were his allies. Instead, Ramírez urged him to surrender, according to a source with direct knowledge of the conversation. Asked if either he or Ramírez mentioned the need for an exit strategy with Rivera, Ferrer told City & State: “I didn’t say it. I don’t remember if Roberto did.” Ferrer said the conversation was about “how are you going to do this,” asking Rivera how he could prevail in an increasingly desperate situation. 
Ramírez didn’t publicly endorse Heastie. But a year after Heastie took over the party, his top aide and former college roommate Patrick Jenkins formed a lobbying firm with Marisol Rodríguez, Ramírez’s former sister-in-law and a close confidant. Seven years later, Rivera is an outcast in Bronx politics, and some of those who stuck with him too long are still paying for it.
Schlein, who declined to answer questions when reached by City & State, played a pivotal role in the Heastie coup and his law partner became a Heastie consultant on the Assembly and party payrolls despite a shady record as a court-appointed receiver. Heastie says he still talks every day to the scandal-scarred Schlein, whose neglect of aging clients prompted administrators to bar him from collecting any more lucrative, court-appointed receiverships in 2006. (He was also fined $15,000 and forced out of the chairmanship of the city’s Civil Service Commission for using its offices to run his legal practice.)
Despite these findings against him, Heastie named Schlein to chair the Bronx’s 2009 judicial nominating convention, where Supreme Court judges are selected. When Heastie backed Johnson for re-election in 2011, the unopposed district attorney paid Schlein a $7,500 consulting fee. Schlein has represented Johnson in virtually all of his elections.
An insider says Schlein urged Rivera in 2008—months before the coup—to support Johnson’s wife Renwick for an appointment to the First Judicial Department of the Appellate Division, the most prestigious appellate court in the state. Gov. David Paterson appointed her that April, though a spokesman for Paterson said she was part of a group of judges selected by his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in March as a result of a prostitution scandal. Sources involved in the Bronx process say that Ramírez, who shared an office with Spitzer and Paterson’s top political advisers at Global Strategy Group, pushed Renwick’s selection.
Díaz is the president of a booming, publicly funded, mostly nonprofit empire called Acacia and Ramírez’s firm, MirRam, is its lobbyist. Ramírez is so tied to Acacia that his MirRam partner, Luis Miranda, was chair of the Audubon Partnership, which merged with Acacia in 2013, and their firm represented Promesa, which was absorbed by Acacia a couple of years earlier.
Like Schlein, Ramírez remains so close to Heastie that the Daily News reported a few days after Heastie’s selection that he was playing an “active role” with Heastie, “assisting Carl in getting things running.” MirRam’s lobbying clients, including the teachers union, have major matters before the Assembly.
Completing the circle, Heastie, at the peak of his pre-speaker power in 2013, helped get Johnson’s wife Renwick on the list of finalists for a Court of Appeals appointment, though she was not selected. And Heastie delivered a 2013 civil court spot to Armando Montano Jr., the lawyer who represented the Heasties in the criminal case and, after Helene Heastie died, told Carl Heastie he wasn’t obligated to sell the house or pay the restitution, according to the Times report. Weeks earlier, he had reassured the sentencing judge that the Heasties would do both. “A deal is a deal,” he said, before it wasn’t.
Heastie also engineered the appointment of another Bronx judge, Darcel Clark, to the Appellate Division in 2012. The only Bronx judge elevated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo so far, Clark had worked for Johnson for more than a decade and was a deputy chief in 1999 when the Heastie court orders were issued. Johnson’s spokesperson said she “had nothing to do” with Helene Heastie’s case.
In 2006, when party leader Rivera picked Clark for Supreme Court, it was a Heastie “ask,” also pushed by Heastie’s mentor Larry Seabrook (who had moved from the state Senate to the City Council), according to a source involved in Bronx judicial selections. Heastie had by then become chair of the county committee, selected by Rivera for the second highest position in the party hierarchy.
In 2013, after Johnson was battered by a Times seriesthat assailed his office’s mishandling of the much-delayed docket of ordinary criminal cases, the paperran a story predicting that Johnson would resign that fall and be replaced by Heastie favorite Clark. Though Heastie wasn’t quoted in the piece, the Times said that it was Heastie’s “brainchild” that Johnson would be nominated for state Supreme Court at the September judicial convention Heastie controlled and step down as district attorney, and that the county Democratic committee would then have the power to anoint Johnson’s successor. Just like Heastie’s uncontested Assembly ascension, Clark would take over the District Attorney’s Office without a primary. In the machine mindset, lifetime sinecures like district attorney are best delivered without a whiff of democracy.
The problem with this plan, however, was that, under state law, the governor has the power to fill district attorney vacancies temporarily, and he wasn’t even mentioned in the Times’ account of Heastie’s plan.
It obviously never happened, so Heastie and his Bronx cohorts are now faced with the decision of what to do with Johnson, since his seventh phantom term is about to end and his spokesperson told City & State that he is “definitely seeking re-election.” Heastie backed him four years ago despite an abysmal record beyond his best-known disaster, the failure to convict the four cops that killed Amadou Diallo. He only wins 46 percent of Bronx jury trials, down from the 67 percent rate when he took office and far below the lowest in the other four counties, 71 percent. More Bronx cases drag on for years than in the four other boroughs combined. 
The Times did conclude in that 2013 story, however, that Heastie was “one of the few who other Democratic officials” thought had a read on “Johnson’s intentions.” That’s a far cry from Johnson’s recent statement, issued to Buettner and Chen, that “other than seeing Mrs. Heastie’s name on an indictment,” he knew nothing about the Heasties until years after the 1999 case. Johnson’s office repeated that contention to City & State, but declined a request for an interview about the issues raised in this story.
Johnson’s know-nothing defense is dubious. Joey Jackson, then the chair of the Democratic county committee, went to Johnson’s office in 2000, before the statute of limitations on the Heastie restitution orders had run, and told investigators about the threat to his family, tying it to his race against Heastie. The Times reported that he went to Johnson that July.
In 1999, Heastie was a leader in Seabrook’s club, the most powerful black club in the county, and Johnson was running for re-election. Heastie’s run was one of several joined races that were the hottest elections in the city in 2000, drawing extensive citywide coverage. The Bronx party ticket had been in the works since 1998, when Ramírez convinced Seabrook not to run for Congress. But Seabrook did run against longtime incumbent Eliot Engel in 2000 with Ramírez’s vigorous support, creating a black-on-white contest widely acknowledged to have been all about race.
Seabrook was then a state senator, abandoning his seat to make the congressional run. That led the incumbent assemblyman, Sam Bea, also from Seabrook’s club, to run for Seabrook’s seat, creating the opening for Heastie. Seabrook and Bea lost badly; Heastie was the only one to get a free ride, thanks to Jackson’s political demise. Since Johnson was the highest-ranking black elected official in the Bronx, it’s hard to imagine that the politically astute Johnson, whose wife would run for Supreme Court the next year, was unaware of all these dominos.    

The Tale of the Tape: The D.A. Bronx Pols Thought They Owned
In 1998, a few months before Helene Heastie pleaded guilty to grand larceny charges, Ramírez was surreptitiously taped boasting about his ability to fix Johnson. The taper was Pedro Espada, a former state senator planning to run for his old seat in the September primary, but threatened by a wide-ranging criminal investigation orchestrated by Johnson. Ramírez had cost Espada the seat in 1996, when he supported David Rosado against him. Espada was knocked off the ballot, the favored party method for aborting unwanted candidacies.
But now, the flamboyant Espada, fueled by a vast health care patronage empire, was a threat to win. Ramírez publicly claimed that he’d opposed Espada in 1996 because Espada had reneged on unspecified promises. This time any promises made by either would be verifiable, thanks to Espada’s audio and videotapes.
Ramírez was hardly the only one recorded by Espada. In fact, a half-dozen pols chimed in, a mantra of taped tributes to the flexible district attorney. Rosado, caught by a miniature camera planted in a painting, told Espada’s son that if the senior Espada would simply not file nominating petitions by the July deadline, the Johnson probe would “chill out.”
“It’s all politics,” said Rosado. “It goes away July 15 at midnight.” Espada released the tape in June, a couple of weeks after it was recorded, announcing he was defying the threats and running. Rosado had no choice but to admit he’d connected the proposed withdrawal and the probe, but said he was merely “lying to a liar.”
Espada also revealed a taped talk he had with Heastie patron Seabrook. Seabrook spoke of Johnson’s investigations of him that he said were driven by party leaders. He was preparing to run for Congress that year, but decided to pull out after a meeting with Ramírez. Unlike Seabrook, who was never indicted by Johnson and acquiesced to Ramírez’s demand that he postpone his congressional race against Engel for two years, Espada was charged a few days after he announced he was running.
Hampered by an indictment that accused him of diverting $221,000 in Medicaid funding to covering the costs of his 1996 campaign, Espada lost the 1998 race, but came back to beat Rosado in 2000. He was acquitted a few weeks after he regained his Senate seat that November, on the same day Heastie won his first Assembly race. 
Shortly before the trial ended, Tom Robbinspublished the tape transcripts in the Village Voice. The tapes are not about Heastie, but they describe the political landscape at the time that Johnson’s office repeatedly failed to follow court orders, a boon to Heastie. Reached by City & State, Ferrer said the references to him in the tapes, with Seabrook, Ramírez and state Sen. Guy Velella signaling that he was a conduit to Johnson, were “completely untrue.”
Before the tapes of Ramírez’s meetings with Espada surfaced, the Times asked Ramírez if the organization offered any deal to persuade Espada to stay out of the race. “Absolutely not,” insisted Ramírez, a denial refuted by the tapes. Ramírez denounced Espada at that time, demanding that he release the tapes he publicly declared he possessed and pronouncing Espada guilty of the charges leveled against him. But when Espada did make the transcripts public, just as the judge at his trial rejected a defense motion to make the tapes part of the court record, Ramírez was muted. He issued a statement calling the release he’d earlier demanded a “cynical” move. Johnson’s spokesman called the tapes “nonsense.”
Actually, the tapes paint a vivid portrait of what many in Bronx politics believed at the time of the unfiled Heastie judgments: namely, that party leaders could influence an ineffective and colorless district attorney that they put in place and protected for years, re-electing him almost automatically. Johnson’s effortless reign was in sharp simultaneous contrast with the political situation in Brooklyn, where a district attorney who prosecuted the party boss got one primary after another.
In one tape transcript, of an April 23, 1998, meeting at the East Tremont diner, Espada got straight to the point: Is it still important that I retire from politics?” he asked Ramírez, picking up where prior conversations between the two had clearly ended. 
“That would alleviate some tensions,” Ramírez replied. “If you sit it out, there’s peace in the valley.”
When Espada said he’d decided to retire, Ramírez did a Clint Eastwood: “You’ve made my day. This is the best news. All the meetings have paid off.”
“How’s our friend Johnson?” Espada asked.
“The powers that be and they have spoken,” Ramírez replied. “What you’ve shared with this decision is very important.”
“Important? You said it would bring peace. The harassment would stop.”
“Yes, and it will. Issue the press release, OK? Because I’m sure this whole Johnson thing is just a waste of a lot of time and money.”
“You’ve spoken to Johnson about our talks?”
“Yes, but I’ve just got my lawyer’s license. He will get spoken to and I expect that, unless people get stupid, everything’s going to be OK. It’s going to work out for everybody. When will you release the statement?” Ramírez closed the conversation by saying how much he “looked forward” to reading news stories about Espada’s pullout.
Espada had already met with Ramírez’s ostensible counterpart, Velella, a senator and the Bronx County Republican leader. Velella was so aligned with Ramírez that in 1996 Ramírez ran him on the Democratic Senate line as well. Espada’s February exchange with Velella was another testimonial to Johnson’s malleability.
“How you holding up?” Velella greeted his former Senate colleague. “I thought you would’ve been indicted by now.”
“Why do you say that?” Espada asked.
“Roberto and I talk about you a lot. He says either the feds or Johnson … maybe both.”
When Espada asked "how come they don’t mess with you?” Velella acknowledged that “Johnson had complaints” against him, citing “the school board stuff,” but said the district attorney “never got on my case.”
“With Johnson,” said Velella, who was later convicted on charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney, “you’ve got to go through Ramírez.”
“Ramírez has juice?”
“He doesn’t want trouble with you. With me, I’m friends with Dick Gidron (a Cadillac dealer who was then chair of the county committee, the same post Heastie assumed in 2008) and even Freddy (Ferrer). I’m a county leader. It helps with Johnson.” Velella had delivered the Republican ballot line to Johnson in the initial 1988 race and in subsequent ones.
Velella closed with this advice: “Listen, with the Bronx stuff, meet with Ramírez. He and Freddy can deal with Johnson … especially Freddy, he can.”
After these exchanges, Espada met in May with the black leaders he apparently thought could best get to Johnson, including Gidron, Seabrook and none other than Al Sharpton, at Gidron’s auto dealership. Congressman José Serrano was also there. Sharpton reported on a lunch he just had with Ramírez: “He said Espada has problems, legal problems. If he runs, he has more problems.”
When Espada complained about the recurrent “harassment” he was getting from Johnson, Gidron offered to step in: “This is bullshit. I can resolve this shit easily. Bob is my friend. He helped me with Velella. He helped me with my son (who was busted on federal tax charges). He helped me with you, Seabrook. I’ll call right now.”
“That’s true,” added Seabrook, “they had Velella with the school board mess and they haven’t touched him. But it’s Freddy. Freddy calls the shots. He’s the one that did me,” suggesting that it was Ferrer who got to Johnson on his behalf.
Sharpton said he’d just told Ramírez at lunch that Seabrook “should be a congressman,” adding that Ramírez agreed but said “not this time,” presaging the 2000 run that would lead to Heastie’s Assembly candidacy. Gidron actually did dial Johnson, Ramírez and Ferrer during the meeting, but said none were there.
Serrano and Sharpton sat through an extended discussion of how the district attorney was being used to keep a candidate out of a race and never questioned it or objected. Sharpton threw fuel on the fire, saying that Ramírez told him “if Espada runs, Serrano gets a primary.” It’s “war,” Sharpton claimed Ramírez warned, adding to the pressure on Espada to drop his candidacy. Serrano echoed Sharpton, declaring that he just wanted “to be left alone.”  
Building on that unanimity, Gidron closed the discussion promising to set up a meeting with Johnson, Ferrer and Ramírez, declaring: “Espada will not run and the bullshit will stop and they have to keep their word with Seabrook.”
Espada issued a press release after this May get-together, noting that a series of consultations with “high level, local and national Democratic Party leaders” convinced him not to run for the Senate. A Ramírez confidant told the Daily News that the two shook hands on a deal but Ramírez was “still reported wary.”
On June 4, 1998, Espada had a final meeting with Ramírez at the Villa Barone Restaurant. Espada said he was “very pissed,” complaining that Johnson was “harassing my goddaughter,” calling him “worse than Ken Starr.”
“I was told everything was OK,” Ramírez replied. “The only condition was your withdrawal. Freddy knew it. Johnson was told. The powers that be are on board.”
Espada accused Ramírez of “fucking with me.”
“No, no. I’ve spoke to the powers that be. Maybe they’re fucking me too. If I can’t get support, I’ll retire too.”
“I’m running,” Espada suddenly announced.
“With an indictment?” Ramírez questioned.
“With 10 indictments. We’re running.”
Ramírez’s closing comment was: “This is bad for business.”

The Party Progeny Inherits An Albany Kingdom
Of course, Ramírez’s business ultimately became lobbying and a 2004 memo from his two-man company, MirRam, to a prospective client echoed his 1998 claims about his ability to reach public officials. “Elected officials have entrusted their careers to us and we have delivered,” wrote Ramírez and Miranda. “In turn, we are now able to provide our clients with access and opportunity to an often impenetrable world.” 
Many of the participants in the Espada conversations were subsequently convicted, none by Johnson. Seabrook, Gidron, Velella and eventually Espada himself went to jail for crimes that could have been prosecuted by Johnson. After 26 years in office, Johnson has not convicted a Bronx elected official, other than a 1991 case against a school board member.
Johnson did indict a candidate for Assembly in 2008, Nelson Castro, who later became an assemblyman. Castro’s eventual conviction was highlighted in a response City & State got from Johnson’s spokesperson about his public corruption record. Castro, however, was aligned with Rivera in the then-ongoing war with Heastie. He was accused of lying to the Board of Elections. His transgression, lying about residence-related issues in a county where machine candidates flaunted their real Westchester lives, might have attracted Johnson’s attention because the attorney who filed the suit against Castro was none other than Stanley Schlein.
The perjury charges against Castro, who won the Assembly seat, were sealed and he wound up wearing a wire for the feds for his four years in the Assembly. Wisely ostracized by Heastie and party insiders, the only fish Castro caught was another assemblyman as obscure and unconnected as Castro was, Eric Stevenson. Castro pleaded guilty in federal and state court in 2014, but did not get a day in jail.
Ramírez has never been prosecuted by Johnson or anyone else, but Andrew Cuomo investigated him when he was attorney general as part of the far-reaching pension scandal. Ramírez’s onetime partners at Global Strategies paid a $2 million fine for acting as unlicensed brokers in securing pension funds for two equity firms, one of which was owned by Leo Hindery, a Ramírez ally who’d served as the finance chair of Ferrer’s 2005 mayoral campaign. Separately, Ramírez himself set up a meeting with state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that resulted in a $15 million pension fund investment with Hindery, but that was after the key officials involved in the scandal were gone.
MirRam Global, the onetime lobbying partnership of the two firms, was retained by the Yankees and the YES Network, which used to be chaired by Hindery. The three companies had to pay a $275,000 fine levied by the state lobbying commission for giving free Yankees tickets to dozens of state officials. As one more sign of the continuing intertwine between Heastie and Ramírez, Hindery gave $8,250 to Heastie since 2003, maxing out twice, almost exactly what MirRam gave to the Bronx party under Heastie’s rule, more than they gave in the Rivera era. While the Yankees contributed to the party under Rivera, they quadrupled that, kicking in $125,000, after Heastie took over.
The ubiquitous Schlein wound up representing most of the participants in the Espada meetings, including Espada himself. He negotiated deals that allowed Espada to take a top Senate leadership position in 2008 and 2009, when Espada made the biggest headlines of his life swinging from one side of the aisle to the other and changing the majority. Like Ramírez, Schlein represented the Yankees, as well as Sharpton’s presidential campaign. He testified at Seabrook’s trial about Seabrook’s successful efforts to get a Yankee Stadium boiler contract for a black-owned Bronx company that alleged to have paid a $50,000 bribe to Seabrook. Schlein facilitated the deal even though the contractor, who was so tied to Seabrook he was one of Heastie’s biggest 2000 donors, hadn’t submitted the low bid. 
Everyone involved in the Espada exchanges, occurring concurrently with the burying of the Heastie forfeiture papers, accepted the premise that Bob Johnson could be reached on political cases. That was virtually an axiom in 1999, when Heastie, a product of the most powerful black club in the Bronx and closely tied to both Ramírez and Seabrook, was allowed by Johnson’s office to keep his mother’s criminal profit.
This is a case of inference atop inference. It hard to imagine that the only thing the inferences add up to is coincidence. Everyone involved in Albany politics knew for years that Shelly Silver was making millions at an asbestos law firm without actually practicing law. Nonetheless, the most progressive and thoughtful collection of Democrats in the state looked the other way, without ever questioning the appearance or the reality of it. It’s as if blinders are handed out when Assembly Democrats conference.
This same caucus, finally confronted with the criminality of Silver’s all-too-familiar facade, rushed to reach into the cesspool of Bronx politics to make its leader their speaker. They had to understand that Heastie might well be one witness away from potential trouble, with his former mentor Seabrook, who’s doing five years in prison, just a phone call away from Preet Bharara. They had to be troubled by Heastie’s response to the Times piece, with his spokesman saying the core question was not whether Heastie should have honored the pledge he made to a judge to make the city and a struggling nonprofit whole, but whether it was “the child’s responsibility to pay the debt of the parent.” The spokesman also evidenced a bumper-sticker sense of irony, saying that Heastie had “conducted himself with the integrity we expect from anyone in his position.”  
Heastie is actually a son of the machine, having surfaced in 1999-2000 when, after seven years in a patronage job in the city Comptroller’s Office, he secured his Assembly district without having to actually run to win it. He earned his Assembly seat by doing Seabrook’s books for years, a nightmare of numbers that prepared him for Albany. Similarly, he became speaker 15 years later, when his fellow county leaders came together to force possible opponents out of the race. He ran against a cleared field. He is the first county leader to be named speaker since Brooklyn’s Stanley Steingut in the ’60s, a retreat to the days when the club was more important than any cause. 

Wayne Barrett covered New York politics for 35 years and co-authored “City for Sale,” a chronicle of the great municipal scandal of the ’80s. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mercedes Schneider: Lily Garcia and Randi Weingarten, Common Core Afficiandos

Lily Garcia and Randi Weingarten

Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Randi, Lily, and Their Common Core Fidelity
Mercedes Schneider, April 27, 2015

I was in Chicago this past weekend for the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE).

(A number of videos of conference sessions will be available here. In the first video, the session to which I refer in this post is around 2:10:00.)

One of the sessions I attended was the Sunday morning keynote (April 26, 2015) in which education historian and NPE founding president Diane Ravitch interviewed both National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskelsen Garcia and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten.

Both Garcia and Weingarten support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which seems to be (now) chiefly embraced by Democrats (see here, and here, and here)… and by Republican Jeb Bush.

During the Sunday NPE interview, Ravitch asked both Garcia and Weingarten to state their positions on CCSS.

Weingarten went first. She stated that she did not support a “federal” CCSS.

Word games.

As it stands, only two days after her statement above, on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Weingarten is the opening speaker for the very-pro-CCSS Center for American Progress (CAP) “revealing” report entitled, “How Teachers Are Leading the Way to Successful Common Core Implementation.”

The idea of CCSS’ merely suffering from “poor implementation” is an idea near to Weingarten’s heart for years now. So, if America could just experience a handful of teachers “successfully implementing” CCSS, that would prove that CCSS homogenization of American education is the way to go.

CAP president Carmel Martin will also be participating in this CCSS implementation yard sale, even though in September 2014, she defended CCSS with astounding cluelessness in this Intelligence Squared debate in New York City.

Indeed, this is not the first Martin-Weingarten summit. The two came together to negotiate a position on “testing and accountability” in the initial Senate-proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) in January 2015. An outcome of this January 2015 meeting is the Weingarten shuffle to support the annual testing she previously opposed.

In the NPE event moderated by Ravitch, Weingarten was quick to point out her years ago pressing for a moratorium around CCSS testing. However, a moratorium is only a delay. Thus, from Weingarten, expect continued CCSS and CCSS-assessment support couched in politically-lubricated language.

And there is plenty of CCSS lube available for Garcia, as well.

Sure, Garcia has taken a stronger stance against the annual testing than has Weingarten, but in her response to Ravitch’s question about her position on CCSS, Garcia clearly chose to answer the unasked question, “What are some of your favorite CCSS standards, Lily?”

Yep. Garcia offered the NPE audience a soft-sell, Helen Steiner Rice moment regarding a few “favorite” standards, emphasizing that these CCSS faves could not be adequately assessed using bubble tests. So, since she found three standards that she “favors,” Garcia hopes to cement in the NPE audience psyche the idea that all of the K12 CCSS math and ELA standards are fine, and that they are fine as a set for all classrooms nationwide.

Garcia offered no word on her least-liked CCSS standards. To do so would have been to criticize the CCSS that she clearly supports in its entirety. Garcia’s allowing any semblance of truly critical thought to enter her CCSS sell would have killed the figurative, tender-moment music and sent Helen Steiner Rice packing.

And so, there we have it in brief, my readers.

Two union leaders; one beloved CCSS.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Roger Stone: Hillary's War On Women

Hillary Clinton

Roger Stone
Hillary's Woman Problem

With her Brooklyn campaign headquarters open, Hillary Clinton is running for president. However, Hillary’s imminent campaign will lack an agenda, platform or a vision for the country. This is by strategic choice.
In the same guise as Bush 41, when hevisited New Hampshire during the 1992 GOP primary against Pat Buchanan and blurted out that his “Message: I care,”this past March at the Emily’s List 30 year gala, her first public appearance since the public learned of the private email scandal, Hillary blurted out her 2016 rationale as “(D)on’t you someday want to see a woman president?”
The woman card will certainly send some weak-kneed Republicans, who are still in shock after losing the last two presidential races to the first African-American president, into a panic. However, it shouldn’t.
If Hillary intends to build her campaign around an appeal to women, her campaign theme is on quicksand. But for Hillary to be defeated, Republicans must attack this perceived strength by educating the public to the plain truth: Hillary is a life-time abuser of women and her advocacy on women issues rings hollow. While core Democratic women will not be weaned from the former First Lady, a large percentage of younger independent women can be persuaded against her by the truth.
For instance, while Hillary gives lip service to pay equality, her Senate office paid women 72 cents on the dollar compared to men. Even worse, the median salary for women was less than $15,000 of the median salary for men.
The Clinton Foundation’s record is even worse. In 2013, eight of the top elevenmost highly compensated individuals were men. The gender pay gap also widened every year during the period of 2011-2013; in 2011 women earned 77 percent of men’s income, in 2012 women earned 71 percent of men’s income and in 2013 women earned less than 65 percent of their male counterparts. Hillary often forgets that hypocrisy is not a virtue.
Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation has pocketed millions of dollars from foreign Muslim regimes that oppress women. Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar and the Arab Emirates have funneled millions to the Clintons.
These countries all deny women the most basic of human rights: the right to an education, the right to drive a car, the right to choose her own husband – even the right to show her face. They condone caning and stoning women accused of adultery. Their cash is tainted with the blood of women abused, but Hillary’s foundation still accepts it. Hypocrisy anyone?
Then there is Hillary’s role in denigrating victims of Bill Clinton’s serial sexual abuse and authorizing heavy handed tactics to silence the victims of Bill’s assaults. Juanita Broderick, Paula Jones, Kathy Willey all alleged they were assaulted by Bill Clinton. Sometimes he just exposed himself and demanded oral sex.
Hillary “is the war on women, as far as I’m concerned, because with every woman that she’s found out about—and she made it a point to find out who every woman had been that’s crossed his path over the years—she’s orchestrated a terror campaign against every one of these women, including me,” said Willey.
Instead of outrage against her husband for being a sexual predator, Hillary repeatedly smeared and attacked Bill’s victims. Hillary called Monica Lewinsky, a “narcissistic looney toon” in private conversations with confidante Diane Blair.She called Gennifer Flowers “trailer trash.” Clinton rape victim Juanita Broaddrick said Hillary Clinton threatened her in person only two weeks after she was violated by Bill Clinton. Heavy handed California private detective Jack Palladino confirmed Hillary paid him as well as now-jailed PI Anthony Pellicano to silence Bill's victims.
Hillary’s strong handed tactics against abused women were not just used for Bill. When Sen. Bob Packwood was accused of sexual harassment by a group of women in 1993, Clinton told Blair she was “tired of all those whiney women and she needs (Packwood) on health care.” So much for sisterhood.
Unlike 2008, I expect many of Bill’s victims to speak during the 2016 cycle. Having already interviewed many of them, I can say all have been threatened and all pose a grave threat to Hillary’s ambitions. While swing female voters may not listen to crusty old white Republicans, perhaps they will listen to their terrorized sisters. As a result of Citizens United, the victims of Bill and Hillary’s many abuses can and will have wide reach and exposure.
Hillary was quick to denounce Senate Republicans for their inaction on a sex trafficking bill on Twitter only weeks ago. Yet she was not so fast to return the contribution of convicted pedophile and friend of Bill Jeffrey Epstein who was trafficking under-age girls to an A list of celebrities that may have include Bill Clinton himself.
The Clinton Foundation accepted $25,000 from Epstein after his conviction in Florida. She also took a 2008 campaign contribution from Ghislaine Maxwell who worked as Epstein’s pimp recruiting under -aged girls for their sexual abuse and trafficking enterprise. Maxwell got immunity in the controversial sealed non-prosecution agreement in which Epstein got a slap on the wrist. Now she works for a non-profit funded by the Clinton Foundation. Child trafficking anyone?
Hillary’s self-purported advocacy for women is a crock. While Bill sexually abused women over the years, Hillary followed these abuses with psychological abuses. The one-two Clinton punch. They key to defeating her is proving it to women voters.

My book "The Clinton's War on Women" out in June
New York Times Bestseller "The Man Who Killed Kennedy-the Case Against LBJ"- Amazon's #1 JFK book for 17 weeks – Now in paperback with new chapters and updated information

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lois Weiner on Champions and Losers

Getting rid of the losers, like teachers who are “old and costly” and kids who are not “champions”

Lois Weiner
April 8, 2015

  A headline in a recent news story about Los Angeles teachers, calling the district’s teaching force “old and costly,” is a companion piece to the New York Times front page article about the Success Academy chain headed by Eva Moskowitz. Taken together these explain why teachers unions are being attacked so viciously and why the unions need to change gears and direction now. Once again, the Chicago Teachers Union leads the way in its new contract demands.

The Right and many liberals insist that improving teacher quality is the best way to end poverty. This line of reasoning is based on the assumption that governments are powerless - or ought not - interfere with the “right” to make profit in any way possible, including or especially in situations of dire emergency and human disaster, as Naomi Klein explains. Having succeeded in firing all of New Orlean’s teachers, mainly African American, after Katrina, to create the first all-charter school district in the nation, education “reformers” in both parties have gone after career teachers elsewhere. The aim, as this news article shows, is to eliminate experienced teachers who cost more. In so doing teaching is destroyed as a career and profession. To make that happen in a way that is seemingly objective, the project to marketize education, uses scores from standardized tests to evaluate teachers, tweaked to allow for differences in students’ characteristics in what is called “value added measures.”

We should have no illusions that these reforms will help all students achieve, the rhetoric that’s used to defend marketization and testing. In fact, the goal is to “blow up” (Chester Finn’s term) the system of public education created at the turn of the last century. From neoliberalism’s stand point, the system was not sufficiently Darwinian because of increased economic competition. The sorting of those who deserve good jobs and those who don’t has to begin in kindergarten. Parents who are desperate to make sure that their children will be among “the haves” with access to the rapidly diminishing number of good jobs the global economy offers submit their children to many practices that advantaged parents may not be willing to permit.

I want to caution that how kids learn and should be taught is not universal. I think that some white progressives are too quick to dismiss differences in teaching and learning that are related to cultural expectations, and I urge that we acknowledge that good teachers and parents can disagree about what works for kids, as older kids will disagree among themselves. There are, however, certain ground rules we have to insist upon, like behaviors that show we respect one another. As a teacher and teacher educator I think that respect is clearly missing in Success Academy’s practice of shaming low achievers by posting their scores to be seen by classmates and making their lives “misery.” I would urge parents not to send their children to a school that uses these practices. Respect is also missing in classrooms making poor kids of color obedient to teachers’ control of every bodily function, as occurs in prisons - preparation for what awaits students who don’t respond positively enough to the tactics of “champion” teachers who follow this prescription for good teaching.

Older teachers are often not considered “champions” because they have ideas borne of experience and education about how schools should operate, how they and students should be supported. They want wages sufficient to support a family and working conditions that allow them to spend time with their own children. They are “costly” not only in salary but in their potential, in their unions, collectively to challenge the authoritarianism that pervades schools.

An essential aspect of persuading parents to see alternatives to the dog-eat-dog competition to which they are told they must submit their children is for unions to do as the Chicago Teachers Union has in its latest contract proposals. The union is using the contract talks to challenge the school district and city about conditions in schools, administrative demands that rob kids of teachers' time, class size, as well as broader political issues of funding and fair taxation. In so doing the union supports parents and the public to see - and join with them in fighting for - a different vision of education, one in which we don’t have schools create a select group of “champions” and toss out the rest as disposable. The union has arrived at these demands through a bottom-up process and brings them to negotiations in a representative team of 50 members. In so doing, it models the democratic relations we need in schools and what teachers unions throughout this country need to do, pronto.

You can follow me on twitter and Facebook. If you haven't already, you may want to read my book aboutThe Future of Our Schools. If you’re in Chicago April 17-20, you can join researchers looking at what’s happening in teacher unionism. Info on the offerings are in the online program at, including two panels in which I am participating.