Cathie Black came in amid controversy, and only a few (myself included) thought this had a chance to work out. The idea of someone overseeing the school system that has not been a part of the problem is still not a bad idea, but Black was not a great choice, and the mayor has a lot to lose after making big gains in education reform.
Black was nobody’s favorite, and now former Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott is stepping in. Black may have left because the job was a bad fit, but Washington, D.C.’s Michelle Rhee was let go due to politics – pure and simple.
Rhee, the controversial schools chancellor in Washington, was exiled when Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his re-election bid to Vince Gray. Rhee is the focus of the documentary Waiting for Superman (see it!) that exposes the largess in many areas of the American public school system. Black may not have worked out, but Rhee has the kind of track record that Mayor Michael Bloomberg likes.With Walcott on the job now, New Jersey should take a giant step and hire Rhee.
Last year, we saw the state of New Jersey lose a lot of federal money because they could not get organized enough to answer the appropriate questions to qualify for additional funding. Governor Christie has gone viral with his tough stances on education, and Rhee would fit that environment perfectly. New Jersey has the same urban pockets that New York has, and the need for that kind of leadership is a must. This is an opportunity that New Jersey should not pass up.
An Idea for Bus Travel
Even though the idea of Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) might be an organization’s way of bilking its fans, the idea may have some merit when it comes to travel. Gasoline prices are killing average wage earners, and bus and rail travel has to pick up the slack. Rail travel, like Amtrak, is expensive, but there may be a way to get that price down to a point where it can compete with bus travel.
If you take a line like Bolt Bus (run by Greyhound) to a neighboring city enough times, you get a free ride. Most trips average $35 roundtrip. Right now, driving cannot compete with bus travel economically. The government can encourage bus and rail travel by supporting a season ticket program, where people pay a price once a year and get approximately 50 rides on competing bus companies and Amtrak.
If there were a way that four or five bus carriers were linked through a shared season ticket, companies are then guaranteed travelers for which they can compete. Sure, rail travel is more expensive, but if people buy their season ticket in January, they get a big discount, and they are committing to a greener form of travel. It would be similar to the monthly Metrocard, which is useful on busses and trains in the city. It may even be good to throw a tax deduction into the price.
R.I.P. Sidney Lumet
In my former life as a promoter of cable television, I came into contact with many of director Sidney Lumet’s films, such as Network, Serpico, and 12 Angry Men. Hollywood does not give us movies like that today. Before MTV made it impossible to make movies that focus on one scene without cutting away in less than four seconds, there were longer scenes that created great drama. They re-made 12 Angry Men in the late 1990s, but the audience was not there. People are just too used to fast cutaways without the subtle drama that you got when Lee Cobb and Henry Fonda squared off in Lumet’s classic.