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New York

Bloomberg defends his private search and choice for chancellor

Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought against growing opposition to his selection of magazine publisher Cathie Black this morning, saying that he and Chancellor Joel Klein had "spent a lot of time finding the right person." Bloomberg said he had been discussing Klein's departure with him "for months" and only began to search for a successor in earnest once he "slowly...became convinced" that Klein truly intended to leave. His remarks, on the John Gambling radio show this morning, described the search process: Anybody that comes in wants to have a chance to really get up to speed and make a difference and stick with that difference and implement it and show that it works earlier rather than later. And we'd been talking about it for months, and I've been looking — at the beginning I wasn't sure he [Klein] was serious, but slowly as I became convinced he was, I started looking — and he and I together spent a lot of time finding the right person. The description follows a report in the New York Times that Klein himself only learned who his successor would be on Monday. Black told the New York Post this week that the mayor offered her the job after approaching her a "couple of weeks ago on a Monday." Black's account, as reported in the Post, suggested that the mayor offered her the job at their first meeting: "Monday the mayor called," she told me. "We know each other a long time. I didn't know what he wanted. He only told me this was a personal call and he wanted to meet. I couldn't exactly say, 'Sorry, Mr. Mayor, but I'm busy,' but the fact is I had back-to-back meetings at Hearst, so I said I couldn't today but could tomorrow.' "He said, 'How's 7 a.m. tomorrow?' I said, 'Fine.' We met in his foundation offices. The offer came out of left field, and my stomach did a flip-flop. The opportunity made me feel fantastic." In her Post interview, Black described meeting with Klein for an hour and a half.
New York

How much distance is there between Bloomberg and Klein?

The sign-off on the November 2002 letter in which Mayor Bloomberg hired Joel Klein as schools chancellor. There's an argument raised in Elissa Gootman's long-anticipated profile of Chancellor Joel Klein that deserves more reporting. That's the idea that Klein, though he was hired by Mayor Bloomberg and serves at the mayor's pleasure, is actually different from the mayor in terms of personality and policies. The most vociferous spokeswoman for this view is Randi Weingarten, who for several years now has been differentiating between Bloomberg, the good-guy pragmatist she can work with, and Klein, the ideologue who alienates teachers. She uses the distinction to illustrate a larger point she makes on the national stage, about the importance of finding a "third way" in which so-called reformers, who often criticize teachers unions, work collaboratively with unions to improve public schools. Weingarten's distinction became most prominent when the mayor announced he'd seek a third term. While many of the teachers, parents, and education advocates opposed to Bloomberg's school reforms were enraged by this possibility, Weingarten was softer on the mayor. She reserved her raised-voice fury for Klein. "The discussion on mayoral control has changed significantly with the prospect of Joel Klein being the chancellor for the next four years," she told me the next month, adding: I’ve heard a lot of debate and conversations about this, and it has actually changed the debate on mayoral control, when people think about who will be the chancellor for the next four years. And when they think it’s going to be Joel Klein as chancellor, I’ve heard lots of people talk about the need to have far more stringent checks and balances. But is there really much distance between Klein and Bloomberg? Maybe Bloomberg strikes a somewhat more conciliatory public persona, or at least is more polite during his meetings with Weingarten. But how does he act privately? Does he ever pull the reins on Klein's more radical proposals?
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