Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Audacity of Hubris (and Money)

It all seems so innocent, so generously charming. A young woman named Jessica Tisch, doubtless a hardworking, upwardly-striving, small town coed identified only as “a law and business student,” is granted the honor of a guest editorial in the New York Post. In her opinion piece, ever-so-colloquially titled “Mike and Term Limits” (we all smile at the unabashed forwardness of youth), young Ms. Tisch argues enthusiastically in favor of allowing NYC voters to decide if they want to overturn the current term limit rules in the City Charter so our beloved Mayor Bloomberg can run for a third term.

Who is this honoree, the recipient of such public opinion largesse from a major metropolitan newspaper? Just fifteen seconds’ worth of Google search and reading reveals the likely answer almost immediately: Jessica Sarah Tisch, Harvard graduate and (as of November, 2006) a student at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law, daughter of Merryl and James S. Tisch. Yes, the same James Tisch who is president of Loews Corporation (passed down to him by his father Laurence A. Tisch, and uncle, Preston Tisch). The same James Tisch who can be found listed as a member of the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee, Romney for President, and John McCain 2008 (Mr. Tisch is clearly a man of abiding political convictions.) The same James Tisch who serves as a Director of the unreservedly Mayor Mike-supporting Partnership for New York City, the organization that provides private (corporate) funding for DOE initiatives that would never past muster in the City Council or with voters were they ever actually voted upon as expenditures of public funds.

Ms. Tisch fille offers as her main argument for NYC voters re-deciding the term limits legislation that this particular charter revision is now all of twelve years old. “Much, after all, has happened since then,” she posits with the compelling argumentative force of a Harvard Law School student/graduate. Maybe the voters feel differently now, she suggests.

Is Ms. Tisch only concerned about Mayoral term limits, and if so, why just the Mayor? Should her sense of unrestricted public service not include the City Comptroller, the Public Advocate, and the City Council? If not, why not? While we’re at it, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution (universal suffrage) was adopted in 1920. Certainly, much has changed since then. Is it not time for voters to re-assess this as well? How about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or the Title IX legislation of 1972 equalizing federal expenditures for educational programs and activities between men and women? If a decade is enough for a do-over, what should we say to 50-100 year old legislation?

Another of Ms. Tisch’s arguments concerns Mayor Bloomberg’s unarguable success at, among other things, having “improved schools.” Doubtless Ms. Tisch never came closer to a NYC public school than being chauffeured past one (although her mother, Merryl, is a member of the NYS Board of Regents), so it is difficult to imagine her bona fides for taking an informed position on Mayor Bloomberg's efforts with respect to the City's public schools.

Whether expressing opinions of her own or not, Ms. Tisch’s presence as an editorialist certainly gives the impression of shilling for her father’s business interests if not those of the corporate collective that comprises the New York City Partnership. The Post’s patently disingenuous effort to present Ms. Tisch as just some random, average student expressing a young person’s idealistic worldview only compounds the offensiveness of the conflict of interest they are abetting. Forget about political term limits – are there no limits to “shameful?”

An honest disclosure of Ms. Tisch’s family connections would have at least allowed readers to make their own fully-informed judgments about both the merits and the motivations of her message. Then again, perhaps full and accurate information is exactly what the NY Post editors most do not want their readers to have. There wouldn’t be anything new in that now, would there?

Would that the Post (or the Daily News or Times) ever give equal time and space to an actual student or recent graduate of a NYC public school who could speak from the heart - and from first-hand experience - about how Mayor Bloomberg's eight years has changed his or her life. It would be nice to hear from a young, non-white, non-upper class person writing about "life under Mike," rather than reading the opinions of someone who doubtless aspires mostly to “be like Mike.” And I don’t mean Jordan, either.

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