(From NY DAILY NEWS, August 10, 2008)
By ADAM LISBERG
Mayor Bloomberg faces one final battle with Albany to define his political legacy – and his older daughter is preparing for the front lines.
Emma Bloomberg, 29, who worked on her father's first campaign and was later a $1-a-year employee on his staff, is part of the effort to keep control of city schools in the mayor's hands when the law authorizing it expires next summer.
Along with her colleagues at the Robin Hood Foundation, the anti-poverty charity where she works, she is trying to figure out how to persuade Albany lawmakers to approve it.
"We see mayoral accountability as one of the best poverty-fighting mechanisms in Robin Hood's two decades of existence," said Robin Hood head David Saltzman, pointing to better schools and higher graduation rates under Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
"We're in the very earliest, most preliminary stages of trying to figure out what to do," he said. "Emma is very much a part of Robin Hood's thinking on this."
The question is, how much should Emma Bloomberg be part of Mayor Bloomberg's thinking on this?
She is smart, plugged in, passionate and experienced in being part of a coalition to tackle an improbable task – like getting a novice billionaire elected mayor.
She is also a Bloomberg, facing Albany lawmakers who think her father still has no idea how to listen to other people. Under Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), they have been happy to swat down other big mayoral ideas, like a West Side stadium and congestion pricing.
"I'm not sure how he's going to get this through," said Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan). "The best people to lobby for this are probably [mayoral contenders] Anthony Weiner, Bill Thompson and Christine Quinn."
The mayor won control of schools in 2002 as a fresh face who made an ally of teachers union head Randi Weingarten. Today she and plenty of other New Yorkers worry that parents and teachers don't have enough say in city schools.
"My worry is that the politics there are going to end up hurting schools, if Shelly Silver makes this a political attack on Bloomberg," said Joe Williams, head of Democrats for Education Reform.
The mayor says this battle should be waged strictly on the merits – which in Albany is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Asked last week how he expects to win, he talked about earnestly convincing lawmakers. "We can only hope that the public gets together, along with the opinion leaders in this city, and gets them to do it," he said.
The public has real concerns and mixed feelings about the schools, though. Someone, like Emma Bloomberg, may be able to listen to them, quietly reach out to lawmakers and build a consensus to defend her father's reforms.
In other words, if Mayor Bloomberg wants to win, perhaps it's time to let others – including his daughter – lead the fight.