First Lady Chirlane McCray
GABRIELLE FIALKOFF IS SENIOR ADVISOR AND DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS
Mayor de Blasio: I’d first like to say it is such a special privilege for all of us to be here at the Osborne Association. They’ve been wonderful hosts today, very, very welcoming. It’s an extraordinary place, the history is very powerful. In 1912, Thomas Mott Osborne serving as the Mayor of Auburn, New York, inspired by a book he read, spent a week in an Auburn prison under the alias “Tom Brown.” And the cruelty he saw in that prison moved him to act. He returned to free society committed to transforming America’s prisons from “human scrap heaps into human repair shops.” And went on to become the warden at Sing Sing, where he helped transform the brutal and inhumane facility into a modern prison that acknowledged a life for its inmates behind its walls.
The Osborne Association was established in 1933 building on his legacy. And one of the many resources Osborne provides here in the Bronx is a program called Arches. It’s a program associated with the Young Men’s Initiative that receives support from the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. It’s really an exemplary program. Chirlane and I just spent time with some of the individuals who are part of this program, and it’s really wonderful to see the work that’s being done here, the great people that work at Osborne, and also the people that are serving, helping them to move their lives forward, helping them to build skills that will allow them to have a productive and consistent role in society going forward. Arches is administered by New York City’s Department of Probation, and it’s a group mentoring program that helps young probation clients transform their attitudes and behaviors—works on everything from job training to substance abuse counseling. This is the kind of partnership—the kind of holistic work—that changes people’s lives.
The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, by its very definition, brings together innovative community partners like Osborne with city agencies and the broader philanthropic world to powerful effect. It’s a model I’ve seen before firsthand, it’s a model that we had a variation on in the Office of the Public Advocate. Ours was called the Fund for Public Advocacy, and it created a scholarship for the DREAMers, the young people who are not being treated fairly under our immigration laws, that helped create a program to make sure that young people attain a GED, are given that opportunity and we partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the micro-lending organization “Actione” to do a ground breaking report on the state of immigrant owned businesses in New York City and the needs they had in terms of city policy going forward so they could thrive and create jobs. So the Fund for Public Advocacy was able to do a number of important projects connected directly to the goals we had in the Office of the Public Advocate. Well, the Mayor’s Fund will be approached in exactly the same manner. The Mayor’s Fund is empowered to build partnerships among government agencies and forward-thinking, community-based organizations as well as civic-minded individuals, companies and foundations. And the Mayor’s Fund truly has an impressive track record changing innovated multi agency efforts like the Young Men’s Initiative through to fruition.
We will be putting our own stamp on the Mayor’s Fund of course, focusing on our progressive values and our emphasis on outer-borough and immigrant communities, and our emphasis on the needs of children and families. That will all be part of what we prioritize, going forward with the Mayor’s Fund. And for us, in many ways, it is a response to the tight fiscal times we know loom ahead – it will be a time in which we have to make every tax dollar stretch further and have bigger impact so we can reach more families in need, and we know the Mayor’s Fund will be an important part of that work. While the Mayor’s Fund is going to be central to what we do, it’s going to allow us to get a lot more done, it’s going to allow us to further our core goals in a very powerful and innovative manner, and that therefore requires dynamic leadership. Let’s go over the characteristics of the individual I am looking for, someone with a familiarity not just with New York City government—she would have to have that—but also with the activists the civic groups and the people of our city. And also someone committed to lifting up all New Yorkers and creating a city where we all rise together.
Having considered that job description and the need for dynamic leadership, I am proud to say that our First Lady, Chirlane McCray, has agreed to take up the responsibility of Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. Now, I’ve told the story many times, Chirlane and I met in City Hall. We met serving in Mayor Dinkins’ administration. And she learned in that and many other experiences firsthand how government can make a real and lasting difference in the lives of everyday New Yorkers. She also has experience in the non-profit sector. She spent time working in the medical field at the Maimonides Medical Center. She’s been an activist for good and important causes, and she has another powerful perspective. For the last 14 years, she’s been a New York City public school parent, so she understands so much of the lives of the people in the city, and so much of the efforts that we make every day to try to improve people’s lives. And she understands what it takes to drive change, her entire life has been committed to progressive change, and she knows so well how to move forward a strategy of change. She certainly changed a lot of my bad habits into good habits too, I’d like to say. In my own household.
When it came to crafting our agenda and our vision over this past year, Chirlane’s voice and experience profoundly shaped our work. She knows our mission and our values better than anyone, because she has been one of the chief architects of our approach. This is, I want to emphasize, an unpaid, voluntary position. Chirlane is taking it up because she believes deeply in this work and this mission. It is my deep honor to introduce my best friend in the world, my closest confidante, my No.1 advisor, and my wife of almost 20 years, Chirlane McCray.
First Lady Chirlane McCray: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio.
Mayor: I don’t think you’ve ever called me that before.
First Lady: It is such an honor to be named Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. You may have to come over here Bill, and pinch me. I just can’t believe – I can’t believe you have given me this opportunity to serve the people of New York City. When we met 22 years ago in City Hall, I don’t think either one of us imagined that you would one day have a chance to make a difference in so many people’s lives. I’m so proud of you and very proud to take on this role. The more we talked about it over the last few weeks, the more I could see it was a good match for my abilities. So I’m going to say the three words that I know you love to hear from me: You were right.
Mayor: That’s on record. I want a tape of that please.
First Lady: The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City gives us the opportunity to continue working closely with the people we love, especially the people who could use an extra hand. If there is one thing I know from all our years together, it is that you and I are happiest when we are united behind a common cause. That’s our marriage, and that’s our partnership, and I thank you. I am excited about this appointment, because I know there’s so much that government working with the private sector can do to help our underserved communities and our families. And this belief is rooted in my own personal experience. I am a granddaughter of immigrants from Barbados and immigrants from the South. Neither one of my parents had a college degree. They were smart and hardworking – more than anything they wanted their children to have a better education and more opportunities than they had. They were remarkable people, but they couldn’t raise me on my own. When the school day or the week was over, I went to the Dunbar Community Center, the Girl’s Club, or the library. At the Springfield YMCA, I was a member of the swim team and the leaders corps. In fact, my first summer job was working there as a swim instructor and a lifeguard when I was 14. Those government-supported programs and the people who staff them helped to make me who I am today. And I have to say the same is true for our children. Bill and I have surrounded Chiara and Dante with love, but so many people and programs deserve credit for the wonderful young adults they have become.
First Lady: And so, an important part of our mission is to help other families get the support they need. I want them to have access to the kind of resources my family depended on because families – all kinds of families – need more support than ever. We will build on the fund’s strong foundation and work with board members and donors to create programs that reflect the progressive ideals of the de Blasio administration. Because for every seemingly intractable problem facing our city, there are innovative solutions, and New Yorkers are devoted to solving them. I am a passionate advocate of any effort that helps people get on the right track and stay there, like universal pre-kindergarten for our young children and conflict resolution for our teens. But I also refuse to give up on those who have fallen down and need help getting back on their feet. How many of us would want to be forever defined by our worst mistake?
That’s why programs like the Osbourne Association are so important. We have our work cut out for us, and I’m ready. I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and get out into the neighborhoods. There’s much to be done, and no time to waste. To those individuals, foundations, and corporations that have supported the Fund in the past, I thank you for your generosity and look forward to working with you in the future. And to those who are just learning about the Fund but share our vision of one New York rising together, I invite you to join us. Whether you have expertise to contribute, a few dollars, or many, many dollars, you will be an equal partner in helping us to create an even better New York City. Now I know the official name of the organization is the Mayor’s Fund, but it really is the People’s Fund. And I am excited because I know that together we can create one city that rises together. Thank you.
Mayor: Well. Our remarkable First Lady, who I think expressed her passion so powerfully just then about where she’s going to take the Mayor’s Fund and what it’s going to mean for the people of our city, she knows – she’s the ultimate believer in teamwork – she knows that for all this to be achieve, we’re going to need a great team. And Chirlane will have the greatest friend and ally in this work in the remarkable Gabrielle Fialkoff. And I want to thank Gabrielle’s family for joining us today for this wonderful gathering. Gabrielle will serve as Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships. In these roles, she will oversee and coordinate direct public partner – excuse me, and direct public-private partnerships for the administration with oversight and coordination of the Mayor’s Fund, as well as the Fund for Public Schools and the Fund for Public Health. So she’ll play a role in bringing together the work of these three important funds to help the people of our city.
Now, “public-private” is a great term to describe Gabrielle’s career. Her extensive experience in both government and the private sector will allow her to hit the ground running. Chirlane and I have known Gabrielle for almost 20 years. And I can say that we’ve walked through fire together. Gabrielle and I worked in a number of settings, including the fascinating and high-intensity 2000 Hillary Clinton U.S. Senate campaign – a situation that was as intense as one could possibly imagine, as historic as one could possibly imagine. And we worked all over the state together to try and help our state move forward. Gabrielle’s work in that pressure cooker was absolutely exemplary, and she won the respect of the then-First Lady and all of our colleagues. She’s an incredible entrepreneur as well. In the private sector, she’s shown the ability to make a company move to higher heights, and she understands the capacity and willingness of our private sector to invest to lift up others. Most recently, Gabrielle served as the Chairwoman of my Inaugural Committee, which put together that extraordinary series of events. I want to note, on Gabrielle’s watch, it did not snow on the day of the Inaugural. Perhaps her joining the Administration will augur a change in the weather patterns. She is someone who is used to working on the big stage and making things happen and we welcome her to the administration. Welcome, Gabrielle.
Special Advisor Gabrielle Fialkoff: Thank you. Good afternoon. I’d like to begin by thanking Mayor de Blasio and the First Lady for entrusting me with this very important responsibility. You could say I first began interviewing for this job back in 1996, when I first met the Mayor as a young campaign staffer. Mayor de Blasio was the campaign director, and he had a lot of questions for me. What did I bring to the table? What inspired me to join the team? And what was my vision for the job? I must have said the right things because he’s kept me around. I soon came to see the Mayor as a mentor, someone who always makes time for the people and causes he cares about, regardless of his busy life. And I also met the First Lady and learned the secret behind the Mayor’s superhuman productivity. He has a partner whose gifts perfectly compliment his own. I ended up working for the Mayor on three different occasions and volunteering on his behalf even longer. Thankfully, he only interrogated me that first time. But the questions he asked me back in 1996 were the right ones. And as I take on these new roles, I want to make sure New Yorkers know how I would answer those questions today.
First, what am I bringing to the table? It has been my privilege to work for two leaders who have done so much to help all New Yorkers achieve their full potential, Hillary Clinton and Bill de Blasio. Those experiences taught me how to manage complex operations and introduced me to a diverse network of progressive New Yorkers. I also know what it takes to build and grow a successful, sustainable business in New York City. I have spent the last 12 years in the private sector building a multi-faceted and multi-channel fashion company. Second question, what inspired me to join Mayor de Blasio and the First Lady’s team? The answer to that one is simple – I believe deeply in Mayor de Blasio’s vision of New York, where every man, woman and child has access to the resources they need to achieve their full potential. I have a 2-year-old daughter, and I couldn’t look her in the eye if I didn’t seize this opportunity to build a better New York for the next generation.
Last question, what is my vision for this job? First and foremost, I am committed to making sure the organizations I will be overseeing share a purpose and a vision and never lose sight of their overarching mission – fighting economic inequality and lifting all New Yorkers up together. At the Fund for Public Schools, we will help our youngest students develop the fundamental skills that lead to long term success. And we will work towards a tomorrow when every high school students leaves our system with the skills needed to build a better life. At the Fund for Public Health, we will build on the solid foundation left to us by the Bloomberg Administration and engage New Yorkers in leading even longer and more productive lives. And at the Mayor’s Fund, we will think strategically about how to leverage assets to support programs across agencies and bring the public and private together to aid all New Yorkers. It’s an ambitious agenda, but I have two very inspiring bosses and the most generous city in the world to rely on. Thank you.
Mayor: I just want to finish by saying – I wanted to give you a clearer sense our approach and our values here. You know, I want to thank, first of all, every individual, every company, every foundation that has previously supported the work of the Fund And we’re committed to broadening the Fund’s reach, both in terms of projects and supporters. So we want to build on a very strong foundation and go further. We believe in the power of this city’s non-profit community and civic organizations. And we obviously believe fundamentally in collaboration with the grassroots. To everyone who shares that vision for New York, the vision of one New York rising together, consider this as your formal invitation to join us. And you can learn more at nyc.gov/fund. Now, a moment of Español . Chirlane conoce nuestra misión y nuestros valores mejor que nadie. Gabrielle entiende la capacidad y voluntad de nuestro sector privado para invertir en ayudar a los demás. Juntos, estamos dedicados a ampliar el alcance del Fondo, en cuanto a sus proyectos y en cuanto a las personas y entidades que le brindan su apoyo. Now, with that, we’re going to do on-topic questions first, then we will go to off-topic. At the beginning of off-topic, I want to say something on a different matter and then we’ll take the off-topic. So, first, on this topic. Yes, Dave.
Question: [inaudible] people who say, well they voted for you, but they didn’t vote for Chirlane. Or should New Yorkers look at this as a modern day version of Bill and Hillary?
Mayor: Well, we are ourselves. And, you know, this is 2014, and we’re here in New York City and we’re two individuals who have a very, very long, loving partnership. So let’s define ourselves by ourselves. We have immense respect for President Clinton and Secretary Clinton. We know them well, we’ve worked closely with them, but we see ourselves as, you know, particular to this moment and this situation. I think the fact is that the people of this city have voted for these values, they voted for this vision, this direction, and what we’re doing is putting together a team that can achieve what we said we would do.
And I’ve said throughout the last year and beyond that the closest person to me in the world is Chirlane McCray. And she has been foundational to all we’ve done. And I thought it was very important that she play a role in actualizing this vision, and I think this is the perfect role in which she can do that. By the way, by agreeing to do this for free, she’s giving a great gift to the people of New York City. And I think people will receive it as such. So, I think we are putting together the strongest team possible that represents our values, represents the breadth of this city, and obviously, people who can effectively get things done, and Chirlane makes perfect sense in that team.
First Lady: My answer isn’t very different from the answer Bill already gave. We are clearly a partnership. We’ve been doing this work for a long time – 22 years. I campaigned with Bill. Campaigned without him, at my own events. And this is obviously a cause, it’s a platform that I am very committed to. So, taking on this position is really a continuation of this journey that we’ve been on together. And I just want to do the best job I can.
Mayor: Well, the first part – you know – and this mirrors the larger discussion we’ve had over the last year of my view of what happened in the previous 12 years. There are some things that I think Mayor Bloomberg did very well. Gabrielle referenced the public health policies – an approach we very much believe in the core of the approach that Mayor Bloomberg took. So there, you’re going to see a lot of continuity. With the Young Men’s Initiative, I think it’s a fantastic project, and we look forward to building upon it. So that’s something we absolutely intend to not only retain, but to build out further. So –
Mayor: I want to say that the people have spoken. Other questions. Questions, questions, questions. On-topic. Kate.
Question: [inaudible] current offices or new offices?
Mayor: It’s going to be housed at 253 Broadway, where it is now. And, you know, I think we’re going to mirror the kind of staffing that’s been there previously. Let me ask – do either one of you know the exact – eight? Eight people. There will be appointed soon a president who is the day-to-day chief operating officer for the fund. And they’re staffed to obviously do all the work of getting the programs to actually connect with the resources. But I can say, as Chair, the First Lady is going to have a huge amount of work to do – going out to all the partners, bringing in new partners, working on the ones that are there already and bringing in new ones, bringing in resources – something Gabrielle knows a thing or two about as well. And so, you know, the professional staff will help keep the day-to-day work happening, but the build out of this – both maintaining a lot of the initiatives that we believe in that are existent and building a number of new initiatives – is going to take a lot of time. And a lot of that is going to be outward – to the donors, to the organizations we want to partner with, and to the communities we want to serve. Jennifer-
Question: There’s been a lot of talk about the First Lady getting a City Hall office – I just want to know [inaudible] over now [inaudible]
Mayor: Yes. 253 Broadway.
Question: [inaudible] daily schedule for you like we get for Mayor de Blasio [inaudible]
Mayor: I think in public matters, yes. I think there are other matters that are a lady’s own business. Right?
First Lady: That’s right, dear.
Mayor: Thank you, honey.
Mayor: Yes. In her public work, yes.
Question: [inaudible] search [inaudible]
Mayor: I posted it in the hallway of our second floor.
Mayor: I got one applicant – she seemed very strong. I interviewed her.
Question: [inaudible] others considered or [inaudible]
Mayor: No. I think – look, this is something both very personal and intrinsic to what we’re trying to achieve. You know, I think when you think about this fund, what it does, and the role of chair – and certainly you can look at parallels in the past – this had to be someone who was as close to the core of what we’re all about as humanly possible. And I think we can safely say that no one could compete with Chirlane McCray on that particular score. So, she was the right lady for the job. On this topic. Rich –
Question: Mayor, did you ever envision a day when someone in your family would work for the city [inaudible] Mayor Bloomberg?
Mayor: Well, that’s an interesting framing of a question, Rich. I don’t think we envisioned it, as we’ve talked about many times. And I don’t think – and Gabrielle just referenced – I don’t think we all, over the years, saw this particular path coming. And it’s an extraordinary thing that we’re experiencing, and we hope that people in this city know with every fiber of our being we’re working every single day to achieve this agenda we’ve put forward. But I think, you know, for Chirlane and I – we believe in our partnership. And it’s very important to us – humanly as well as in terms of our values – to act on our partnership, that this is a particular way that we get to do it. And I know – well, let’s face it – I know that when she reaches out to people to get them involved with the fund, there could be no greater ambassador and, you know, people will understand how much I value and how much the administration values the work of the fund, given that the First Lady is the chair.
Question: [inaudible] worked for free [inaudible]?
Mayor: No. Well, that was – we went to the Conflict of Interest Board from the beginning, as we do with anything like this. And we presented it as the intention to work for free. We assumed that both, as a matter of law and a matter of our values, that that was the right thing to do and they confirmed – of course members of the Bloomberg family had done the same thing and that it was the right thing to do. Yes.
Question: You’ve spoken frequently about your wife being your closest advisor and, as she said, she’s been involved with other issues, for instance the pre-kindergarten push and narrating a video and [inaudible]. Will that continue [inaudible]?
Mayor: Yes. Well, I mean the pre-kindergarten effort, as you know, is our number one initiative, and Chirlane’s already been deeply involved, and she’ll continue to be involved. Remember, she is taking on the role of Chair of the Mayor’s Fund, and she also has a variety of roles associated with being First Lady – a number of things that she’s going to do as First Lady, many times representing me on a variety of issues, a variety of events – but the UPK effort is something we’re all involved in deeply. So you’ll see a lot of her energy going in that direction.
Question: [inaudible] any more official capacity being added to [inaudible]?
Mayor: She already has a lot of capacities. I think between the work of First Lady – and there’s a lot of pieces to that – Chair of the Mayor’s Fund, and debate partner to Dante de Blasio, I think she has a lot of things on her plate and that will keep her very, very, very busy. But I think the central point is, these are two roles but what is true of both roles – First Lady and Chair of the Mayor’s Fund – is they’re both connected to our core agenda.
Question: My question is for both of you. As the First Lady goes about her [inaudible], there might be times when [inaudible] administration disagrees with the First Lady. Are there any steps that both of you are taking so that – make sure that people feel comfortable that they can disagree with the First Lady or have an opportunity to share those views with you – that they’re not just, you know, penalized because –
Mayor: I think first of all – you talked about the larger public. I would say New Yorkers don’t have a lot of trouble disagreeing. The general rule – I think – I think people are perfectly blunt in this town, and I think people who have any disagreement with Chirlane or I about any policy or anything we’re doing will — we’ll hear about it, and we do all the time. If you’re talking about more internally, I would simply say this is a variation on what was experienced over the last year and more.
Chirlane’s been deeply involved in everything I’ve done. And because it’s a partnership, you know – just like my colleagues will tell me when they disagree with me, because we create that kind of atmosphere where there can be an open discussion. I’m sure they will do the same with Chirlane, and they’ll do the same to both of us together on different issues. I have a leading expert here from the last 18 years – the – I could make a long list of times that Gabrielle has raised things that she disagreed with me on, and we worked them out as professionals because that’s what professionals do. We want great people who are going to be critical thinkers. So, I think it’s already a part of our reality and I think people will feel comfortable raising any concerns.
Mayor: I think like every part of government – you know, I think about anything else that we do. I think about all the city agencies. I choose people I think are the right people for the job, and by definition respect their judgment. If I disagree, it’s something we talk through. But the broad template is very consistent. You choose people you think already have your values, and you empower them to get the job done. And then in human life there will be disagreements, and everyone comes to the table and works it through. So I don’t think it’ll be particularly mysterious. Yes?
Question: Mr. Mayor, Michael Bloomberg helped on the Young Men’s Initiative [inaudible] a huge part of it, actually. Have you planned [inaudible]?
Mayor: Well, again, I’ll start and if either one of you wants to join in, feel free. I think there’s a lot of organizations in this town, companies, individuals, who want to further this mission, at every level. If the central thing we came here to do was to address inequality, to address the affordability crisis, to try to create a more just city, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to, from the foundation world, the business community, those who happen to be private donors, who believe in this mission or believe in particular parts of it very personally and want to support it. So I think we’ll have ample partners in this endeavor. It’s a different model. By the way, I – let me offer a clarification for everyone here – Michael Bloomberg, as a mayor, was not typical. Most of our mayors did not have $25 billion dollars. So the typical mayor or governor anywhere in the country – if someone doesn’t necessarily have a lot of money – has to build support for their initiatives from a lot of different sources. And there’s plenty of models. We certainly saw it with the Fund for Public Advocacy. We put together an idea, and we developed support for it. It’s a very entrepreneurial exercise. Chirlane’s a very persuasive person. It’s going to take a lot of persuasion and a lot of shoe leather to get the kind of coalitions together to achieve things. Gabrielle is an extraordinarily effective person. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to pull together the resources. It’s not the same as me writing a check, but we will get it done. Yes?
Question: Question for the First Lady, taking on this new role opens you up to more scrutiny. You know, how are you feeling about it going into this new position.
First Lady: I don’t have anything to hide.
Mayor: Last question on this topic, yes?
Question: OK, commissioner – and also the First Lady – what are the – did you answer a question earlier about whether or not [inaudible] approach Mayor Bloomberg about why [inaudible] money to the Mayor’s Fund. And I was wondering if your previous [inaudible] and past relationships with him would have an impact on it?
Mayor: I think there’s a lot of areas where I agree with the Mayor, and a lot of areas where I disagree with him. Obviously in the last days I signed onto his – I think extraordinary and appropriate effort to work on issues of gun control in this country. I just mentioned the public health areas. I know a lot of you – I’ve many times mentioned a lot of the environmental areas where I agree with him. I’m sure he’s watching the things that we’re doing and what we’re focused on. And if he reaches out to me at any point, we’ll be very open to having that conversation. If I see something that I think is a particularly good way to work together, I’ll reach out to him. And I think there’ll be a very productive, professional spirit to those conversations. But the answer to your core questions is, there is no immediate plan or specific plan for that.
All right, let’s go to off-topic, but let me do a little statement up front. I’d like to give you an audio-visual aid, this is from yesterday. We did a press conference on the storm situation and the list of people who were at the press conference we did before a lot of you, before a lot of cameras. About the storm situation where I talked about our response to the storm, people like First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris, Chancellor Carmen Fariña, OEM Commissioner Joe Bruno, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty. We went back and looked at that press conference to make sure none of us had sudden amnesia. So, I just wanted to say very clearly, the story in the New York Times today was patently inaccurate and unfair. I have immense respect for John Doherty. I asked John Doherty to stay on to help this city. I think it was a selfless act on his part. He did not need to stick around. I said, ‘Would you stick around and help us deal with an oncoming snow season?’ That’s not a fun and easy job. And he has served with great distinction for many years, and he continues to. And we all have our moments along the way, my dear friends, and we’ll have our agreements and disagreements. But I do ask you for accuracy. And if you ever want to check the facts, we’re really available, Phil Walzak and a lot of other people. But don’t tell me what I said and didn’t say in a case like this. I acknowledged John Doherty up front in that press conference. I praised the work of all the agencies present. And I do respect him, and I respect the men and women who work for him. So any effort to put down a good public servant who is doing his job with inaccurate reporting, I reject. I just wanted to make that clear. With that, we welcome off-topic questions. Rafael?
Question: Yes, the state Attorney General began investigating once again the Puerto Rican Day Parade. It seems that you won’t be marching [inaudible] on the [inaudible] anything wrong, of [inaudible]. Will you march in the parade?
Mayor: It’s apples and oranges. First of all, I have a lot of respect for the Attorney General. As everyone knows, I’ve worked very, very closely with him. Second – you know, if he perceives there to be a problem, he should investigate. I’m sure he will do the investigation in a very professional manner and come forward with the results when he has it. If individuals associated with an event did something illegal, we don’t assume the entire event is illegal. That’s about individual actions. I think he’s made clear that’s what it’s about. What’s happening with St. Patrick’s Parade is a pattern of discrimination and bias that has been going on for over two decades. It’s unconscionable; it should have ended a long time ago. And I’m not going to march in a parade that does not allow members of our LGBT community to identify who they are. I’m just not going to do it.
Question: Governor Cuomo said that he [inaudible]
Mayor: The current city approach to pre-K includes some parochial schools, both Jewish and Catholic, some charter schools through affiliated organizations. Current state law does not allow a charter school per say, but – I used the example the other day, the Harlem Children’s Zone has an affiliated organization that provides programming. So what we’ve said is we will continue that current approach as we build out pre-K. So the answer is yes. Yes?
Question: Mayor de Blasio, [inaudible] do you plan on bringing teachers back in the classroom, and have you talked to the union about it?
Mayor: I have not talked to the union about it. Obviously it was – let me just clarify, last year it was an issue in union forums, but I have not had a specific conversation since becoming mayor. The DOE does not have a specific plan yet. I don’t think the reporting captured that accurately. The DOE has to look at the issue. It’s a very big issue, but there’s not a specific plan of action. And if there were such a plan, it’s something I would approve. Yes, Melissa?
Question: Mr. Mayor, do you still think [inaudible] a group of Hispanic elected officials and [inaudible] voting about the moratorium on charter [inaudible] having their school continued [inaudible] about their future and whether or not [inaudible]?
Mayor: First of all, I want to rephrase a little bit here. The moratorium is on school closures and co-locations. It’s not a moratorium on charter schools because we have a lot of charters right now. So I just want to make sure we’re all speaking the same language. We have a –
Mayor: Yeah, but let’s start at the beginning. A charter can move forward without a co-location. A charter can move forward without a school closure. There are charters here and all over the country that operate stand-alone in their own buildings. So the fact is, I’ve said – I think in a lot of different ways, let’s separate the pieces. Charters now serve about 5 percent of our kids in public school. That’s important. And we care about those kids and we’re willing to work with the charters that fulfill our standards. We want charters to serve every kind of child. We want them to mirror the populations of the districts they’re in, the same rough percentages of English-language learners and kids with special needs. We want charters to be held to high standards like we do all our schools. We don’t want any double standards that favor charters over traditional public schools. There was such a double standard in the previous administration. We won’t accept it. We don’t want political favoritism determining the course for certain charters. There was such favoritism in the previous administration. I’ve said it frequently.
So we will work with the charters that live by the standards that we’re talking about, which are pretty universal. The same standards we hold our district schools to – and there are some very good charters doing that right now. There are even some charters that are surpassing the percentages of a district school in terms of some kids’ particular needs. When it comes to the rent issue, equally we’ve said, a charter that is part of a structure that has tremendous resources – and there are some – we will ask rent like cities and states do all over the country. All over the country. It’s the norm in many parts of the country. But I went a step further and said that those charters that don’t have the particularly substantial resources, we’re not going to ask for rent. And that’s a policy we will formalize in the coming months. So, I don’t want the pieces all to be blended together unfairly. For kids in charters now that are doing well, we’re going to be there with them every step of the way. With kids in charters that are not doing what they should do, we’re going to push them to do better. For kids in charters that are going start up – stand-alone within the existing cap, there’s a pathway for them. And at some point, we will resolve the question of co-locations and the closures by coming up with a better approach, and then that’ll be the time for a new discussion. But – there’s a lot of moving parts. We do care about those kids implicitly. Lastly, we care about those kids so much, we want to make sure that the schools that serve 95 percent of our kids become consistently better. That’s how we exemplify caring about those kids – not having a dynamic where kids have to run from our traditional public schools. That’s unacceptable. It’s not a situation I would be comfortable with. We have to create a dynamic where our schools are moving forward together. That’s why we need full day pre-K for every child. And that will lift up the whole school system. And that’s why we need after school for every middle school child, that’s why we have to get away from over-focus on standardized testing. There’s a series of things we’re going to do to start to focus better on the 95 percent.
Phil: One or two more, guys.
Mayor: In the back, Bobby?
Question: With the trouble in Queens, [inaudible] –
Mayor: A couple things, these cases affect me very personally as a parent, and I cannot ever hear these reports and not feel something very strongly. So I’m deeply disturbed that we lost two children. And – there’s going to be a full investigation of each case, and as we have the details, we’ll provide them. There’s going to be an examination of which – of what each case tells us, in terms of potential changes. But further, there’s going to be a much deeper review of the policies and practices at ACS. We’re going to take a very deep look and come back to the public with a vision of how we move forward. But I cannot accept the death of any child, and we have to make sure we’re doing everything possible to protect our children.
Question: Mr. Mayor, some folks were wondering whether or not you’re going to reach out directly to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade [inaudible]?
Mayor: Consider it, yes. I do not have a plan to, because I don’t know what would be most effective, is the honest truth. If that would be effective, if such a dialogue could help to open up a possible way forward, I’d be very open to it. I can’t accept the current discriminatory dynamic. By the way, in Queens, you have a St. Patrick’s Day parade for all that celebrates the tremendous Irish heritage of this city, but is inclusive of all in a very open manner. And I said the other day, I’m going to go all over the city celebrating Irish culture and Irish heritage, and I’ll participate in any event that’s truly open to all. But an event that’s exclusionary, I won’t be a part of. But if you – if it turns out that there is a possibility for a real dialogue for a long-term solution – I’d be very open to being a part of that. Thank you, everyone.