Sunday, June 6, 2021

Mayoral Campaign -- Garcia Rises, Stringer Gets Hit Again, Morales Drama, Part 4 - Top aide jumps to Wiley, AOC And Bowman endorse , Turmoil is ‘Déjà Vu’ for Some Ex-Staff, Was Morales knifed in the back?

The Mayoral race is looking like the Belmont. A long mile and a half to go. Am I going to get canceled for comparing the candidates to horses? With Wiley taking a great leap, I expected some quick hit on her. And sure enough:

Lee Fang

Maya Wiley, the NYC mayoral candidate who wants to cut $1 billion per year from police, pays for private security on her block in upscale Prospect Park South. A neighbor recounted her demands for more aggressive NYPD policing after her partner was mugged.

This will be front page of the NY Post. But actually, Lee Fang misrepresents what the article was saying --- but Wiley will also have to respond and it will be a tough ride as she tries to thread a police reform needle.


Garcia is a sudden convert to the cause of charter schools, which have become, over the last two decades, emblems of the neoliberal project.... Garcia had no history discussing any kind of education issues before this mayoral race. She’s made it clear, thanks either to her genuine belief in charters or her awareness that rich people who support charters will donate to local campaigns, that’s where she stands now.... The editorial board[NYT] , which prides itself on its liberalism, did not seem to know or care that Garcia’s views on housing are not very different than Bloomberg’s—or even Adams or Yang’s, for that matter. Voters who take their cues from the Times may not care either. .... Ross Barkan,

Garcia/Wiley rising, Yang/Stringer/Morales falling.

There are a few election lanes - the left/progressive with Wiley seizing control as Stringer/Morales fall, the right with Adams/Yang and the neo-liberal right-center with Garcia whom the NYT and Daily News endorsed. Reminder to Trumpies: The NYT is NOT LEFT. The business community apparently now sees Yang as a joke, incapable of managing this city. Capable management is at the top rung now which is helping Garcia and even keeping Stringer alive -- even from the business community which sees him as taking a progressive lane for this election and would move center if he wins. 

Ross points to Garcia on housing, which as we saw with Bloomberg who built built built often half empty housing while ignoring infrastructure to go with it, allowing public housing to go under in the hope that unliveable conditions will drive people to move to Florida, will make the city even more affordable and when there are no people, there is no commerce. Bloomberg is a major cause of homelessness and the city housing crisis.

Someone [Garcia] who believes landlords with millions of dollars in equity experience struggles similar to what tenants, many paying most of their income to rent, endure is not going to side with the working class. Garcia is a Park Slope home-owner, which likely makes her a millionaire on paper. The suffering of a city tenant isn’t something she can possibly know. And it’s not clear she wants to know it. It’s a myth that small, hard-working landlords control most of the housing stock in the five boroughs. They are not lavishly funding the Real Estate Board of New York.

Mulgrew ignores Garcia threat

It was interesting that the left and center occupied by Mulgrew have told people not to rank Yang or Adams but do not include Garcia who may echo Bloomberg more than anyone. Tell me again, which side is the UFT leadership really on when it ignores Garcia on the charter cap?

Ross Barkan:

For all the revolutions in politics today—the rise of the democratic socialists, the ascendance of AOC—the neoliberal approach, in municipal politics at least, has not left us. As predicted in the 1970s, CUNY never would be tuition-free again. The stock transfer tax, effectively ended in 1981, would not come back. The massive affordable housing projects of midcentury and earlier—Parkchester, Electchester, the Coops, Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, the vast tracts of NYCHA housing—would be no more, replaced with market-rate development that would, from time to time, parcel out units to a few middle-class residents.
Barkan digs deeper than we've seen on Garcia - who in some ways is an empty vessel too - moving her politics to where the money is:
[Garcia's] platform has several progressive proposals.... But there is another Garcia, a truer Garcia—a manager, a technocrat, a neoliberal skeptical of the most fundamental safeguards against the violence of the free-market in a city that is chasing out its working class and poor. She doesn’t hide this, exactly—she’s a blunt person—but it comes out only with enough prodding. Garcia is a sudden convert to the cause of charter schools, which have become, over the last two decades, emblems of the neoliberal project. If government-run education is said to be failing, why not have the public pay for private schools and circumvent those nasty teachers’ unions? Charter schools did not exist in New York for almost the entirety of the 20th century. Now, we’ve been conditioned to believe that a school system can’t function without them. Yang and Adams are supporters of charters too, and the left-wing Dianne Morales actually founded one. Garcia had no history discussing any kind of education issues before this mayoral race. She’s made it clear, thanks either to her genuine belief in charters or her awareness that rich people who support charters will donate to local campaigns, that’s where she stands now.

Morales dramedy continues, as former employees are pro and con

The Morales dramedy continues to resonate as some top Morales people defected to Wiley so quickly, some are thinking conspiracy.  Dianne Morales’ NYC Mayoral Campaign Turmoil is ‘Déjà Vu’ for Some Ex-Staff - THE CITY

THE CITY spoke to more than a dozen of Morales’ former staffers about their experiences at Phipps under her. Most wished to remain anonymous so they could speak freely without professional consequences. The people broadly fell into two camps: those who had been working at Phipps before Morales took over and detailed how she fostered a work environment rife with anxiety and mistrust, and those who praised what they called her inspiring, visionary leadership. The latter camp was made up overwhelmingly of employees she hired. ‘[It was] like the cult of Dianne.’ Overall, all the former employees agreed: Morales was charismatic, extremely smart and fiercely loyal to her people....
The progressive Democrat’s current woes reflect past management issues, some ex-employees said, while others defended her as a strong leader. Morales charges she’s being undermined, but is “managing the disruption.”

Here are parts 1-3 where I pin some of the blame people connected to DSA. Ross Barkan led the "Morales is a faux leftist campaign." Part 3 digs deep --

There is no question that the implosion of the Morales campaign and the second charge against Scott Stringer, this one 30 years later - I know, I know, sometimes things need to marinate - have boosted Wiley to the top of the progressives. And yesterday with the endorsements of AOC and Bowman (both of whom had pulled their Stringer endorsements) Wiley now has an unencumbered progressive lane since even of people vote for Stringer or Morales I can see Wiley will be in the top 4 and will get the votes of progressives as they drop off, though according to Barkan, Garcia is fooling enough progressives to deny Wiley. (I was sort of shocked to see some lefty teacher friends choose Wiley and Garcia and some Wiley and Adams -- like the hard left NY State Nurses (NYSNA). A head scratcher.

I think Yang has crested and you see that the business community is not interested in him. The leader is still Adams and I'm going to bet that going into the final week it will be Adams, Garcia and Wiley maybe pulling even with Yang - a sort of right, center and left lineup. I might have actually ranked Garcia if she didn't take the strongest pro-charter stance of them all and joined parents who were demanding schools be open no matter what.

If Wiley starts rising quickly in the polls, I expect somewhere, some way a political hit on her -- some kid she knew in 6th grade will accuse her of grabbing his balls.

More historical perspective from Ross Barkan:

Since 1975, every mayor of New York City has been something of a neoliberal. These men may have varied by party or vision—a couple hewing left while others took a more ruthless approach—but all ultimately governed under the constraints foisted upon them by the era we still live in today. The difference between the left-leaning Democrats (David Dinkins and Bill de Blasio) and the oligarch-friendly Republicans (Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg) could only be so dramatic when a certain segment of the power elite was determining the course of events...The social democratic era, buoyed by New Deal largesse under Fiorello La Guardia and continuing through a number of liberal Republican and Democratic mayors, abruptly came to a halt when the city nearly went bankrupt. The crisis mattered because it would reorder the city’s politics indefinitely: instead of expanding the social safety net and creating new services for the working class and poor, the new aim of the modern city would be to make it as attractive as possible to capital. Economic growth would be the new religion, with tax breaks showered on wealthy men like Donald Trump....

Some sidelights

I was out with a bunch of old colleagues and one of them was ranting against teachers in general and claimed gold-bricking -- that they just didn't want to go into work and should have been made to and fired if they didn't. A former chapter leader, yet. Oy! There's troubling times ahead

Stringer probably did something. Men are sleaze, me included.
Did he pat the ass of an 18 year old waitress working for him when he was 32 and then sort of ask her out and plant unwanted kisses which she rejected - I think that is very possible. Look, I'm even older than boomers and guys used to be told that girls had to reject you at least once - or more - to appear pure. Today is my 50th anniversary and I'm thinking back to our first date almost 53 years ago when we made out on Campus road behind Brooklyn College. I asked her if she told me NO on the first move I made --- which was so inept, I'm surprised we lasted that evening.

Below is the full City article:

For more than a week, Dianne Morales’ mayoral campaign has been steeped in turmoil, with multiple staff departures, a unionization movement and a work stoppage amid complaints of poor pay and a toxic work environment.

Morales, in an interview with NY1 last week, called the situation “a beautiful mess.”

But a former staff member at Phipps Neighborhoods, a social service nonprofit Morales ran for a decade, used another phrase: “It’s déjà vu.”

Although Morales, her campaign staff and union members have provided scant details about the internal strife, reports have resonated with some of her ex-colleagues, especially those who worked at Phipps when she took over as CEO in 2010.

THE CITY spoke to more than a dozen of Morales’ former staffers about their experiences at Phipps under her. Most wished to remain anonymous so they could speak freely without professional consequences.

The people broadly fell into two camps: those who had been working at Phipps before Morales took over and detailed how she fostered a work environment rife with anxiety and mistrust, and those who praised what they called her inspiring, visionary leadership. The latter camp was made up overwhelmingly of employees she hired.

Overall, all the former employees agreed: Morales was charismatic, extremely smart and fiercely loyal to her people.

But, as one former staff member put it: “It’s obvious. I’m not one of her people…. [It was] like the cult of Dianne.”

Another said: “If you were in, you were really in and if you were out, you were really out.”

In an interview Tuesday with THE CITY, Morales suggested that some rogue staffers have tried to undermine her mayoral campaign. Addressing mixed reviews about her tenure at Phipps and how she’s handled the campaign shake-ups, Morales defended her leadership style.

“This is also a reflection of what every seasoned manager and executive has had to deal with, in at least one point in their career: managing the disruption of a group of staff, while managing staff that continue to do the work, while also focusing on the overall mission, which is to run this campaign,” Morales said.

Change-Making Challenges

Some former Phipps employees said they experienced a dynamic similar to the upheaval buffeting the mayoral campaign, which promised a radical, more equitable transformation of New York City and has been set off course by conflicts with Morales’ own workers.

“I realized how a person can undermine their goals by how they interact with people,” a former Phipps staffer said of Morales, referring to when she took over the nonprofit’s helm. “No matter how much you may need those changes and how good those changes may be, if you’re pissing off the people that you’re expecting to make those changes, it’ll be a slower change process, and you’ll get people bucking.”

Morales spent the longest stretch of her career, according to her LinkedIn, leading nearly 600 employees at Phipps Neighborhoods, the social services arm of affordable housing developer Phipps Housing that administers offerings like afterschool programs and job training.

According to tax filings, she brought home over $270,000 in annual compensation by the end of her time at Phipps — more than the $245,000 her campaign spent on staff wages through May 17.

A relative political unknown until recently, Morales has gained recognition as the furthest left mayoral candidate with stances that include shifting $3 billion from the NYPD to social services, eliminating public schools admissions screens and offering free tuition at CUNY schools.

She’s notched endorsements from the Working Families Party, Sunrise Movement and Citizen Action of New York, among others.

But her momentum slowed with the emergence of her campaign staff’s allegations of harassment, mistreatment based on race, lack of field support and inadequate compensation. Some staff launched a unionizing effort, saying they “felt there was no other path forward to protect our staff and to continue the campaign in dignity.”

Morales dismissed two campaign staffers accused of misconduct — including Amanda Van Kessel, who had worked as her special assistant for two years at Phipps Neighborhoods. Van Kessel did not respond to a request for comment.

Workers Unite to Fight

But that wasn’t the end: A group of campaign workers involved in the so-called Mayorales Union subsequently began a strike and protested what they say was the retaliatory firing mid last week of four additional staffers who had taken on union leadership roles. They demanded Morales re-hire the four staffers, among other provisions.

Morales said she supports the union effort and that when she fired the four, she didn’t know they were union leaders.

“There have been allegations of political union busting as a result of the terminations that happened last week. Just to be clear, one thing had nothing to do with the other,” Morales said. She added that the workers were let go because of “pretty serious infractions,” but declined to elaborate.

Morales indicated she may be open to reinstating the quartet if there’s an “agreement and understanding” they can work together towards shared goals.

But she charged that additional campaign staff “have actually engaged in illegal behavior that has been disruptive and essentially undermines the campaign” — including removing items from her calendar without her say, making documents inaccessible to her and using campaign data without consent.

Those staff, she said, “are not going to be welcomed back no matter what happens as a result of this organizing process.”

Pressed on whether that meant the campaign can expect more firings, she said: “People are free to sort of separate of their own accord, which I think would probably be the best case scenario.”

She emphasized that the union effort didn’t include everyone on the campaign, and some were still working rather than participating in the work stoppage.

Culture Shift at Phipps

Employees interviewed by THE CITY who worked at Phipps when Morales took over in 2010 described the new executive coming in with a vision — one, they said, that was not informed by discussions with staff who had worked there for years.

Three former Phipps staff said Morales entered Phipps distrustful of and threatened by those whom she didn’t hire.

“All of these changes and getting rid of people was so abrupt and so quick that it couldn’t possibly have been based on an assessment of the actual quality of the person’s work because there wasn’t even enough time to assess that,” one former longtime employee said.

Morales called the claims “absurd” and said she did not walk into a “friendly” environment.

“You try to rally people around a shared vision…but at some point when folks are unwilling to do that, they have to make a decision and the leader has to make a decision about how much more do you continue to try to convince people versus coaching them out,” she said.

Morales said she began investing in on-the-ground positions and tried to rectify what she saw as a “very top-heavy” organization.

One former colleague praised her for streamlining and integrating departments for better efficiency and incorporating data-driven accountability measures into programs.

“When you’re by the watercooler and you’re talking with your other colleagues...a lot of what people were pointing to was not her intelligence, or her work ethic, or what she was trying to do,” that person said. “I think mostly it was just the way that she was doing it.”

People said they feared they’d get fired if they did or said anything Morales didn’t like. Multiple staffers described the environment as “scary” and “anxious.”

“When she said jump, you had to jump,” one former employee said.

In one case, when staff attended a mandatory meeting with a city agency that issued a contract, instead of a meeting with Morales, she was “furious,” suggesting the staff wasn’t committed to her, some former employees recalled.

Referring generally to criticism from former employees, Morales told THE CITY, This is just a reflection of management and leadership. There’s nothing about these sort of actions that are problematic, and it makes sense for people to have been unhappy about it. You don’t overcome poor performance by consensus.”

‘Lift As You Climb’

As time went on, Morales built a reputation among remaining Phipps staff as a strong and empathetic leader. A once-skeptical employee came to admire that goals discussed in meetings, for example, came to fruition.

Morales’ “vision was unshakable,” said Nancy Reidl, formerly Phipps’ director of development and communications, who started working at the nonprofit about two years into her tenure.

“She was always open to pushback, but was always very clear: ‘I’m the executive director so we can discuss it, and you can disagree with me, and you might convince me, but if you don’t convince me, I’m still the executive director,’” Reidl said.

Kate Ford, Morales’ chief of staff in the final two years she’d worked at Phipps, brought up the image of a cult leader in contrast to her boss’s style: “They just want to focus on their goals and have people who want to hear the cool story that they’re telling, but Dianne has lofty goals, and she wants to surround herself with people who will challenge her.”

Elizabeth Clay Roy, who worked at Phipps for five years as Morales’ chief of staff and chief strategy officer, said Morales recognized that healthy teams do good work: “Holding your team to high expectations, but also giving them the support to succeed is a part of how you get results consistently.’

An aphorism Morales became known for around the office in her later years at Phipps was “lift as you climb.”

Derison Puntier, for instance, who worked as a financial counselor at Phipps for about eight years under Morales, recalled how she helped him overcome his feelings of inadequacy and intimidation as he helped lead a financial literacy pilot program in partnership with a group of employees from a major investment banking company.

“She put faith in me, and that really helped me grow as a person, and it gave me more confidence,” he said.

Learning the Ropes

At regular intervals, to “lift as you climb” was literal. Morales took staff on retreats at a ropes course, where they did team-building exercises, navigated physical challenges and, in the words of one former employee, learned to have “healthy conflicts.”

With three weeks to go before the primary election, Morales’ campaign staff imbroglio presents a test of her ability as a manager as she relies on the same strategies employed in her previous jobs.

“My greatest legacy as an executive is actually strengthening the bench by building other people’s leadership skills,” Morales said.

“Certainly I will continue to manage and to lead in the ways that have proven successful over the course of my career, and that includes making tough decisions that sometimes are unpopular in the moment, but that ultimately lead to a stronger and better outcome,” she added.

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