Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Success of Mayoral Control

The New York Times reports that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become obsessed with golf. He began playing shortly before becoming mayor and the article reports that his game really didn't improve much for a while. Mike scored over 1o0 most of the time, but his scores began to drop shortly after he became mayor. "These days, he still hits more bogeys than birdies, but Mr. Bloomberg now routinely shoots between 80 and 90, say those who play with him. “The improvement in his game is amazing,” said Mr. Donovan (a DA from Staten Island).

I decided to investigate this improvement in light of the similar advances in city ELA and math scores under the mayor's tenure. A source with close ties to the mayor, who requested anonimity mostly because he doesn't really exist, told me that after a particulary bad round in 2001, Bloomberg bought the links at which he regularly plays and declared it under mayoral control.

Shortly after, the mayor began implementing golf reforms that have improved his game tremendously. According to the source, some of the changes under mayoral control included:

  • Shrinking the dimensions of the course. Holes that had been 500 yards were shrunk to 500 feet. "Yards, feet--what the difference?" snapped the mayor, and because his caddy graduated from a city school he didn't know the answer.
  • Changing the rules. For example, the mayor implemented a no-peekie rule. After any shot, the mayor is allowed to yell "No Peekie!" and everyone has to close their eyes for ten seconds. "I can't even tell you how the No-Peekie rule has helped the mayor's game," said the source. "Balls that used to be in the sandtraps now end up in the middle of the green. It's uncanny."
  • Widening the holes. On some greens, the holes have been widened to such an extent that homeless families have been evicted from them.
  • Hiring caddies who have graduated thanks to "seat time". Since none of them can count to 100, Mike's scores rarely break triple digits anymore.

Of course, not everyone thinks mayoral control of the golf course is working. Diane Ravitch, who is a scratch player and who has won several major tourneys, questions the mayor's success. "If he makes the course any smaller, he'll be able to play 9 holes in a shoe box. We need national standards. If he played at Augusta National, I don't think he'd be shooting his current 65."

The mayor pooh poohs such concerns. "What matters is improvement in scores, and the data shows great improvement."

Arne Duncan, current secretary of education under Barack Obama, has called for these reforms to be implemented across the country. "Our country lags far behind small countries like Scotland in median par scores, and I think they mayor's far sighted thinking will once again make American number one."

Randi Weingarten, soon to be ex-president of the UFT, at first opposed mayoral control of golf, and then supported it by carrying the mayor's clubs for him.

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