THE BLOG
12/10/2010 09:58 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

We Don't Need Leaders That Spit in the Face of Democracy

When I lived in Venezuela, I was inundated with polar opposite media coverage. State-controlled media lauded President Chavez's accomplishments while mainstream American and European media brandished him a caudillo, or political-military strongman, running an authoritarian regime. Today these Western media continue shouting that Chavez has undermined term-limit laws (term-limits were eliminated in 2009 referendum) and appointed unqualified cronies to critical political posts.

Fast forward to "maybe he'll run, maybe he won't" presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg was first elected New York City's mayor in 20001, then re-elected in 2005. In two referendums in the 90's, the public overwhelmingly supported a two-term limit for the mayor's office yet Bloomberg didn't let these referendums thwart his ambition. He pushed the City Council to extend the term-limits to three terms for elected city offices. He then opened his massive wallet, spending $102 million of his own fortune to barely purchase the 2009 NYC mayoral race - paying a price of about $174 per vote. Adding a further slap in the face of democracy, a referendum was placed on the 2010 ballot limiting these same offices to only two-terms, except for those already in office - an egregious grandfather clause designed solely to protect those already in office. The people again spoke clearly by passing this term-limit referendum, many unaware of City Council's grandfather clause trick.

Bloomberg has now anointed Cathleen Black to be chancellor of New York City's Department of Education. She has no background in education, but rather was the chairwoman of Hearst magazines. Bloomberg jammed this candidate down New York's throat with the minor concession that she will have an assistant that has some education experience. We've all heard the CEO analogy - top leaders are a special breed of human who can reinvent organizations without knowing any details so job-specific knowledge is irrelevant. This free-agent CEO myth always works well for the CEO, regardless of whether the company (or in this case, students) benefit.

Just like the head of FEMA should know something about emergencies, an education leader should know something about education. Surely there were highly qualified candidates with a success record in education that wanted to lead the educational system of America's largest city.

This appointment is nothing more than cronyism and should never be defended with pathetic analogies about the corporate world or arguments about the "value of being uncluttered with experience." As a product of the New York City public school system, I am painfully aware that the students need support, not for Mike to help out a friend.

When the rumors of Bloomberg's potential presidential run strengthen, please recall that in a democracy, democratic leaders need to believe that the power belongs to the people. An elected official that ignores public referendums and appoints unqualified cronies is many things, but a believer in democracy is not one of them. For those who support Bloomberg's presidential candidacy aspirations, I ask you, does America need another president that spits in the face of the populace? Hasn't our Constitution been stomped on enough?

Recently, a friend of mine who's never lived outside the US asked me, "What's it like living in corrupt, undemocratic countries?" I replied, "Let's take a walk to City Hall."