Sandy Weill, Eliot Spitzer And The New York Stock Exchange

We have a high regard for Eliot Spitzer, our State Attorney General, but the recent flap over Sandy Weill’s nomination to the Board of Governors of the New York Stock Exchange is frankly preposterous and demonstrates that Mr. Spitzer does not have a clue regarding the business of the Stock Exchange or the professional range needed to be a governor representing shareholder interests.

Two weeks ago, the NYSE announced that Mr. Weill, the chairman and chief executive officer of Citigroup, was a nominee for election to its board, where he would represent the investing public. Mr. Spitzer immediately declared he would oppose the nomination. If Sandy Weill were found culpable as a result of the Attorney General’s recent investigation of Salomon Smith Barney, that would certainly disqualify him from a board seat, but he was personally exonerated. Indeed, it’s unrealistic to expect the C.E.O. of the world’s largest financial institution to be on top of every transgression that takes place. The Stock Exchange has been notorious over the years in putting old-boy network buddies on its board of governors. Now they had a chance to bring someone aboard with real qualifications.

As far as professional guidelines are concerned, Mr. Weill may be the best candidate around and perhaps the only one among present and past stock exchange governors who has an intimate knowledge of the issues of the small investor as well as a complete understanding of the machinations and problems of stockholders. Mr. Weill cut his teeth in the securities industry and for many years managed and brokered small investor accounts and directed and recruited stockbrokers who were and still are the most significant vehicle for small investor access throughout the country. We know of no other C.E.O. of a major financial institution who has had this kind of front-line experience.

Unfortunately it looks like investors will not reap the benefit of Mr. Weill’s experience: Because of Mr. Spitzer’s impulsive threats to wage a public battle over the nomination, Mr. Weill has withdrawn his name from consideration.

We know Eliot Spitzer has his eye on the Governor’s mansion, but the public interest would be better served if he confined his attacks to subjects he knows something about.

P.S. 20 Gets an A+

When confronted with the challenge of running a New York City public school, a principal has two choices: wait around for more federal funding, or plunge in with courage and creativity. At Public School 20 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the principal for the past 26 years has been Dr. Leonard Golubchick, and his school is a model of the heights to which a public school can rise.

P.S. 20 is one of the poorest schools in the country-99 percent of students are in the free lunch program and more than half do not speak English as their native language. But as The New York Times ‘ Michael Winerip reported, students at P.S. 20 have shown stunning improvement on state reading scores. In 1999, 27 percent of the school was reading at grade level; now it’s 51 percent. The arts are an integral part of the curriculum, as are computer skills: Students created PowerPoint presentations of new designs for the World Trade Center.

How does Dr. Golubchick do it? Instead of waiting for the money to come to him, he goes out and finds it, pursuing grants to hire extra teachers and substitutes. The teachers hired by Dr. Golubchick have high expectations for the students and as such are often the first adult ever to believe in them. The principal also pointed to reduced class size as crucial to the school’s success. “My philosophy is you can’t have a good education with 30 to 35 per classroom,” he told The Times .

Like many public schools in New York, P.S. 20 has benefited from a 1999 state program which devotes $140 million to reducing class size. Prior to the legislation, two-thirds of city kids in grades K-3 were in classes of more than 25; currently just one-quarter are. But Gov. George Pataki is killing the program to save money. While the Governor’s budget concerns are all too real, maintaining low class sizes for New York public-school kids allows brilliant educators like Dr. Golubchick to offer a future to thousands of children. It would be difficult to find $140 million that is being more wisely spent, or that is a better investment in the city’s future.

Pat Moynihan, New Yorker

He was born in Oklahoma 76 years ago, and he spent the most productive years of his career shuttling between his workplace in the nation’s capital and his upstate farm in Pindars Corners. And yet Daniel Patrick Moynihan was one of this city’s greatest champions in the 20th century.

Moynihan, the four-term U.S. Senator who died on March 26, neither looked nor talked like a character from Queens and Hell’s Kitchen. And yet he was, and he never forgot it. Some of the great crusades of his life-reforming welfare and encouraging stable families; exposing the hypocrisy of tin-pot dictators at the United Nations; funding memorable public-works projects-resonated with his fellow New Yorkers. When the Soviets conspired with Arab nations in the U.N. General Assembly to declare Zionism a form of racism, Moynihan dispensed with soft talk and diplomatic patter. He confronted lies with the truth, and confronted bigotry with iron. New Yorkers saw in this combative Harvard University professor more than a hint of what we love about ourselves.

During his last term, he was exasperated by the slow pace of getting things done in New York. He performed a miracle in the 1990′s when he crafted a mundane highway-spending bill into a flexible, 21st-century transportation package that allowed New York to get highway money for mass-transit projects. But the state and city didn’t respond with alacrity, and Moynihan publicly wondered if his efforts were for naught.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Pat Moynihan didn’t win every battle, and certainly didn’t live long enough to see all of his prophesies and dreams realized. But his efforts on behalf of New York will never be forgotten. He was elected to the Senate during the awful mid-1970′s, a time when many people were prepared to give up on the city and the state. When he left office in January, 2001, New York had reclaimed its place as the world’s greatest city.

Even before his death there were monuments to Daniel Patrick Moynihan. A courthouse was named in his honor several years ago. The new Penn Station is destined to bear his name. His greatest monument, however, is the New York he left behind.