Do Yourself a Favor by Doing Me a Favor

Apr 1, 2021 by

Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral candidate Eric Adams was accused of deliberately violating the Department of Education’s prohibition against certain political activity, specifically self-serving, campaign-promoting communications to  the school community. 

Whether or not this was simply a misunderstanding, an accidental breach, or an egregious peccadillo,  should neither mar his reputation nor spoil his candidacy.  He should be judged, for better or worse, on his declared positions on education and other issues that are crucial to New Yorkers, his record of performance in public office, and his prior career and activities.

According to the New York Post, an e-mail blast transmitted on the Tottenville High School’s official account, sought to essentially recruit students as volunteers on his mayoral campaign in exchange for “classroom credit”.  

Was this a direct solicitation or were students led to believe that this would be a trade-off?   Was Adams himself aware and did he approve of the message or was it an unauthorized initiative of a subordinate?

By whose consent and conditions, if any, was access to the school’s multiple secure data portals obtained?  A school administrator claims to have had no prior knowledge of the alleged details and emphasized “It’s not a program set up by the school”.  Yet the school subsequently apologized to parents for sending the e-mail “in error”.

A spokesman for Adams explained his motivation, saying the invitation was “an opportunity to gain invaluable experience, which schools and teachers can offer as class credit, if they choose”.

Of course, if teachers were indeed offering credit, it would have been articulated by staff members or school administrators and the campaign of rival candidates would have got equal treatment.  Finessing and re-constructing language is a common technique of damage-control, which in moderation can be excused when it has not been grossly destructive.  Certainly this single isolated instance shouldn’t be a game-changer to Adams’ ambitions

Nonetheless, the misuse of the school’s e-mail calls for censure but not full-throated denunciation. Speaking for myself and representing nobody else, I don’t think that Eric Adam’s credibility should take a major or durable hit, though he ought to profit from a sting of embarrassment.

Eric Adams has been “out there” and New Yorkers have plenty to go on as they evaluate the merits of his candidacy and compare them with other viable aspirants. Very recently, for instance, Adams responded to Andrew Yang’s vilification of the UFT by affirming his support for our public schools and respect for its educators.

We must not compromise our insistence that politicians abide by high ethical standards.  They must not deviate from the letter and spirit of regulations.  But perfection is a “work in progress”, especially among the leaders among us.

Ron Isaac

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