Fenty Gets School Reform Tips From Bloomberg

D.C. Democratic mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty rides a New York subway with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The candidate is in New York to study aspects of big-city governing  --  and school reform.
D.C. Democratic mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty rides a New York subway with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The candidate is in New York to study aspects of big-city governing -- and school reform. (By Helayne Seidman -- The Washington Post)
By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

NEW YORK, Oct. 16 -- Adrian M. Fenty isn't the District's mayor yet, but Monday he got a taste of what it might be like, sharing breakfast at an uptown deli with New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, then riding the subway with him to City Hall for one of the duties of a chief executive: the news conference.

Fenty, 35, had come to the Big Apple to learn from Bloomberg, 64, the second-term Republican mayor whose approaches to school reform, policing and even executive office design have caught Fenty's attention. Together they attracted a throng of reporters.

By midday, Fenty announced that he expects to deliver a plan to the D.C. Council by December that would give him control of the District public schools, based largely on the New York model. The statement was the strongest sign yet that Fenty, who as the Democratic nominee is expected to win the Nov. 7 general election, does not intend to wait long before trying to impose his will on the struggling 58,000-student system.

"We want to be able to show the city council there are some specific things we will do and others we need to adapt for the District of Columbia that are different and not occurring right now and can show more reform," Fenty said.

Bloomberg, who took over New York's schools in 2002 and has imposed far-reaching changes, applauded Fenty's eagerness to tackle the daunting subject of public education.

"He doesn't know what can't be done," Bloomberg said of Fenty during the news conference. "He thinks everything can be done. He'll have his disappointments and his rocky periods going forward. But he's going to try. He's going to go out and say, 'We can do better.' "

Fenty, likely to win in November because three-quarters of the city's registered voters are Democrats, is preparing to take office Jan. 2 by traveling to other cities to examine programs he might emulate in the District.

He came to New York with several aides as well as Dan Tangherlini, the interim Metro general manager who has accepted Fenty's offer to become city administrator. Tangherlini and two of his own aides, who took the day off from their Metro jobs, spent time talking to New York officials about contracts, procurement and permits. Fenty aides said the candidate's expenses were paid with campaign funds, and Tangherlini and his aides paid their own way.

Fenty huddled with New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly about policing and homeland security. He toured Bloomberg's "bullpen," a room filled with cubicles where, to improve communication, Bloomberg sits with 50 top aides. Fenty said he will create his own bullpen on the third floor of the John A. Wilson Building instead of using the sixth-floor suite favored by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).

"I love the openness," Fenty said of the bullpen idea after he and Bloomberg had moved through the room talking with people. "It's open and transparent. It's a simple concept where people work harder and feel closer to the mayor. The old D.C. government had closed doors and was a big bureaucracy."

Fenty moved quickly through several agency offices and later toured Rockefeller Center, owned by Robert J. Speyer, a real estate magnate who recently bought the D.C.-based Carr Co. He swung by the NY1 News cable television station, then attended a campaign fundraiser, organized by two fraternity brothers, at the New York Athletic Club .

But for all his activity, Fenty dwelled on Bloomberg's school reforms, which have drawn attention from mayors across the country even as they have generated both praise and criticism in this city.

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