Walking back from a meeting in the city late on Friday, heading straight to shul for Shabbat services, I passed a young child and her mother, still in the throes of the late afternoon budget cuts to the New York City Department of Education. The mother was walking a few steps ahead of her child, who was approximately four years of age, the child was carrying a rolled up poster with some protest or another about budget cuts and chanting, "Hey Hey Ho Ho Mayor Bloomberg's Got to Go!" It was charming on a certain level, and yet for some reason I felt the need to challenge the child on the wisdom of the chant, given that there were many other aspects of the city that were deserving of praise. Since we were each walking in opposite directions along Prospect Park West, I smiled at the young child's chants and her sincere expression at having been, well, brain-washed into being a "one-issue voter" and offered the following bromide to her rebellion: "But surely, young lady, you like the Bike Lanes. The Mayor has championed the Bike Lanes!"
The child looked at me as any four year old in that set of circumstances should look at a guy like me ( a blank stare) and then, after we had blithely passed one another, the mother offered just within earshot, "The budget cuts to education are wrong."
At that point I was a good twenty feet beyond her; her sweet little rebel was lost in thoughts of carrots, cherry tomatoes and ice cream, and I was nearly late for Shul.
But I had an idea.
What if our Mayor, the first (and likely only) Republican I ever voted for, gave $1 billion from his philanthropy to save the New York City Schools on condition that 5 of the city's 8 million residents each agreed to sacrifice $1000 in a special tax to save the education budget. Between the Mayor's billion and the 5/8 of New Yorker's $5 billion, we'd have quite the story to tell, no? Do the math. $6 billion for education. Do you think an extra stretch of $1000--that's less than $100 per month for 5/8 of the city--is worth it? Affordable? If so, it's...
The greatest civic matching gift in American history. We get: Civic Pride. The Mayor gets: Philanthropic Hero Status.
It sure beats the tried and true: poster board from Staples, the four year old kid, the tired parent with a passing remark over the shoulder on their way home after a protest which likely will yield the shiny pride of pedagogic edification but won't amount to bupkes.