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Flushing Rotary Club hosts Bloomberg talk

Before charging Democratic mayoral candidate Mark Green and Schools Chancellor Harold Levy with stealing his ideas on education last Thursday, Republican mayoral hopeful Michael Bloomberg took his own campaign to members of the Flushing Rotary Club.

Bloomberg began his talk during a luncheon at Friends & Co. off Northern Boulevard in a playful mood, joking that he has gained six pounds on the campaign trail, but doesn't plan to "lose anything in this race."

He went on to describe his plan for the city, a prescription he hopes will transform his expectation of victory into reality.

Bloomberg began by praising the drop in crime in the city under fellow Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's watch. "The first job of the mayor is to make sure people don't have to look over their shoulders while walking down the street," he said.

He said people will remember Giuliani for showing that the city was governable, but that the next job of the mayor is to "govern in a trying economic period."

He identified three main issues that would highlight his administration: education, housing and public health. But, possibly to warm up for his comments on Levy and Green later in the afternoon, his plan to improve the city's public education system dominated much of the lunchtime meeting.

Charging that the education system has to "be accountable to the mayor," Bloomberg called for the abolishment of the Board of Education.

Invoking the memory of the late Richmond Hill native, Jack Maple, who was a deputy commissioner under former Police Chief William Bratton), the candidate said management of the school system should follow a similar strategy as Maple's celebrated Compstat program. Under that system, the police collect, computerize, map and disseminate crime statistics in an effort to determine the root causes of crime.

"The Board of Education refuses to tell about the product they turn out," said Bloomberg. Quoting Maple, he added, "if you can't measure it, you can't fix it."

The catch phrase of the day was accountability. Later in the afternoon, Bloomberg accused Green of borrowing the phrase from him.

At an endorsement on Pier 25 from the New York League of Conservation Voters, Bloomberg said Green lifted the phrase "accountability" from him and placed it in his television commercials.

He also said four of Levy's recent education proposals incorporated material from his education plan.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Bloomberg said.

Meanwhile, at the Rotary luncheon, the Republican candidate said accountability would help fix the school system.

He said there has to be "accountability and authority and responsibility down to the school level."

He said principals should be allowed to run their own schools, without outside interference, adding that he would fire those who do not do their jobs well. Pointing out that police captains are allowed to run precincts, Levy said, "it should be the same in the schools."

Telling his lunchmates why he is the best candidate for the job, Bloomberg said the mayor, "has to be accountable. That's why the city's ready for a business person, not a politician."

Reach reporter Daniel Massey at TimesLedger@aol.com or at 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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