Whether the state Legislature would allow Rochester’s mayor to have control over city schools was hanging in the balance today as advocates and opponents were lobbying state senators over the measure.
The bill’s sponsor, Senate President Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, told Gannett’s Albany Bureau this afternoon that the bill is one vote short from the 32 votes needed for passage in the Senate.
The holdout among Senate Democrats is Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, who has opposed a mayoral control plan in New York City and said he would not support it for Rochester.
“I don’t believe in mayoral control. I voted and I opposed the one for the City of New York and what I don’t want for the city of New York and that I believe is wrong for the city, I don’t want for any other part of the state,” Diaz said.
Smith, however, said, “I’m still working on it” and wouldn’t rule out a vote tonight, when lawmakers are expected to hold session to vote on legislation and possibly the remainder of the 2010-11 state budget.
Without all 32 Senate Democrats on board, supporters would need at least one Senate Republican to back the measure, and pressure was on Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, Monroe County, to vote yes.
Alesi and Republican Sens. Joseph Robach and George Maziarz represent Rochester, but Robach and Maziarz were expected to vote no.
Alesi said this afternoon he has made no final decision and, in fact, had reached out to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has gained oversight of that city’s schools and as been a major advocate of the mayoral control.
Bloomberg and Alesi were expected to talk later today.
But Alesi again expressed his continued concern that if the Legislature gives the Rochester mayor control of the schools, it is uncertain who the mayor would be when it takes effect next year.
Mayor Robert Duffy, who developed the mayoral control initiative, is running for lieutenant governor with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo. So if Cuomo and Duffy win, the city would elect a new mayor.
“I have grave concerns over who the mayor is going to be and grave concerns about destabilizing the system,” Alesi said.