De Blasio Digs Out from School Snow Furor

Friday, 14 Feb 2014 10:34 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration are being snowed under by complaints from friends and foes alike for his decision to keep the city's schools open Thursday following a snowstorm that dumped 10 inches of snow, while "Today" show meteorologist Al Roker is backing down slightly from his Twitter battle with the mayor.

School officials said that only about 45 percent of the city's students showed up for classes, reports the New York Daily News, nearly matching a previous low of 47 percent attendance on Jan. 22, another day schools stayed open during a snowstorm.

Publican Advocate Letitia James, a de Blasio ally, said the city needs to reevaluate the criteria for closing the city's schools.

"We must adjust the standards so that students, teachers, administrators, and parents are not put in harm's way," said James.

Story continues below video.

VIDEO MORNING JOE EMBED:


Roker on Friday said he apologizes for "one low blow" on de Blasio, while standing behind his criticism, Politico reports

The normally jovial weatherman caused a stir Thursday when he tweeted a blizzard of complaints, from Sochi, Russia, about the schools being closed. Roker wasn't sorry for most of his tweets, but said he went too far when he tweeted: "How dare @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCSchools throw NWS under the school bus. Forecast was on time and on the money," Roker said.

Friday, Roker said he regretted predicting the mayor would only last one term, but maintained weather forecasters were not to blame for de Blasio's decision to keep the schools open.

The mayor was asked about Roker's tweet, and his answer sparked more criticism from Roker.

“I will say, the one tweet I do regret in the heat — I’m very passionate about the weather," Roker said Friday. "I made a prediction that there would be only one term of his administration. I apologize for that. That was … a little below the line. But everything else, I still stand by, including the fact that the National Weather Service did forecast that on Wednesday."

Roker said he understands schools are kept open because children count on the meals they get there, but still maintained schools should have been closed for the snowstorm.

"I understand that, but other cities have those issues, too, and they closed school," Roker said. "It’s about safety. … Parents who can’t afford to stay home, I get that, too. But, again, what’s more difficult? To know that your kids are going to stay home? Or have to all of a sudden figure out how to get them home when school lets out early?"

Guests and hosts on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" were also critical Friday of the decision to keep the schools open, reports Mediaite

Host Joe Scarborough also criticized de Blasio's decision to respond to Roker's tweets.

"The number one rule I was told at campaign finance – or, campaign school," said Scarborough, "is never punch down. Don’t respond to attacks on Twitter. If you’re a public official, that’s absolutely ridiculous."

"You’ve got to be above the fray," former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a one-time presidential candidate, agreed.

But Scarborough and MSNBC meteorologist Bill Karnis also slammed de Blasio for insisting the storm forecast was inaccurate.

“If you’re going to be tough, if you’re a city official and you say, 'We’re going to keep the schools open, that’s how we do it,' you’ve got to be able to back that up," Meet the Press host David Gregory said on the show."You’ve got to keep the roads clear. You can’t just be thinking about kids who might be able to walk to school or live close to the school."

"It gets to a point of governance at any level that is really irresponsible, because it really does get treacherous and it can get treacherous fast for people coming longer distances," Gregory said.

The storm caused two school bus accidents, including one in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where de Blasio lives, the Daily News reported.

The city administration also came under fire after New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina commented during a news conference that "it's absolutely a beautiful day out there," and was later photographed wading through snow and ice to get into her taxpayer-funded sport-utility vehicle, where her full-time driver was waiting for her.

Farina, whose husband lives full-time in Florida, also was roundly criticized after her office reported that a town hall meeting she had set in Brooklyn was being canceled "due to inclement weather."

Meanwhile parents, students, and union officials slammed de Blasio for his decision to keep the schools open.

Teachers Union President Michael Mulgrew said student safety was put in jeopardy, and "having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted," he said. "It was a mistake to open schools today."

Parents were also furious.

"Today is a very bad day to go to school," said Marie Rezeau as she picked up her ailing 9-year-old grandson Rothaniel Leveque early from Public School 193 in Brooklyn.

Harlem grandmother Jenene Fouse, who walked her granddaughter to school through the storm, said the child's first-grade class only had 12 children, out of 30, show up for school.

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