By Josh Resnek
There is a story from antiquity that tells of Pompey the Great, the Roman general and leader who decided he was a better man than Caesar.
Pompey assembled his legions, an army that dwarfed that of Caesar’s. A great battle was scheduled between the two forces to determine who is the better man.
Pompey was so sure he was going to defeat Casear that he built a great tent that could seat 5000 people and a great throne for himself at the head of the victory table.
It was to have been an incredible dinner and celebration for Pompey.
What ended up happening?
At the great battle of Pharsalus, fought on August 9, 48BC (years before Christ was born), Caesar’s outnumbered legions, about 20,000 men versus Pompey’s 40,000, decisively defeated Pompey’s forces.
Caesar ate Pompey’s victory dinner in Pompey’s seat in Pompey’s tent.
At the same time, Pompey fled into exile.
The meeting of the School Finance Commission last week resulted in the mayor’s capitulation on a changing battle eld in this city.
Two weeks ago, there was not a chance that $2.5 million intended for the public schools raised by Senator Sal DiDomenico was going to be released by the mayor.
About a half hour into the meeting, Councilor Leo McKinnon put the mayor on the spot Thursday before a large audience that assembled inside the council chamber.
“Are you going to transfer the money or are you not?” he asked the mayor.
The mayor hesitated for a few moments, perhaps ten seconds.
The mayor hung his head downward, then raised it and he spoke:
“I am going to ask that the $2.5 million be transferred into the School Department account.”
He was quiet, almost, humble for a moment, but the image was done. The battle had been lost.
“You know I always try to do the right thing…I am loyal…I care about the kids….I want to do what’s right,” he said in so many self-deprecating words and phrases during a short statement.
Bottom line, this was a modern Battle of Pharsalus – called for by the mayor, created entirely by him, and when the smoke cleared from the battle eld, the mayor and his powerful team had capitulated to the school department and its smaller team led by Superintendent of Schools Frederick F. Foresteire.
Foresteire and his team showed great magnanimity in victory.
“We just want to bring down classroom size,” said Foresteire following the meeting.
During a week’s time before the November 1 meeting of the School Finance Committee, the mayor’s big advantage looked decisive.
But all his hubris and swagger, and his threat to withhold funds intended for the school department evaporated at the School Finance Commission meeting.
Two weeks ago he was going to put the $2.5 million toward whatever he wanted, and his CFO Eric Demas wholeheartedly agreed with him.
Two weeks later, the mayor reversed himself, as did his CFO Demas.
The mayor was extremely careful and unusually thoughtful in going around the table to all the members of the non-binding School Finance Commission to form a consensus.
The measure passed unanimously.
At the next meeting of the City Council it is expected the council will act on the mayor’s request to transfer $2.5 million from the general fund into the school department account.