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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Stealing from children

(AP Photo/Edi Israel)

Maybe kids can ride them to school

Give bus boobs, not pupils, MetroCards

At least in St. Louis, the consultants from Alvarez & Marsal had to submit receipts for their living expenses as they cut school costs and sent student busing into chaos.

Here in New York, they just get a flat living allowance of 11% on top of outrageous fees that run as much at $450 an hour.

Which means they receive as much as an extra $49.50 an hour for expenses in the very city where their firm is based.

That compares with just $175 a day when they were working their supposed magic out in St. Louis in 2003.

But as shocking as the New York numbers are, one of the smallest receipts from St. Louis provides the deepest insight into the soul of this firm that has now created similar havoc for our bused school kids.

Before we get to that smallest of receipts, it is worth taking an overview of Alvarez and Marsal's expenses during its $5 million contract to overhaul the insolvent St. Louis school system.

In New York terms anyway, the consultants do not seem to have run up particularly extravagant tabs at the local hotels and restaurants. They generally kept to or even a little under the $125-a-day provision for lodging and the $50 per diem for meals.

"By all indications, the education reformers are enjoying a comfortable stay," a St. Louis reporter did note. "Hotel receipts turned in show honor bar use, laundry service, valet parking and room service fees."

The reporter pointed out that if the consultants were interested in cutting their own costs, a very nice hotel near the school headquarters offered a nifty suite along with a kitchen for $57 a day. The reporter further noted something top consultant Sajan George said after canceling the school system's contract with a restaurant that provided $6 lunches for noontime meetings.

"You can bring your own," George was quoted saying.

But one area where the consultants stepped well beyond reasonable bounds was transportation. A senior consultant was reimbursed $148 for cabs even though he had a $255 car rental in the same two-week period. He also put in for $1,452 to fly in from New York and back, as well as $1,103 to fly to Savannah, Ga.

Another consultant put in for a $151 cab ride from her home in Connecticut to LaGuardia Airport, where she caught an $840 flight to the broker-than-broke schools in St. Louis.

All this was during the same period the consultants were preparing to slash school bus routes in St. Louis.

Which brings us to that smallest of expense vouchers.

Even as they were defending the bus cuts by saying it was fine for a youngster to trek a mile through the worst of neighborhoods, one consultant sought reimbursement of $4 for the cab she took rather than walk four-tenths of a mile from school headquarters to a high-rise apartment building.

Bloomberg is more interested in sucking up to Brooklyn voters than solving the disaster he just created.

At some point, Spitzer and Albany will have to do something

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