Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bloomberg's Third Term

I will be back in a few days (sorry for the formatting problems), but I had to get in my two cents on Bloomberg announcing his intentions to skirt the law and run again. I knew he would break his word - he always does - but this time it's more underhanded than usual .

In what should have been done via public referendum/vote – but is now too late – Mayor Bloomberg is skirting the law to stay in power. And he’s doing it in the most unseemly way possible – by circumventing the public and striking a deal with Councilmembers who also are clinging to their power. He’s especially tied to Speaker Quinn, who will wash his back if he washers hers. It’s disgraceful.

There are so many things wrong with this, let’s try to address each one. Let’s start with media coverage:

Bloomberg can’t do any wrong in the media’s eyes and that is terrifying to anyone who knows what always happens under these conditions. The Daily News called his skirting the law to stay in power “gutsy”. They’re for it. The Post says “Go for it Mr. Mayor – New York needs you.”

But the fix was in. Back in August, the New York Times reported Bloomberg “has also met quietly with the publishers of the city’s three biggest newspapers to gauge whether their editorial boards might endorse tweaking term limits to 12 years.”

How about putting it on the ballot? The editorial boards of newspapers are more important that the public's will?

But it shouldn’t be a surprise. Mayor Bloomberg is absolutely brilliant at managing public perception. His accomplishments are most noticeable in the nicest areas of New York city – where the journalists live – but the rest of the city hasn’t seen any improvement. Are you better off than you were eight years ago?

Of course, the pitch is that since we’re in such tough economic times, that Bloomberg is just the right guy to hold down the fort. Whoa, wait a second. This is the same guy who, when this meltdown started really percolating, was talking to the world about putting windmills on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Are you telling me that this man – whose company specializes in financial information, who has friends in the highest places on Wall Street – didn’t know what was going down? That he used his bully pulpit for fighting trans-fats? That’s leadership?

So since some billionaire named Ron Lauder changed his mind and now wants another billionaire to be our Mayor, we should all be thrilled. And the fourth estate applauds because there’s a bike lane in front of their apartment and tables and chairs on Broadway.

The media will say if we don’t like it, don’t vote for him. They will ignore that the incumbent reelection rate in New York State local races is somewhere around 97 percent. And that's for normally backed incumbents. I would imagine the rate for billionaires is around 100%.

Term Limits were written because of media moguls like Bloomberg and prepare for the public onslaught (funded by him, parroted by the media) why we should be grateful Bloomberg didn't put term limits on the ballot. Can you imagine what would happen if Bush struck a deal with Pelosi to strike down term limits without a public vote?

But are we cutting off our nose to spite our face. How has he done?

If you live in Manhattan, he is doing a great job – can’t argue with that. I’m here everyday and am amazed at how it looks. Hudson River Park is like going on vacation. Central Park is immaculate (there is no way that's all private donations). The Plazas downtown like at Gansevoort look like Paris. But what has he done for Forest Hills?

  • In 2003, Mayor Bloomberg fought to reduce street garbage pick-ups in Queens from twice a week to once per week – while keeping Manhattan at three times per week. He shamelessly sold it piggybacking a 9/11 theme by saying – it will be tough, but New Yorkers are tough people. Thankfully, it was rejected.

  • He inexplicably fought to have the Olympic stadium in Manhattan and not in the most international borough in the world – which actually wanted it. He showed absolutely no faith in the borough that would have been electric during those two weeks and changed our landscape forever. Huge gaffe.

  • He dismissively brushed off any city-agency blame for the death of Matthew Perilli even though child welfare workers were there on the day the child was killed (responding to complaints) and heard commotion in the “day care” center. He said so eloquently “the child would have been dead regardless.”

  • Though when the much more publicized tragedy of Nixmary Brown occurred, he was much more responsive. "We, as a city, have failed this child," the Mayor said.

  • He wanted to charge outer borough drivers money to enter Manhattan – which almost certainly will happen in the third term. Another example of going against the clear public will because he knows better.

  • There are 32 kids in a class in the first grade at PS 101. The ridiculous testing and homework burdens of our youngest children are driving families away for the first time in a long time.

  • In early 2002, he promised not to raise taxes. Later that year, he increased property taxes 18% (down from his desired 25%) across the board, but never once tried to fix the huge property tax inequity of $2 million brownstones in Brooklyn paying about $2000 a year, while $300K coops and $400K single family houses in Queens paying twice that.

  • He had to “courage” and “guts” to go after a third term or congestion pricing, but when it comes to rich white people paying their fair share of property tax – the tax code is “too onerous” to change.

  • He left the Meat Packing District to fend for themselves during the 10-day blackout while Con Ed casually said it was only a few hundred customers (it was really over 100,000). Oh wait, that was Astoria. In the Meat Packing District, he advocated building a new $200 million High Line Park overlooking a new $500 million Hudson River Park.

So there are some concrete reasons why I wouldn't reelect him. What the media will feed you is vague reasons like “guts” and “vision” – which he does have. When it comes to making Manhattan a better place to live. Just look at the World’s Fair structures compared to what’s going on at the High Line. What a perfect metaphor for this administration’s “vision.”

It’s true that the city is facing an economic downturn. But if we didn’t change term-limits after September 11th, don't do it because some Wall Street employees are out of work due to gross mismanagement. You didn’t have their tax revenues before the artificial run up, and you won’t have it now.

The average weekly salary on Wall Street in 1Q 2007 was $16,918. That’s almost 900K per year – double what it was in 2003. And that doesn’t include bonuses. The New York Times compared it to the dot-com bubble. And Bloomberg is talking about windmills.

In other words, we didn’t have the money before the artificial run up, and hopefully we won’t have it again. And the new Brooklyn Bridge Park will have to make due with the same amount of gardeners as Forest Park.

Somehow I think New York will survive.

But to me, it is FAR more dangerous to have a media that uniformly tells you things are going great and advocating re-writing the laws because they’re being bankrolled by our billionaire leaders. That is the future that really frightens me.