Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Power Broker, 2009: Mayor Mike Bloomberg

Last night, I and a host of others attended an hour-long, $18 session (lecture + Q&A) at the New-York Historical Society titled The Mark of Robert Moses, one of three events on the shapers of New York featuring author Robert Caro.

I'd heard most of Caro's anecdotes about writing The Power Broker, so what struck me was his basic premises: he began his investigation into Moses by tracing the influence of an unelected official who most saw as above politics, and he reminded us--after discussing the displacement caused by Moses's Cross-Bronx Expressway--that "it's important to understand political power because it shapes all our lives."

The Power Broker, 2009

OK, so, if Caro--who's essentially immersed in his Lyndon Johnson saga--isn't going to talk about contemporary New York, let's go to Wayne Barrett, who connects the dots in this week's Village Voice, contending that Mayor Mike Bloomberg has promoted Caroline Kennedy's anointment as Senator for several reasons, including an effort to neutralize President Barack Obama's role in the 2009 mayoral race.

In Bloomberg Maneuvers to Crown a Kennedy, Barrett further explains how Gov. David Paterson acceded to Bloomberg's effort to overturn and extend term limits, how Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey skirts ethics laws to promote Kennedy's candidacy, and Superintendent of Schools Joel Klein also shills for her.

The article, which Henry Stern of NY Civic also salutes, should've been handed out last night. Stern writes:
Governor Paterson is poised to appoint Caroline Kennedy to the position, which will be first major result of the Bloomberg-Paterson alliance, a union of unequals, based on incumbency and mutual ambition.

Reasons for concern

But maybe she's not such a great candidate. Barrett writes:
The dissembling that misrepresents Kennedy's DOE service has been extended to every phase of her life. She told the Times: "I've written seven books—two on the Constitution, two on American politics." But she's penned only two (both with a co-author who is, unlike her, a legal scholar), and edited five others that were collections of everything from her mother's favorite poems to other writers' essays about political courage. She has repeatedly referred to herself as a lawyer in her recent appearances, though she's never practiced law and even let her registration with the Bar Association lapse for years.

Though she wrote in A Patriot's Handbook that "the day I feel most proud to be an American is not the Fourth of July, but Election Day," she's missed half of the elections since 1988.


Paterson's choice

Barrett concludes:
The campaign that she and Bloomberg have conducted for this appointment is a campaign of prevarication. Its assumption is that David Paterson, who was first installed in the Senate two decades ago by a Harlem-based Democratic county committee when the incumbent died, and who rose to governor when another incumbent quit in disgrace, is too weak and uneasy about the challenge that awaits him in 2010 to do anything but knuckle under to their cabal. They believe Paterson will see Bloomberg and Kennedy's political marriage as a lucrative source of potential contributions for his own campaign, though Kennedy has given almost as little to New York Democrats as she has to its public school children, and Bloomberg has only bankrolled Republicans.

While they would never have mounted a Kennedy campaign in a normal election year, with a candidate so raw and uncertain, they clearly see Paterson's appointment process as tailor-made. It is, after all, precisely the kind of democracy Bloomberg likes best: a decision made by one man—or, in the case of term limits, by a small and vulnerable council—in the sort of moment when the power of titans always seems to prevail.


Back to term limits

In the New York Times yesterday, columnist Jim Dwyer connected a few dots, writing:
How handy, then, to have powerful allies, like the developer, Jerry I. Speyer and the lobbyist, Howard Rubenstein, to convince other influential people that term limits will deprive the city of an essential leader during an era of financial crisis.

Mr. Speyer is building Yankee Stadium. Mr. Rubenstein represents the Yankees. Their stated case for Mr. Bloomberg never rested on the mayor’s support for the stadium, but on his qualities as a manager and their view that he would be the most capable steward of the city during hard economic times.


(Tom Robbins of the Village Voice connected those dots last week. At least someone at the Times is reading the Voice, which, while hollowed by losses, still has a couple of reporters who know how power works in New York City.)

The p.r. firm

Barrett adds:
Should Paterson choose Kennedy, he is said to be considering signing up with Knickerbocker SKD, the political consultants already tied to Bloomberg, Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and Christine Quinn, all of whom are up for re-election this year or next.


Remember, Knickerbocker SKD has produced Forest City Ratner's fliers and worked for pro-AY candidate Tracy Boyland. Examinations of power in New York City often lead to developers.

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