Friday, November 02, 2012

As Bloomberg collects kudos (The Atlantic, columnist Friedman), some convenient amnesia about the mayor's less-flattering side, again exemplified this week

Shepherding the response to Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Mike Bloomberg has had a strong week, bringing his mostly levelheaded, managerial attitude to the task of a daunting recovery. And, of course, he garnered headlines yesterday by belatedly endorsing President Obama.

At the same time, his casual comments three days ago in favor of the Brooklyn Nets debut were off-key and unwise, one day later reversed, with no acknowledgment of error.



Similarly, he maintained yesterday--despite very divided opinions in the city--that it would be a good idea to keep the New York City Marathon this Sunday, and that it won't redirect any (any?) focus from the city's needs.



That's Bloombergian certainty for you. In the video above, he suggests that, even if all the mass transit isn't back, there will be fewer people on the roads and thus the Brooklyn Nets game Saturday game should work.

A cover in The Atlantic

While Bloomberg makes the cover of The Atlantic's November issue (Brave Thinkers), the Bloomberg we know isn't all there.


The main acknowledged blot on his record--that astonishing arm-twisting for a third term--is dismissed rather handily in James Bennet's intro to The Bloomberg Way:
You could look at Michael Bloomberg—astringent, profane, irritated by small talk, impatient with the politics of empathy—and see a plutocrat whose billions have given him the freedom to say and do whatever he wants, even to change the law to run for a third term as New York City’s mayor. Or you could look a little further and see a more interesting pattern: a man who turned getting shunted off the fast track at Salomon Brothers—over to information technology, no place for a fledgling master of the financial universe—into an opportunity, creating an entirely new approach to getting traders the data they needed; who took getting fired as a chance to gamble his payout on this idea; who then took the billions he made and chose not to embark on a lifelong vacation but to step into the least-forgiving political arena in the country; and who has since governed New York assertively, putting himself in the vanguard of a generation of mayors who, at a time when the federal government is paralyzed, are testing new approaches to education, transportation, and public health. You begin to see a guy, in sum, who thinks for himself, but not only of himself.
Yes, there are reasons to admire Bloomberg, who's not influenced by outside wealth--except, perhaps, his comfort level with fellow billionaires and multi-millionaires.

Reasons for doubt

But what about Bloomberg's manipulation of nonprofit organizations--"reverse influence-peddling," in the words of Errol Louis, and described thoroughly by Michael D.D. White? That goes unremarked, as with Bloomberg's extraordinary comfort with real estate moguls and his casual, uninformed dismissal of dissent.

For example, what about Bloomberg's astonishing claim that the challenge in this country is more "education inequality" than "income inequality"? That masks the potential for numerous reforms, such as a tax on financial speculation.

Or what about some key metrics of stewardship, as New York Times columnist Michael Powell wrote 10/16/12:
As for New York, the mayor might consider crowing less and worrying more. Having wisely built up budget surpluses, the mayor has emptied most of his accounts during the economic storm. Tax revenues no longer come in above projections.
And he has become a sleepier fiscal shepherd. Once, Mr. Bloomberg fought for stringent union contracts. That time has passed.
The Bloomberg promise

As I wrote 10/10/11, in Bloomberg: "you promise users everything, then you build what you can and what you think they need", the mayor and developer Bruce Ratner share a penchant for making promises they can't keep.

In the film Battle for Brooklyn, as I wrote in my review, Bloomberg imperiously dismisses questions about the much-promoted Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), purported to guarantee affordable housing, local hiring, and minority contracting. “I would add something else that’s even more important,” the mayor declares. “You have Bruce Ratner’s word, and that should be enough.”

It wasn't. There's no Independent Compliance Monitor, as the developer promised. It's astounding that none of the elected officials who supported the CBA have called Ratner on this.

Bloomberg pro-life?

Wrote New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman 10/27/12:
That’s why, for me, the most “pro-life” politician in America is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he supports a woman’s right to choose, he has also used his position to promote a whole set of policies that enhance everyone’s quality of life — from his ban on smoking in bars and city parks to reduce cancer, to his ban on the sale in New York City of giant sugary drinks to combat obesity and diabetes, to his requirement for posting calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, to his push to reinstate the expired federal ban on assault weapons and other forms of common-sense gun control, to his support for early childhood education, to his support for mitigating disruptive climate change.
Not everyone saw Bloomberg's record as unblemished. One commenter observed:
Generally excellent, Tom. But Bloomberg? He just came out against Elizabeth Warren and for Scott Brown in Massachusetts. She conceived and helped create the Consumers Protection Bureau—surely that is "pro-Life in your sense; but Bloomberg says that is Socialism, leaning toward communism!!! Brown is a tool of the finance industry, and definitely cynical on pro-life/pro-choice, slicing and dicing in various statements but when asked who his favorite SCOTUS Justice is, he said Scalia. He has voted with the Party of Cynicism on substantive issues 74% of the time!
Another observed:
Bloomberg is certainly pro-choice when it comes to term limits.

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