Friday, August 28, 2009

The worst of the worst form of government

“It isn’t enough for the mayor to have gamed New York’s term-limits law so that he could seek four more years. He also has no interest in making this election a fair fight.

“He has applied a sliver of his fortune to burying cash-starved opponents under an avalanche of television ads, while using another sliver to rent political operatives who normally would have worked against him. In a different society, he might well have draped giant posters of himself on the outer walls of public buildings.” – Clyde Haberman, New York Times (8/27/09)

It is no secret that I am a liberal. But for the past few years I have been intellectually challenged by the once-Democrat, once-Republican, current-Independent mayor of my town Michael Bloomberg. He took a no-nonsense approach to the city that I thought would work for New York. His plans had logical, practical applications and it didn’t really seem to care about his popularity, which made him very popular in a city of “I-don’t-care-what-you-think” individualists (who crave attention and blog about stuff).

His wealth put him above interest groups and lobbyists, he said. It seems, however, as if he forgot about one interest group and its persuasive lobbyist: his ego.

Michael Bloomberg, with the help of the City Council, over-turned a term limit law allowing him to run for mayor once again. It is hard to argue against some of his accomplishments in the years since taking over the City and running it like a business, but there is something about the rule of law. We invade other countries, ones that produce far less and are significantly less important than New York City, over people changing the election law. It is surprising that the Bloomberg pictures haven’t started popping up in subway stations under the heading of Obey. (Someone should get on that.)

But as Mr. Haberman outlines in the above quoted column, New Yorkers don’t have good alternative for mayor. I am told that Bill Thompson is the guy to vote for but I am not excited by a guy who spent the last eight years as the CFO to Bloomberg’s CEO and only recently decided he is adamantly opposed to the Bloomberg policy shop. He has some union support but 51% of the City doesn’t have enough info to form an opinion about the man. And Tony Avella doesn’t have a shot at the primary let alone the general election.

S do we vote for the guy that we know little more than the fact he recently discovered he disagrees with his boss but has the Party’s support or vote for the guy that has done a pretty good job for the environment, rich people, real estate developers, businesses and tourism in the City who has lackluster respect for election law?

Nothing good comes from this situation. Perhaps Thompson will get out there and really let the City get to know him and love him; I sure hope that happens. But that will be very hard in a race where his opponent has unlimited resources and can do no wrong in the eyes of the media. Vote today and Bloomberg wins…vote in November we will see.


Larry Kaufman said...

I'm not comfortable with Haberman's implication that a man can't spend his own money to support his own cause. I like billionaires in politics, because we can have reasonable confidence that they're not on the take. (Cheney of course is the exception that proves the rule.)

But I didn't like it when Giulani proposed extending his tenure in the aftermath of 9/11, even though I don't believe in term limits in public life. (I do believe in term limits when it comes to synagogue boards.) And although I like Bloomberg more than I like Giulani, I don't like to see anybody trying to game the system.

The fact that there's no visible alternative just isn't a meaningful factor. But then, I'm not a New Yorker, and don't have to live with what happens or doesn't happen.

Adam K said...

I also respect the rule of law. The law is that the city council may legislate how many terms city elected officials may serve. There is no overriding NYC "Constitution".

Just as legislative bodies vote on how much to pay themselves, they also decide how many terms they can seek.

That's all within the rule of law.

Perhaps if they extended the definition of a "term" to 50 years, there would be something for which to cry foul; but as long as the people regularly get a chance to "trow da bums out!" then I have no issue with a duly elected city council acting as they have.