Wednesday, March 05, 2008

“L’État, C’est Moi”

In yesterday's NY Times, the paper examines the fallout from the mayor's decision to write a $500,000 check to Senate Republicans. The Democrats, needless to say, are a bit peeved over the lavish funding of their political opponents, and believe that it will diminish Bloomberg's ability to get his congestion tax passed: "Some Democrats said that the mayor’s decision to take sides in the bitter battle over the Senate will diminish his ability to win legislative support for his congestion pricing plan, which already appeared in some doubt. In order to qualify for federal financing, the mayor needs approval by the City Council and the Legislature by March 31 for the proposal, which would impose a fee on those who drive into the busiest part of Manhattan during workdays."

In addition, Democrats were taken aback by the mayor's fulsome praise for how much the Republican leadership of Joe Bruno had helped the city: "In terms of making a donation to help the Republicans, they’ve been there for us,” Mr. Bloomberg said in Florida on Monday. “I’ve said repeatedly, I will help those who help us. They’ve come and stood up for the city a number of times when we needed to have a voice in Albany and didn’t have that voice from the Assembly or from the governor, whether it was the last governor or this governor,” the mayor added."

All of which got Assembly Speaker Silver hot under the collar-a fine political mess instigated by the lord of the manor himself. But when informed that his largess might have political impact, the mayor bristled: "When a reporter traveling with Mr. Bloomberg in Florida suggested to him that the contribution might hurt his legislation’s chances, the mayor bristled. “Think about what you’re saying,” he said. “You’re saying that those decisions are made based on politics rather than what’s right for the city. We certainly need congestion pricing, and it would be an outrage. Just for anybody to suggest that that’s the basis on which they’re going to make decisions, or that others would make a decision, I find reprehensible.”

So let's get this straight. The mayor establishes himself as the biggest donor of a party that the governor and the senate Democrats are trying to unseat from power, but takes umbrage over their outrage over his political Big Footism-and accuses them of placing politics above the city's interests. Can he be that self-absorbed?

The congestion tax is hotly contested on the merits-and how it will impact certain constituencies. The policy debate, however, takes place in a political context-as all such debates do. For example, the recently passed green carts bill wouldn't get more than ten voters in the city council if forced to stand alone without the speaker's support; yet it passed with a super majority. Why? It's simple. The council members were loath to cross a speaker who controls the upcoming budget process. We didn't hear any outrage over this from the mayor because he supports the measure. This is what's known as a solipsism, which is defined :
Philosophy. the theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist.
extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.

Promoting the mayor's agenda is good government no matter what the underlying politics-and have we mentioned the public auction conducted by the Bloombergistas over their solicitation of support for the congestion tax? What does giving out goodies to council members have to do with good government?

So what we have here is what we have observed all along. The mayor sees "special interests" as those that thwart his own policies, and in the process he repeatedly conflates his own interests with the public good. Which is precisely why he gets whacked when forced to negotiate with political equals. As one legislator told the Times: "You don’t want to stick your thumb in the eye of people that you want to help you,” said Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. “Any mayor of the City of New York needs the governor as an ally, I think, a little more than the governor needs the mayor, because there’s so much that the Legislature does to help the city.”

Which is why the mayor's congestion tax is deservedly on life supports-and why the West Side won't have a stadium. And don't think that the Bloomberg for governor talk won't lubricate the negotiations in Albany. The bottom line is that Mike Bloomberg-and the "good government" NYC Partnership-sees congestion taxing as good for the city; others disagree in a process we call political. And when you contribute $500,000 to political opponents don't react shocked when they pay you back in kind.