Tuesday, January 13, 2009


We just might be about to have a real mayoral debate on municipal governance-with traditional Democrat like Anthony Weiner critiquing the city's current fiscal Maven-in-Chief, the legendary Mike Bloomberg, for profligacy. As the NY Daily News reports: "Mayor Bloomberg bears some blame for the city's fiscal crisis for presiding over bloated payrolls, soaring expenses and heavy debt, Rep. Anthony Weiner said Monday."We have engaged in the worst kind of boom-bust planning," Weiner told a Citizens Union forum, saying Bloomberg focused on megaprojects like the Olympics, a West Side football stadium and congestion pricing while failing to keep an eye on the cost of government. "Where did the money go? We spent it," said Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens), a likely challenger to Bloomberg this fall. "We now have 33,000 more full-time employees, which is a 13% increase. It is as if we hired the entirety of Middle Village, Queens, to work full time for the city."

Let's hope that the city's dirty little secret finally gets out: Mike Blomberg has not governed New York with any degree of real skill or prudence. When it comes to the size and scope of government, Bloomberg has simply padded the public payroll without any real commensurate productivity gains from the public work force. But don't simply take our word for this.

As Carol Kellerman of the Citizen's Budget Commission writes today in the NY Post: "Pay increases are directly attributable to contract settlements with unions. The Bloomberg administration's contracts have been generous both historically and comparatively. The mayor's early stance that hikes should be funded by productivity gains or other concessions produced some givebacks in negotiations. But the latest settlements awarded civilian and uniformed unions 4 percent annual wage increases, well above projected inflation, with no concessions."

So it appears that Bloomberg, acting like the grasshopper in the fable, has not acted with any degree of awareness that the city's boom times might end and we'd be faced with huge deficits-this while his cohort of financial geniuses down at Wall and Broad systematically were looting investors and bondholders in the run up to the country's fiscal meltdown. Please remind us just why we need this kleyner kluger for another four years.

The good news is that it looks as if there will finally be some real focus on the Myth of Mike-and Weiner has begun a deconstruction process that we hope will be aided and abeted by Bill Thompson. As the NY Times reports: "Attacking a central theme of the mayor’s third-term bid — his mastery of finances — the congressman suggested that Mr. Bloomberg had become a profligate spender, unwilling to ask city employees for any sacrifice while adding tens of thousands of workers to the payroll."

Weiner hit at the mayor for being old fashioned and out of touch with the needs of the city's middle class: "Offering a blueprint for his mayoral run, he emphasized the need for affordable housing, lower taxes on the middle class and fiscal restraint in the city’s budgets. Allies of the mayor, on the other hand, praised Mr. Bloomberg’s budgetary prudence, and said that municipal raises were necessary to compete with the suburbs. In a position that could put him at odds with powerful unions, Mr. Weiner said that new city employees would need to bear a greater portion of their health insurance costs and settle for a less generous pension plan."

So we're beginning to see the battle lines drawn-but make no mistake about it, the mayor's money is an extreme challenge: "Scott Levenson, a Democratic political consultant who has worked on campaigns in the city, said that Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign war chest was enough to give any rival pause. “You have to be daunted by a guy who is willing to spend infinitely,” he said."

It will be interesting to see if the mayor's rivals will be able to utilize the mayor's great wealth against him-especially at a time when the financial elite is under such fire. Will Bloomberg's lavish campaign spending become an Achillis' heel? All of this awaits the canpaign ahead-that is, if the lawsuit on term limits doesn't suddenly throw all of this speculation out nthe window. Now that would certainly be something, wouldn't it?