Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Where’s the Fourth Estate?

Over the past few months the local papers have been hammering the Democratic candidates for mayor, embellishing ad nausea the pratfalls and the missteps. Amidst all of this negative scrutiny, however, one thing stands out: the relative lack of criticism of the incumbent.

Though the mayor has spent an unprecedented $23 million so far, the press, especially various editorial pages, hasn’t uttered a peep about his obscene expenditure (even though it contradicts what the Mayor had said we would do if he decided to run for reelection). Where is the New York Times, the greatest champion of campaign reform when it comes to national political campaigns (to be fair: unlike its editorial board, some of the paper’s reporters are asking questions). Doesn’t the fact that the Mayor has already spent more than all of what his potential rivals combined have raised give the Grey Lady just a bit of agita?

In addition, what about the Mayor’s philanthropic spending? What about the money that was raised for NYC 2012 from potential city vendors? It has been left to Anne Michaud of Crains to do a hard boiled analysis of the Mayor’s deal making and flip flops. The money quote:

Mr. Bloomberg’s practical deal making, free of ideology, causes him to swing widely on issues. After the West Side stadium project died, the mayor started touting an Olympic stadium in Queens, a plan he had previously derided…
That’s just a nice way to say that the Mayor has absolutely no philosophy or guiding principles. As Professor Muzio says in the same Michaud article, “Since the mayor has no fixed vision he’s totally flexible and that’s what businessmen are.”

Ah but in all of this pragmatic deal making there may actually be an idée fixe: small folks are always expendable to the larger development scheme. Whether it’s the West Side, Willets Point or the Bronx Terminal Market, that one view characterizes all of the Mayor’s thinking.

The corollary to the edifice complex is, of course, that there are some people whose excellence causes them to stand out from the rest. These are the best and the brightest, the mega-rich like Steve Ross and Steve Roth who stand ready to replace the unwashed masses and lesser folks with bright new shopping malls.

These people are given special dispensation and are entrusted with New York City’s future due to the merit supposedly inherent in their great wealth. This logic is, to the similarly endowed mayor, self-evident (and the details are left to Deputy Dealer Dan to implement).

So we hold our collective breaths waiting for the editorial outrage, the exposés and the hard-hitting investigations (for instance, does anyone know that the mayor has quietly put an additional $1 billion into the city’s education budget in the attempt to purchase the extra points in reading and math?). In the meantime, as the Mayor continues to spend his millions, we have to be content with Freddy’s Diallo gaffe, Virginia’s picture cropping and Miller’s mailings.