Last night's mayoral debate may not have done much to change the dynamics of next week's election but it did finally manage to expose the inability of the mayor to think on his feet when it comes to public policy. We felt that the fairly aggressive first question posed by NBC's Melissa Russo clearly threw Bloomberg off stride and he really never recovered.
He had his most difficult time when asked to describe just what he would specifically do to pare down government in the face of the city's upcoming budget deficit. He also struggled with Ferrer's questioning of his favorable comparison between the city's public and private hospitals.
Bloomberg is at his best when asked to describe existing programs. It is during these times when his managerial competence and grasp of detail is really on display. This is a point that Nicole Gelinas made at yesterday morning's seminar held on the Bloomberg fiscal policy by the Manhattan Institute (Which Nicole reprises in this morning's NY Post). She underscored a point that we have also made: Bloomberg has not brought any of his entrepreneurial skills into government but has manage to function better than we expected, given his limited policy knowledge, because of his managerial abilities.
This kind of competency, however, is less useful in the face of the untoward. That is why we aren't sanguine about the mayor being able to approach the coming fiscal crisis with any degree of innovation. Bloomberg's "more with less" mantra is nothing more than a cliché uttered to cloak the limits of his policy creativity.
As far as Ferrer is concerned, his making Atlantic Yards a referendum on the mayor's tenure must be music to Bruce Ratner's ears. After the expected Bloomberg landslide the whole city is going to be yelling: "Let's Go Nets." And did you notice how the mayor started to tick off his economic development initiatives, going from AY to the BTM and Willets Point? What an opportunity for Freddy to rail against the eminent domain excesses and anti-small business policies of this administration (he never bit).