Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Alas Avlon

John Avlon over at the NY Sun is at it again, trying to argue that Mayor Mike Bloomberg's wealth puts him in a unique position; "he is free to do what he thinks is right." This "above politics" perch gives the mayor a great opportunity according to Avlon. "In short, he is free to do what he thinks is right. More importantly, he is free to make the politically tough decisions that New York needs to meet the future as a sustainable city."

But, as we have argued elsewhere, being free from the dreaded special interest doesn't guarantee that the luckily unencumbered official has the proper understanding that would enable him to know just what the "right" tough decision would be . The background and ideological perspective of the decisionmaker may constrain her in ways that prevent what some folks might feel was the proper course of action in a given situation.

Mike Bloomberg is a good case in point. Avlon, building on the ideological worldview of Fred Siegal, says that Mayor Mike needs to control the cost of municipal labor ("crippling long-term labor costs"). This is, however, a conservative small government argument that Mike Bloomberg, as a big government liberal, has shown a great deal of disdain for.

What in his first four years gives any indication that Bloomberg sees the size of city government as a problem in need of remedy? In fact, in the mayor's inaugural address all we really hear about is how the mayor is planning to spend more of the taxpayer's money (viz., a multi-billion dollar new housing initiative).

Aside from ideology, though, another factor that Avlon fails to consider is temperment. The kind of municipal labor battle that Avlon and Siegal envision needs a hearty champion willing to take on the considerable political clout of the city's unions. The story in today's Daily News on the mayor's response to the transit settlement underscores this point; "Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday he would tell his four appointees on the MTA board to approve the tentative contract...'It was done over the bargaining table...And it's the best deal both sides could get.'"

So nothing that we've seen suggests that Mike Bloomberg is capable of effectively waging this kind of battle or that he has the necessary public persona skills to carry out what would undoubtably be a full-scale war? We certainly don't think so and we don't believe that Siegal thinks he has this ability either.