Monday, January 16, 2006

More on Institutional Critics

Smith's point on the lack of institutional critics also underscores the fact that, "Newspaper editorial boards are, to varying degrees fan's of Mike's, and invested in his success." This observation is particularly telling in the area of economic development where the city's real political power elite resides.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the deafening editorial silence over the Doctoroff-driven shenanigans at the BTM. In fact even after the debacle on the West Side one editorial observation said that Deputy Dan was "highly competent."

We are still hopefully waiting for the NY Times to weigh-in on this issue. It's not that they don't have enough ammunition. Their own Charles Bagli has written an exhaustive expose on the matter and the Daily News has been relentless in raising questions about the story (even while making sure to restrict Bill Egbert's stories to the Metro section).

The one major exception in regards to the BTM deal itself is the estimable Henry Stern. In June Stern raised a series of questions about the BTM, and the probable collusion between Doctoroff and Related's Steve Ross, that have yet to be answered with any degree of satisfaction. Building on the in-depth reporting of Graham Rayman at Newsday and Tom Robbins at the Voice, Stern insightfully remarks:
"It may be that only Ross was interested in this problematic enterprise, but one cannot know that unless others have had a chance to bid. The assertion that Doctoroff recused himself entirely from the transaction is also difficult for thinking people to swallow whole, considering the multiple contacts and protracted negotiations between the two parties. If Doctoroff had nothing to do with it, who then was responsible for working out the agreement? Let Mr. X come forward and explain the deal to the public."
Now on top of all this we have the recently announced court decision that argues that the city has the right to do all of this without an appraisal of the property in question, without open bidding, and without the normal land use review of the City Council . None of this piques the interest of the editorial boards? How does this differ from the West Side?

All of which reminds us of the sociological term coined by Vidich and Bensman, "mobilization of bias." When a city or town is dominated by a certain world view this view permeates to such an extent that its premises are never questioned. The view, in essence, describes reality for all those who are imbued with it. We see this most clearly in the use of "economic development" as a form of incantation. So much so that little evaluation of particular development is forthcoming.

This is what appears to be the case with the BTM and it relates to Ben Smith's original observations on editorial obeisance to the mayor. Certainly though, if Henry Stern can see the obvious problems and inconsistencies, than others can as well if they are made aware of their blinders on this issue. We will continue to push for this.