Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Checks and Balances?

In today's NY Sun, Jill Gardiner focuses on the rapport between Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn and writes that, "the two have acted like old friends since Christine Quinn was elected to the post seven weeks ago." In particular, Quinn stood with the mayor on his lobbying reform package and seemed to be part of the Bloomberg team in the dog-and-pony that was done on education financing in Albany last week. How are we to react to this lovefest?

Well, given the comments of the mayor's spokesman, Stuart Loeser ("Given the choice between a constructive partner in governing and the alternatives, the mayor certainly prefers a constructive partner"), we're a mite bit uneasy with all of this coziness. And the positive comparison to former speaker Peter Vallone is both inaccurate and unnerving.

Vallone was quite capable of standing up to the mayor, as he did on the Guiliani mega store proposal, but often let the mayor bulldoze him on faux mob-busting initiatives in carting and the public markets like Local Laws 28 and 42. Not to mention the mayor's attack on HANAC where Vallone simply hid under his desk.

All of this "partners in government" rhetoric certainly gives us pause because we're simply not all that enamored with the Bloomberg worldview particularly his tendency to see development from the top down. It is a paternalistic liberalism that lacks creativity and entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to the role of government.

What is particularly queasy in the Sun piece is the comments of mayoral toady Mitch Moss: "It's always better to start out harmoniously. Your alliances will help you get through the rougher times." What a load of self-serving crap! And when Moss and Loeser are whistling blithely you know immediately that the mayor is the senior partner in this arrangement and is getting the bigger cut of the political profits.

With a governmental structure that heavily favors the mayor it is important that the Council begin to sharply carve out its independent role because as Tom Lehrer reminded us about Vice President Hubert Humphrey, "Second fiddle's a hard part you know, when they don't even give you a bow."

Quinn needs to find a number of issues that she can use to properly carve out the Council's independent role. She has already flunked the Gateway issue where she allowed the mayor to roll her on the issue of the lease transfer and the Council's oversight responsibilities. Our hope is that solid waste will provide Quinn with the kind of an issue she can utilize to elevate the council's independence and proper place as an important check on mayoral incompetence.

One thing we know for sure is that the little guys, neighborhood folks and small businesses, have no real place in Bloomberg's world. Quinn's collaboration then, if it means less independence and more reliance on supporting mayoral initiatives, does not bode well for these less powerful constituencies. Just ask the BTM merchants.