Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shaw Departs

All of the local papers are reporting on the departure of Deputy Mayor Marc Shaw who's leaving the Bloombergers to join with the real estate development company Extell. Shaw will become Extell's VP for "strategic planning." We wish Marc well and can't help but use his departure to muse on a constant theme of ours: the interconnection of politics and real estate in this city.

You'll notice that Mr. Shaw didn't open up a neighborhood bodega or go toil with a public spirited not-for-profit. We can't really blame him for this since we know that Marc has children he needs to put through college. That's just the point, however.

Real estate is the premier industry in this city and folks in government are quite aware of this. Doing things for these folks makes sense because their interests seem to naturally be in the public interest, it's part of the "mobilization of bias" we have been talking about.

But of course there's another aspect of this that is less sanguine. The fact that the nexus of money and power resides in this quadrant creates a symbiosis that leads to the kind of revolving door we see with the lucrative departure of Marc Shaw. There is then a built-in self interest involved in the decision making process when it comes to economic development in this town.

Promoting development and the developers behind it has a potential benefit for the government official. This has been especially true of the good folks at EDC where the revolving door is well greased. As a result, policy is crafted with the built-in bias we talked about. Accountable development is sacrificed since the "accountants" are accountable only to their own worldview and personal self-interest.