Monday, April 07, 2008

The Billion Dollar Bust

The Bloomberg congestion tax went down in flames-in rather a spectacular fashion don't you think? Out spent by millions, the opposition effectively organized and stayed on message while the mayor and his minions flopped around, continually tinkering with a flawed idea. Kudos to Walter McCaffrey and Corey Bearak who led the valiant effort (we did help out for the first six months, but the credit really goes to these two.

And let's not forget our friend Steve Barrison, who single handily led a strong grass roots effort. And the heroes gallery of electeds include intrepid Richard Brodsky, David Weprin, Carl Kruger (who led a contingent of seniors in protest early on), Ruben Diaz Sr., Rory Lancman and Lew Fidler-the latter councilman who did a masterful job highlighting the inadequacy of the plan down at City Hall.

So now, as the blogs are pointing out today-here, here, and here-and more to be said tomorrow, the mayor's legacy may be in tatters. As the NY Times puts it: "The collapse of the plan, which would have charged drivers $8 to enter parts of Manhattan during peak hours, was a huge blow to Mr. Bloomberg’s environmental agenda and political legacy, and his second major defeat at the hands of Mr. Silver and the state Assembly, which in 2005 blocked the mayor’s plan to redevelop the West Side railyards and allow a big sports stadium to be built there."

As we used to say in the street; "Once burnt, twice learnt." Yet the mayor seems to have missed this bit of street corner wisdom growing up in Waltham. Why else would he repeat the same stadium mistakes in dealing with Shelly Silver. Does everyone remember how Bloomberg spit in Silver's face on the Gansevoort recycling center? And isn't the definition of crazy doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results?

So now expect the sour grapes from the mayor and all of his faux bicycle riding buddies. As Liz cites the mayoral mouthpiece: "John Gallagher, who sent out the following and noted that it should be attributed to him, not the mayor himself; "What we are witnessing today is one of the biggest cop-outs in New York's history. After insisting on the formation of a commission to make recommendations for a bill, and then for the City Council to vote to endorse that bill, the Assembly needs to stand up and be counted. They owe it to the majority of New Yorkers who support this plan, the scores of environmental groups, public health organizations, business leaders, unions, and the public at large, to put this proposal to a public vote.”

What part of, the votes weren't there, doesn't Gallagher get? And when does the mayoral spokesman get to speak ex cathedra for himself? And as we said this morning, the mayor himself foreclosed compromise with his "eleventh hour" admonition in church yesterday, something that Silver himself referenced after the assembly decision.

So now what? Can we can expect the League of Woman Voters to launch its electoral jihad? Maybe the League should start in Ruben Diaz's South Bronx district, or in Carl Kruger's South Brooklyn district. The League will soon find themselves in the position of all of those voters who couldn't understand how Nixon won. As Pauline Kael remarked at the time: ""I don’t understand how Nixon won; I don’t know a soul who voted for him."

So we'll leave this delicious outcome for more on the mayoral legacy (or lack thereof) tomorrow. Just remember what we've been saying all along about hubris and the singular lack of political skills, not to mention charisma. The plan was flawed, but the only flair the mayor showed was in his nostrils.