Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Legacy Admissions

Sunday's NY Post featured what will soon be a spate of "Bloomberg Legacy" pieces. What caught our eye first was the following observation by Joe Mercurio: "One of Bloomberg's shortcomings as mayor, according to political consultant Joseph Mercurio, boils down to "his refusal to play the game of New York state politics," a trait both criticized and applauded by New Yorkers over Bloomberg's two terms."You don't play the game, you don't win," Mercurio said. "I think he should try to play in his final year . . . His legacy is still up in the air."

Well said. The fact is that Mike Bloomberg entered politics as a vanity run, with no understanding of either public policy or the political process. Given this lacuna, he did rather remarkably well; things didn't fall apart and the Giuliani legacy that he inherited, on crime and welfare in particular, remained in place.

What else is there? The Post points out a few things, particularly in the area of public health, but underscores the big misses: "He may have encouraged city dwellers to quit smoking (there were 240,000 fewer smokers in 2007 than 2002), eat fewer trans fats and call 311 instead of screaming out their windows at neighbors (14.3 million calls in 2007), but a series of visionary projects he dreamed of bringing to New York - the 2012 Olympics, a Jets stadium on the West Side, congestion pricing - all have gone the way of the bar ashtray."

All of the failures devolved from the weaknesses he brought to the job: his novice status, his distaste for politics, and his martinet personality. As Doug Muzzio points out, this aspect of Mayor Mike is becoming more pronounced as he realized just how much he has failed to get done: "As he runs out of time, political scientist Douglas Muzzio said, Mayor Bloomberg is losing his patience."He's getting snippier and snippier," said the Baruch College professor. "Meanwhile, he's just getting lamer and lamer. The time to finalize his legacy is now."

But, aside from the overall projected air of competency-something that we believe history will seriously question-the real failure of the Bloombergistas will be seen in the impact of mayoral control of the schools. As Mercurio points out: "He promised a lot, but what has he really done with it?" Mercurio asked, referring to the school system. "It's not clear. That could be looked at negatively, especially if the state doesn't renew the mayoral-control legislation or changes it extensively."

And don't forget that Bloomberg blustered that he should be judged on this one major policy area, one that the Post doesn't give enough time and analysis too-and this will be a major policy issue in 2009 since the candidates will focus on things that the press has ignored while the Bloombergistas have spun a phony tale of accomplishment.

The Post piece has some good points, but as the mayor's monetary aura recedes into history the more incisive re-evaluations will begin to emerge. We are anticipating them with undisguised relish.