Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bloomberg, Bloomberg, Pants on Fire

When Clyde Haberman wrote last week on the mayor and the term limits debate, he pointed out-referring to the complete about face that Bloomberg had made on the issue-that: "Having legislatively muscled his way into a possible third term as mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg now faces what may be a more onerous challenge: How to convince New Yorkers that they can believe a single thing he says."

Well, it didn't take long to find an issue that further erodes the mayor's rather flimsy credibility. It now appears that Mayor Mike, eager to bum rush his extension coronation, purposefully mislead New Yorkers about the size of the city's current deficit. As the NY Times reports this morning: "On Oct. 21, two days before the City Council voted by a thin margin to allow Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to seek a third term, the mayor sounded an alarm on the city’s economy. New York City’s annual budget deficit, he said, would swell by $500 million during the current fiscal year because of weakening tax revenues. At the time, the worsening picture seemed to strengthen his central argument for changing term limits — a vulnerable city needed his steady hand and business background for four more years."

But the dire warning turns out to be, at least for the current year-what a shock-simply false: "But some of those inside and outside the administration say that Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks were inaccurate and may have painted a more dire financial situation than was warranted. Interviews with these people show that the city does not expect any budget deficit in the current fiscal year, which began July 1."

So Michael Bloomberg, the above special interests statesman, is acting just like any other glibly prevaricating pol in support of the politician's time honored favorite special interest-self-aggrandizement: "In fact, data that was provided to the city about the same time the mayor was speaking showed the city’s tax revenue grew at an unexpectedly brisk pace during July, August and September. During that time, the city took in at least $200 million more than it had planned for, data and interviews show. Much of the unexpected revenue stemmed from sales, personal income and property transfer taxes."

So why did he lie Mr, Loeser? "Asked why the mayor said the city faces a deficit this year, aides said that Mr. Bloomberg may have been referring instead to his expectation that revenues would be lower than the city forecast. But even if the mayor were referring to a potential falloff in this year’s tax receipts, the $500 million number is a greater decline than what many city officials and economists predict."

And the mayor's words carry consider weight, especially in the fawning pages of the city's tabloids: "Mr. Bloomberg’s Oct. 21 remarks carried significant weight, and prompted articles in The Daily News and The New York Post about the city’s worsening economy. Both articles reported that the city’s budget deficit would swell by $500 million, and mayoral aides never sought to correct those stories. “I can tell you,” the mayor said, “that our deficit — we originally had ’09 balanced. Now we’ve got a $500 million hole in it.”

So we're back to Haberman's observation on the mayor's evanescent credibility and the still roiling issue of term limits. As he mused yesterday: "On the radio, Mr. Bloomberg left little doubt about his distaste for going that route. He cited the complex nature of city government. “You don’t run that by taking referendums on everything,” he said. His comment misrepresented reality. New York hardly holds referendums on everything; we’re not California. We have referendums on very few things."

So the upcoming 2010 referendum is certainly not a sure thing-and certainly not so given the lack of weight we're able to assign to whatever comes out of the mayor's mouth: "But in one such instance, five years ago, the voters soundly thumped Mr. Bloomberg when he sought their support for nonpartisan elections. That experience seems to have soured him on plebiscites. A reasonable inference from his latest remarks is that he is not interested in any kind of referendum at all."

The wise Timesman ends by highlighting the observations of the villainous "Chinatown" character, Noah Cross: "Mr. Bloomberg knows that his reputation has taken hard blows in the fight over term limits. But he is apparently betting that the passage of time will restore whatever he may have lost in respectability. Noah Cross would have counseled him to hang in there. “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores,” he said, “all get respectable if they last long enough.”

This hope-and $100 million-is what motivates Bloomberg; and he's someone who probably follows PT Barnum rather than Noah Cross. The old circus dude's motto certainly must guide the mayor: "There's a sucker born every minute,"