Friday, January 16, 2009

State of the City: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Hans Christian Bloomberg gave his State of the City fable, and it was a real knee slapper-especially the part where the mayor pledged to create 400,000 new jobs. As City Room reports: "But the speech focused mainly on his nine-point plan, which he broke into three main parts: Spurring job growth; strengthening the quality of life to prevent the deterioration that consumed parts of the city in the 1970s; and a hodgepodge of austerity and efficiency measures...With roughly 3.5 million full- and part-time jobs in New York, the mayor’s plan, if achieved, would amount to more than a 10 percent increase in the city’s work force."

We just knew that the headline was to good to be true; Mike Bloomberg initiating a policy to, at least we first thought, to create 400,000 private sector jobs. Not so, however, since it appears that all of the new jobs are government generated-predominately in environmentally friendly areas. The man simply hasn't got a clue about the best ways to insure economic growth.

That is clearly seen in his perverse focus on what he termed "neighborhood quality of life." As NY1 reports, the mayor told his audience: "In fact the best thing we can do for Wall Street-and for every corner store in the city-is the second leg of our economic recovery strategy: continue ti improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods..."

This is pretty much ass backwards-it is the health of our stores that drive neighborhood quality of life-by creating a vibrant retail climate that attracts customers and enhances neighborhood safety. The begged question here is: How does this retail environment prosper? And the answer-nowhere to be found in the Bloomberg panegyric-lies with a reduction in the cost of doing business; a concept that is apparently absent from the Bloomberg policy repertoire.

There was, however, one tax cutting initiative that the Times reports the mayor is proposing: "Another item that would have to be approved by legislators in Albany was the mayor’s proposal to eliminate or reduce the Unincorporated Business Tax. The tax, which is up to 4 percent of gross revenues, discourages freelance work because workers also have to pay personal taxes.
The mayor said that New Yorkers who recently lost their jobs would be discouraged from starting to do freelance work or starting their own business because of the tax. Getting rid of the tax would save each of them up to $3,400, he said. “Let’s give their bottom lines a boost when they need it most,” the mayor said."

Well, if it makes sense to boost the bottom line for freelancers, what about neighborhood store owners? The reality is that, through increased taxes and burdensome regulations, the bottom line for stores has taken a severe beating over the past seven years-and nothing the mayor said yesterday promises any change for the tens of thousands of Mom and Pop retailers all over New York City who have been suffering under one of the most restrictive economic climate in the country.

Bloomberg the fabulist out did himself, though, with the following side splitter: “We will get New York City through these hard times that with the same approach that has always worked for us,” the mayor said. “Independent leadership based on facts and pragmatism – not politics and ideology. Innovative thinking that embraces new solutions to old problems – and an insistence on accountability, always.”

The only real innovation we've been able to discern, are the new and innovative ways the mayor has found to describe the alleged achievements of his administration-from the expensive school system stagnation heralded as a major accomplishment; to economic development boondoggles like Yankee Stadium that are described as, "great deals," by a mayor who has little evidenced concern for city tax payers.

Or, as Clyde Haberman views the phony politics/ideology disparagement: “Politics” is Bloomberg-speak for what everybody running for office does — except for him. “Ideology” is an adherence to certain fundamentals of democracy that he finds inconvenient. Of late, he has applied that word to those who believed that, since New Yorkers had voted twice in the 1990s to impose a two-term limit on most elected officials, the voters should have been asked once more if they had perhaps changed their minds."

Yesterday's speech reminds us of the old Ronnie Milsap song. "A Legend in My Time: "

"If heartaches brought fame
In love's crazy game
I'd be a legend in my time
If they gave gold statuettes
For tears and regrets
I'd be a legend in my time"

So, into what should have been Mike Bloomberg's swan song, we have another campaign speech; and the mayor is out to convince us that his great accomplishments obviate our distaste for his trumping of the popular will on term limits. Unlike Milsap, however, Bloomberg actually believes that his legendary status is built on a solid foundation of accomplishment. After all, who are you gonna believe, Mike Bloomberg and his billions of dollars worth of political propaganda, or your own lying eyes?