Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Death of Good Government Revealed

The word that came down yesterday that Andrea Batista Schlesinger had been tabbed to work on the Bloomberg campaign, came as no surprise to us; our only response is: What took so long? Now you might remember that we had speculated, back during the congestion tax controversy, that ABS and her Drum Majorettes had to be on the Bloomberg payroll-so ardent were these folks in the pursuit of the mayor's commuter tax concept. Schlesinger, for her part, brayed her independence to one and all.

And, you know what? We actually almost believed her-she and the mayor did seem to have a genuine love affair; and one that wasn't-or isn't-governed by any cash nexus. In fact, the two of them are so committed to higher taxes that we have no doubt the relationship will be productive-just not for the city's tax payers. Yet, on closer inspection, this just might be a case of both love and money.

Here's how the DMI views Schlesinger's campaign role: "Bloomberg campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson confirmed Batista Schlesinger's hiring, which was announced to DMI board members yesterday via an email sent by Board Secretary Deborah Sagner...

"I am writing to you with exciting, but challenging news for DMI. Andrea has been offered a position with the Bloomberg for Mayor campaign," Sanger wrote. "She has been asked to develop and coordinate "big ideas," policy and strategy for the campaign."

"Her principal charge is to help develop ideas and rationale for a bold and progressive third term for the mayor and to make these ideas politically resonant. She will work with the campaign gurus to translate these ideas for the electorate and will represent the mayor before different groups throughout the city. She will report directly to the campaign manager."

Translation-higher taxes and more business bankruptcies. As the NY Daily News reports this morning: "Bloomberg campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said Batista Schlesinger will serve as a policy adviser, calling her "one of the leading progressive policy thinkers in the nation, and someone who is committed, like the mayor, to making this city work for all New Yorkers." Just not for its small businesses and homeowners who fall outside of ABS' middle class rubric.

And yet in the process, the DMI sounds, well, really old pol about all of this-unconcerned about any commitment to real principles: "Proximity to the mayor, who is likely but not guaranteed to be the next mayor, is a good thing for DMI no matter what our personal view of his administration. Developing relationships with people in power is a must for DMI to accomplish its goal of advancing a progressive policy agenda."

Not to worry, though; Bloomberg and ABS will have a virtual philosophical love-in, with any critique of his tax and spend profligacy a real long shot. But there's one little nugget in the DMI press release, an acknowledgement that raise questions anew about the untoward DMI-Bloomberg partnership: "Another benefit to DMI would be Andrea's strengthened connection to the Bloomberg Foundation and other funders who care about the future of NYC."

Well, well, well. A strengthened relationship strongly implies the existence of prior one; confirmation of our suspicion that during the congestion tax fight the DMI was just another wholly owned subsidiary of Mike Bloomberg. And now that down payment culminates in the direct purchase of Ms. Schlesinger-totally belying all of her previous protestations of virtue.

In Mike Bloomberg's New York, good government is a luxury item that only he can afford to buy; and all that is left to observe is rank hypocrisy. Here's the DMI's attempt at humour-proclaiming virtue while clothed in the garb of Client #9: "Such relationships, however, do not mean that anyone is above critique. DMI always holds elected officials to account and will do so to Bloomberg if he wins. Organizations are empowered when their ED's are viewed as 'players'."

Here lies the corpse of good government in New York. On a day when the, "paying taxes is the highest form of patriotism crowd," watches another presidential nominee fall on his failure to pay tax sword, it is only fitting that a self-described "truth to power" pretender gets co-opted by a sniff of political power; purveyed masterfully by the embodiment, and chief executive of special interests.