Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Usual Suspects

It's really unsurprising that Mike Bloomberg would select a Wall Streeter-even a failed one-to be his new finance commissioner. When it comes to finding talent, the mayor is really a one trick pony. As City Room reports: "He is a casualty of Wall Street’s implosion: a managing director at the brokerage house Morgan Stanley forced out six months ago after the company merged with its ailing rival Citigroup. Now, David M. Frankel will be in charge of the New York City agency responsible for collecting taxes from those companies."

Now, to his credit and the mayor's as well, Frankel actually has some prior experience in government under the Koch administration. But the appointment underscores Bloomberg's narrow world views-and serves to further highlight the extent to which this view hasn't served the city.

The hard truth is that the Bloombergistas have no one on their team with any feel for, or real knowledge of, the reality of small neighborhood businesses. The folks at EDC live in a development laden cocoon-where huge real estate projects get the juices flowing and nurturing smaller existing firms lacks any career boosting glamour. Making a bad situation that much worse, is the role of Rob Walsh, the city's small business commissioner.

Over the span of seven years, Walsh has earned the enmity of scores of small business groups-with many calling for his resignation. Walsh, though, simply represents the mayor, and it is Mike Bloomberg who is tone deaf when it comes to the policies that are necessary to grow the city's neighborhood retail sector. That is why, we are facing the city's biggest economic crisis in decades-with vacant store fronts littering the shopping strips of every borough.

But you can't say that the Bloombergistas don't know how to appear-rather than to be-good. Here's how good they posture: "Twelve Organizations and Individuals are Honored for their Work to Revitalize New York City's Communities. Helping Neighborhoods Become More Inviting to Business and Residents is Part of the Bloomberg Administration's Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh today presented the 2009 New York City Neighborhood Achievement Awards to 12 recipients in all five boroughs. Established in 2002, the awards honor organizations, businesses and individuals that have demonstrated excellence in enhancing New York City neighborhoods by fostering economic opportunity."

This is the equivalent of the orchestra playing on the Titanic. Giving some plaques out is no substitute for economic policies that nurture and grow the city's neighborhood retail shops. And some of the folks getting the coveted "Bloomy" awards have been successful in spite of, rather than because of what the city has done.

So, in abiding by a policy of greater honesty and transparency in government, Mike Bloomberg should be shaking the hands of the folks at Greene Grape Provisions and Greene Grape Wine Store; Hot Bread Kitchen, Ltd.; Pastosa Ravioli of Staten Island; and El Nuevo Delicoso Restaurant of the South Bronx-and thanking them for their perseverance and tenacity in the face of policies that the mayor himself has enacted to make it harder to succeed in the city's hostile business climate. Their success is a testimony to the drive that so many New Yorkers exhibit-a spirit that even an over burdening government can't stifle completely.

So congrats to our new finance commissioner-another place holder for the plutocrats. If Frankel wants to do some good for the city's small businesses he can find a way to insure that the black market in cigarettes doesn't completely eliminate all of the legitimate retail outlets that sell thew product. If he can do that, we will give him our own award.