Friday, October 30, 2009

Misplaced Sympathy

Our good friend Albor Ruiz covered a vendor protest last week, and we believe that his sympathies are misplaced: "New Yorkers are a famously contentious bunch. But there is one issue everybody agrees on: Unemployment in the city is far too high. So, it is difficult to understand why, in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the city decided to go after street vendors with a vengeance. But vendors are not taking what they consider unfair treatment by the Police Department sitting down."

Now this may be a case where two disadvantaged groups are being unfairly pitted against each other; but our primary sympathies lie with the store owners-something that Ruiz knows a great deal about. As he pointed out earlier this year: "Small, friendly and convenient, bodegas are more than businesses - they are veritable neighborhood institutions. Yet they are disappearing faster than you can say "stimulus package." Ramón Murphy, president of the Bodega Association of the United States, and a bodega owner, is sounding the alarm about the state of the business to which he has dedicated 24 years of his life - and that has allowed him to raise four
children."Bodegas are family businesses, and every time one closes, two or three families suffer," he said at his Red Apple Grocery, at 134 Hamilton Place in Manhattan. "Last year, 137 of them went down only along Broadway from 230th St. to 197th St.," Murphy added. "Hundreds of bodegueros [bodega owners] are throwing in the towel. Every day, two or three bodegas close in New York."

So the stores are hurting badly-and it's not just the little guys, although they have the hardest time. As the NY Daily News reported in January: "Now is the worst," said Ramon Murphy, a bodega owner for 24 years and president of the Bodega Association of the United States.
The recession added another burden to stores already facing rising rents, Murphy said, causing a surge of bodega closings across the city last year - including 137 bodegas along Broadway in Manhattan."

So while we sympathize with the plight of vendors, it is important to stabilize the city's small business base-and in many areas vendors setting up shop in front of stores are bleeding the revenues away from retailers that depend on these lost sales to survive. That is why we oppose the measure to increase the number of street vendors that Ruiz touts in his column.

As Ruiz tells us: "With unemployment at 10.3% in the city, higher than the national rate of 9.7% according to the state Labor Department, some City Council members like Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) and Charles Barron (D-East New York) believe that instead of punishing vendors, the cap on street vending permits should be raised. Barron recently introduced a bill that would do exactly that...The vendors' demands are reasonable: End the disproportionate fines, open more streets to vendors and increase the number of permits."

Until there is a coherent regulatory and enforcement mechanism to control existing street vending, we believe that any increase would be a disaster, not only for the small businesses that are forced to compete with these low overhead peddlers, but also for many local communities whose quality of life is being eroded by vendor proliferation.

Who Will Educate the Educators?

There's a great line from Karl Marx's Theses on Feuerbach III that comments on Plato's concept of the philosopher king: "Who will educate the educator?" And nothing so much underscores this world view than the actions of our educrats over the use of school testing. To paraphrase Marx: "Who will test the testers?"

All that we have said about the faulty test regime of the city's Department of Education is starting to come into a sharper focus-with the NY Post ironically taking an unexpected lead role this morning: "The numbers don't add up. New York and most other states set their benchmarks for student proficiency in math and reading well below those of a gold-standard national test, according to a new analysis. The report by the National Center for Education Statistics, which compared state testing standards between 2005 and 2007, provides additional ammunition to critics who charge that New York has set the passing bar too low on annual math and reading tests -- which students have been acing with increased frequency in recent years."

Now we don't want to appear to be really snide here, but isn't this the same newspaper-along with the Daily News-that played the amen choir to the Bloomberg effort to retain mayoral control of the city schools-with the riding test scores being used as rationale #1? It is, and we have apparently reached the classic Gilda Radner-Emly Latella "Never Mind!" moment.

Is it too early to demand a recount? And where can we go for redress from the mendacity that has been exhibited over the ginned up test results? And, equally as apparent in this dishonest campaign, is the fact that one person's proficiency is another's basic skills: "Overall, the study found that what many states called a "proficient" skill level, the National Assessment of Educational Progress considered one skill level below that, known as "basic."

So, basically we've been had-and it's our own new secretary of education who nails the testing sleight-of-hand for what it is: ""Today's study confirms what we've known for a long time: States are setting the bar too low," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "We're lying to our children when we tell them they're proficient but they're not achieving at a level that will prepare them for success once they graduate."

And we have a mayor-riding a wave of unprecedented campaign spending-using these lies to justify a third term. We could chalk this up to politics as usual-but it sure isn't progress for our school children, their teachers and administrators, and of course their parents. Bloomberg promised better; but his failure in regards to this issue-one that is shared by his media toadies-is truly monumental.

Bully For You!

Steve Kornacki has an interesting piece in the Observer about how the mayor, running against a hopelessly outmatched challenger-at least as far as resources are concerned-has still felt the need to pile on. He calls it, beating a dead horse: "...Mr. Bloomberg has dumped more than $85 million into his campaign. He’s gobbled up big-name consultants, saturated the television and radio airwaves for months, secured endorsements from countless Democrats and media outlets and squeezed every drop of benefit imaginable from his incumbency. (Did you see him awkwardly standing in Fox’s shot as the ALCS trophy was handed to the Yankees on Sunday night?)Meanwhile, his opponent has raised virtually no money, relied on a sub–big-time campaign operation, been snubbed by influential members of his own party and been reduced to pretending that the president of the United States is strongly in his corner, when he plainly isn’t."

But this tactic comes with a cost-and, in our view, it has sucked all of the democratic air out of the room in making a mockery of the electoral process; a point Kornacki also makes as follows: "More notable was the simple fact the Mr. Bloomberg chose to lay out his vision of a 2013 New York in a speech on a weekday afternoon. Almost no voters saw it in its entirety, and only a few probably bothered to read the brief news accounts that made it into the next day’s papers. This wouldn’t be the case if Mr. Bloomberg had devoted his October media budget to sharing his 2013 dream with New Yorkers--instead of using his cash to savage Mr. Thompson."

So the campaign to literally save New York-so dire are our economic circumstances-is transmuted into a typical challenger savaging; typical in style but not in the substance since few have as much money to do as thorough a job as Mike does. In the process, however, Bloomberg has lost something-and it's reflected in the polls, as well as in the lethargy that is the one thing really scaring the Bloombergistas: "Which brings us to the polling, and Mr. Bloomberg’s stubborn inability all year—despite his many, many advantages—to climb much higher than 50 percent in head-to-head matchups against Mr. Thompson. This failure is remarkable when considered in context. Last November, just after he forced a term-limits extension through the City Council, Mr. Bloomberg was running just 15 points ahead of Mr. Thompson, 49 to 34 percent. No one was too surprised: The mayor had just endured some of the worst press of his tenure. Of course he’d be underperforming. Give it some time, and a ton of money, and his number will improve, the thinking went. But it really hasn’t."

What do we see $85 million and counting later? "All of this has added up to a net gain of just a few points over the past 11 months in Mr. Bloomberg’s head-to-head standing with Mr. Thompson. Fifty-three to thirty-five percent is his lead in the latest poll from Quinnipiac University, the same outfit that gave him a 49 to 34 edge last November."

And the reason why this has happened is a direct result of Mike Bloomberg's lack of any real political vision-a trait shared by the expensive team he put together to help run his campaign juggernaut. This was reflected in his rambling and lackluster NYU speech-as well as in his confusion at the Crain's breakfast when queried about his third term.

What this boils down to, is that this campaign is all about-and only about-the mayor's money; and his willingness to use and abuse it for the one thing that really matters to him-his own self interest: "We could have seen a more inspiring, meaningful campaign on the mayor’s part—one that would have allowed him to ignore his hapless opponent (instead of sullying him) and focus his efforts on laying down markers for a third term. It could have been the kind of campaign some dared to imagine back in June. Instead, the Bloomberg campaign has opted for politics as usual."

Imagination and real honesty simply isn't in Bloomberg's basic character. And when the media is acting as co-conspiritors, we get the lifeless-and relentless-barrage of mendacity clogging the airwaves. Trust us, the third term will be Bloomberg simply winging it in the face of some real difficulty. And how he responds to the difficulty may just shock us all-because there is certainly nothing in the current campaign that has even given us a tiny peek at what lies ahead for the city. But, don't be too harsh on Mike Bloomberg, he doesn't really know himself and hasn't given the problem all that much thought.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Media Milquetoasts

Tom Robbins lays out the bill of particulars against the political quiescence of the local papers: "One reason for the remarkably charmed life of Mike Bloomberg's administration as he sails toward re-election has been the waning of the city's news business. This is an odd blessing for a man who made his fortune as a media mogul. But just ask Rudy Giuliani, or David Dinkins, or Ed Koch, and they'll painfully explain."

And Robbins goes on to highlight a number of stories that, perhaps, in another more robust time, would have become fodder for tabloid competition-and a challenge to the Teflon image of the mayor. And the 911 scandal heads the list: "It's not that there's no investigative spadework being done. What's missing is critical mass. Last week, the Daily News's Juan González delivered some excellent fodder for a full-scale media assault in City Hall's Blue Room. He reported that the mayor's billion-dollar plan to relocate the city's emergency 911 call system has become a fiasco. Not only has Bloomberg's team blown its budget and deadlines, but it has also ignored the findings of its own consultant, which found the project was mired in mismanagement. Rather than dump its lead contractor, as the consultant recommended, Bloomberg's top aides insisted that the plan go ahead as is—defects be damned."

The deserved furor, however, never occurred. But we're placing the blame less on the state of newspaper lassitude, and more on the incandescence of Mayor Mike. How else can we explain why the 911 scandal, one that exposes the expertise myth of the mayor, never caught hold? As Robbins observes: "This type of project is supposed to be smack in the mayor's sweet spot since it involves computers and communications, the business that made him the city's richest man. It should also be one of those instances where he runs rings around old-school politicians because of his keen business acumen. Instead, here he is, tripped up by the same cost overruns and bureaucrats that plague ordinary humans. Another mayor in another time might have suffered many tough questions the day after such information surfaced. Instead, only the News chased its own story."

And then there are the schools: "Bloomberg's biggest claim to mayoral fame as he grabs for the third term that he used to insist he would never seek is his success at the business of education. This is a debate worth having. But Bloomberg consistently wins by default because the other side never fully shows up. As the legislature was considering the renewal of Bloomberg's mayoral control law this year, Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan issued six lengthy reports on the law's impact on the schools. They were detailed and thoughtful critiques on student achievement, school organization, and contracting. Asked recently how much press he received about them, Brennan paused. "I'm not sure there was any," he said."

But the education media miasma is, in our view, a sole consequence of the mayor's MC Hammer, "Can't Touch This," routine. As Crain's Insider pointed out yesterday: "But in attacking the mayor on education, Thompson has gained no traction. Various advocacy groups and elected officials have likewise failed. Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, says class sizes are going up, contrary to claims in the Mayor's Management Report. She recently testified that the Department of Education is “committing fraud” by ignoring a state mandate to reduce class size, which last year grew by the largest amount in a decade. Neither the department nor Haimson can explain the discrepancies in the numbers...Teachers frequently complain about tedious drilling to inflate test scores, but their union has been silent on this topic during the campaign—which, given the contract it got from the mayor, was no surprise to insiders. The three major dailies' endorsements of the mayor ignored the context of the scores."

So the pattern is clearly established. What would normally prompt editorial outrage and an accompanying media feeding frenzy for the sins of mortals, is ignored when it pertains to the actions of Mayor Mike. And this Robbins observation underscores our point: "At the mayor's annual Gracie Mansion Christmas party for the press last year, those in attendance report that Bloomberg took the stage to offer his idea of a joke. "I see that my three best friends in the media—Mort, Rupert, and Arthur—aren't here," he quipped. Then he walked out, right past the grunts who cover him all year."

So the fix is in-and we see it every day. In this morning's NY Post editorial on the collapsing state of the NY economy, the paper lashes out against Governor Paterson, who's only been around for a short stint, and fails to even mention Big Spender Mike. The lesson here is that the press owners finally have one of their own at the helm.

So, when misdeeds that would normally earn someone the Post's disdain, or garner a, "Knucklehead Award," from the News, are committed by the mayor they may be reported, but not with anything like the vitriol that is reserved for the lower class miscreants. In the end, the silence of the press lambs is all about the weight and influence of New York's richest and most powerful man.

Bridge to Nowhere?

Our friends at Queens Crapper have sent us the following missive about the continued political activities of one Claire Shulman-it seems that she's trying to emulate former the Alaskan politicians who got funds for a bridge to nowhere: "Flushing and Corona leaders continue to make incremental progress on the plans for the revitalization of the Flushing River waterfront to accompany the redevelopment of Willets Point.The board of the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. met last Thursday with other leaders, including Maura McCarthy, Queens borough commissioner of the city Department of Transportation, to discuss options for the long-neglected area.Possible plans discussed at the meeting include one which is not well-known among nearby residents but could have a significant impact on the area’s character: the construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting Flushing’s business district to Willets Point."

Claire, for her part seems to continue to spit in the face of the ongoing AG investigation into the questionable political activities of her so-called not-for-profit local development corporation-and he signed federal waiver to refrain from lobbying: "Former Borough President Claire Shulman, who now heads the development group, said she and the group’s board plan to secure funding, maybe even from the federal government, for the bridge and that they “intend to do everything we can to make sure it happens.”

So, let's get this straight. Claire's going to go and lobby the federal government-the same one that she pledged to refrain from lobbying in order to be granted her not for profit status-in order to get money for a project that is on land that the city doesn't even own yet.

And, as the NY Times reported yesterday, she might have to move fast: "Redevelopment can look easy on paper, but there are always neighborhood concerns, even in a place like Willets Point, a 62-acre industrial shanty town of body shops and scrap yards near the Mets’ stadium in Queens. The administration viewed it as an area ripe for economic development if the 225 existing businesses could be cleared....Mr. Doctoroff was determined to do better, through a local business group, the Flushing-Willets Point Local Development Corporation, which received half its money from the city. But about half the group’s money was spent doing something not allowed under state law: lobbying city officials. The group’s lobbying, has led to an investigation by the attorney general’s office."

In fact, as we have already pointed out, Shulman is a whirlwind of political activity-obtaining a so-called brownfields grant as a result of her clearly effective political activity. If the AG doesn't hurry here, he might find that his house-no matter where it's located-has been condemned to make way for some other aspect of the Willets Point development.

This Willets Point deal is rapidly becoming another example of a great NYC boondoggle. Money's being spent-or being asked to be spent-on a myriad of expensive projects at a time when the city treasury is supposedly tapped out. When the dust clears, will it be a sad case of "money for nothing?" It's time for the city to do a preliminary cost accounting for this development. Bloomberg may be immune to any form of sticker shock-but we're betting that the tax payers aren't.

Pay for Pray

You know the old line, that whenever they say it isn't about the money, it's always about the money. And so it goes, it seems, with a great swath of our esteemed clergy who have lined up behind that old time religion-the almighty dollar-and endorsed Mike Bloomberg. And Abyssinian's Calvin Butts is right there in front of the line singing that famous NYC gospel hymn: "Not for Nothing."

So it really doesn't matter that challenger Bill Thompson and Butts have longstanding personal ties; this isn't personal-it's business. As the NY Times reports: "A few weeks ago, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the influential pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, came to a difficult decision, one he had wrestled with all summer. He would not endorse William C. Thompson Jr., the city comptroller and a longtime friend and ally, for mayor, as he had promised Mr. Thompson last spring. Instead, he would endorse Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg."

And the check certainly wasn't in the mail: "Mr. Thompson was furious at the betrayal. But what he did not know was that Mr. Bloomberg gave a $1 million donation to the church’s development corporation — roughly 10 percent of its annual budget — with the implicit promise of more to come. “What could I say to a man who was mayor, and was supportive of a lot of programs that are important to me?” Mr. Butts said in an interview before he endorsed Mr. Bloomberg."

There is, we guess, something to be said for honesty-but what's the difference here between what Bloomberg is doing and the "street money" that John Corzine was excoriated for giving out to members of the Black clergy when he first ran for public office? This is literally a pay for pray scheme that dramatizes the extent to which Mike Bloomberg's money corrupts the democratic political process.

But Butts isn't alone: "In his quest for a third term, Mr. Bloomberg has deprived Mr. Thompson of what many once regarded as his political birthright: the blessings of the city’s most powerful black ministers, who together preach to tens of thousands of congregants each week. And to win them over, he has deployed an unusual combination of city money, private philanthropy, political appointments and personal attention, creating a web of ties to black clergy members that is virtually unheard of for a white elected official in New York City."

All of which gets to the core of our argument-one that Thompson finally began to pick up in the last debate-that the mayor has reversed the normal flow of special interest money, and has done so in the the interest of the most special of interests-his own: "Looming over it all is Mr. Bloomberg’s dazzling wealth, whether already bestowed — as in the case of Mr. Butts — or hoped for down the line. “We have to come to his foundation sooner or later,” said the Rev. Timothy Birkett, pastor of the Church Alive Community Church in the Bronx, who is backing the mayor this year. “We hope that he will be receptive.”

And the final accounting may never be understood-and the clergy here may be unfairly singled out-because when you're the city's richest man and are giving away $235 million a year-almost three times the amount that you gave out before you came into office-it isn't only the ministers feeding at the Bloomberg trough. And when we look at the congestion pricing battle of a few years ago, and the term limits fight of last year, we can better understand the "outpouring of public support" as simply a concomitant of the outpouring of Bloombucks-a further Astroturf example of the subornation of an open democratic process.

We do have one thing to be grateful for. According to the Butts, the new Bloomberg family retainer, he wouldn't have taken the money and given the endorsement if the mayor had been Rudy Giulliani: "Since Mr. Bloomberg was sworn in, the church and its affiliated nonprofit groups have received at least $7 million in city contracts. None of that, Mr. Butts said, made it any easier to tell Mr. Thompson that he had changed his mind about the endorsement. But he denied that the mayor’s philanthropy played a role in his decision. “If Giuliani had the money Bloomberg had, and spread it around, he still wouldn’t get support,” Mr. Butts said. “This is not about Bloomberg’s money.”

Boy, are we confused. Go back and read the opening quote for Cool Cal: "What could I say to a man who was mayor, and was supportive of a lot of programs that are important to me?” But this isn't about the money? And using Rudy as a prop to his conscience here does little credit to the avaricious Mr. Butts-it's really a low bar considering that Giuliani is right up there next to Satan with the members of the Black clergy.

But even that fact didn't get the normal high dudgeon going when Rudy, being Rudy, made his inflammatory comments about crime a few weeks ago: "That contrast was on display last week when Mr. Bloomberg appeared at a campaign event with Mr. Giuliani, who suggested to a mostly white, Jewish audience in Brooklyn that “the wrong political leadership” could return New Yorkers to the days of “fear of going out at night and walking the streets.” Several black elected officials immediately denounced the comments as race-baiting. But no prominent black pastors demanded that the mayor disavow the comments."

So sorry Calvin, as we remarked in the beginning, when they say it isn't about the money, it is always about the money. And the behavior of these paid sycophants is a reminder that democracy in NYC is officially off life supports; and is only waiting for the final coroner's report on Tuesday to pronounce its death. Can we get a church chorus of-"Michael Bloomberg,"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Loan Them Back Their Own Money?

Politicians, when faced with a faltering economy and the collapse of the small business sector in particular, love to devise loan programs to trumpet their concern for the economy's most vulnerable. We have commented on the effort of Mike Bloomberg in this regard, and have pointed out just how it avoids the central issue of high taxes and over regulation.

Why can't these leaders simply lower the cost of doing business? They can if they eschew a big government, high tax agenda. Which brings us to President Obama's-and sidekick Pelosi's-replication of the Bloomberg game plan. As the Foundry points out: "Obama promised that the stimulus would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs, and significantly tempter the rising unemployment rate. Now that it is clear that his plan has failed to save or create jobs, and unemployment is still rising, Democrats are reaching out to small business. “Small business is the engine of job creation and capital creation in our country,” Nancy Pelosi said yesterday. Their plan? Use more taxpayer money to increase Federal loans to small businesses—those that qualify according to government guidelines, of course."

But the Heritage Foundation website agrees with our position, and says that the effort is misguided: "Why first burden small businesses with taxes and regulation, and then turn around and use that tax money to give them loans? Why not instead first lower the tax rate, simplify and let go of some of the red tape, and then—if they are still struggling—consider using tax money to make special loans? Wouldn’t that make more sense?"

It would, but it is an approach discordant with the world view that sees the aggrandizement of government as the solution to the country's ills-and not the essential cause of them; at least from the economic side of the ledger. We'll give Foundry the last word: "Indeed, does it not make sense to first reduce existing tax and regulatory burden before jumping to subsidize?"

State Senate on the Warpath

Yesterday's overflow state senate hearing on Indian cigarette tax avoidance was a tour de force-and that it was so can be attributed to the performance of our old friend Steve Rosenthal. Steve has as much knowledge about how cigarettes are sold as anyone in New York; and he cogently laid out how much it is costing the state because of the ability of one special interest to flout the law.

But we should also add that the entire hearing was an education-and Deputy Tax Commissioner Comiskey did a solid job explaining why his department has held back from enforcing the law. He made it clear to the senators that his tax department is ready to start to enforce 471-E today; as long as the governor gives them the green light-something that hasn't happened because Paterson is dithering on this issue.

And Comiskey made it clear why that's so-talking about the, "complexity," of this issue; and the need to try to find a, "peaceful resolution." Indicating clearly to us that it is the fear of Indian violence that is holding the governor back.

But as we said in our testimony-and the point was emphasized by Rosenthal as well: "I think it is also important to point out that the failure of the executive to enforce a cigarette tax law that the legislature has mandated leads inevitably to the erosion of the respect for the rule of law itself. The fact that a New York State Tax Commissioner, in response to the legislative mandate, has stated that he won’t enforce the cigarette tax equally because of a supposed fear of Indian violence, is both a shocking statement and precedent. There should never be any “rioter’s veto” that prevents law enforcement from doing its job."

But Comiskey clearly stated that the governor has stayed his hand-but in the face of a barrage of questions, was unable to pinpoint just how much this diffidence is costing the tax payers of the state. Rosenthal, however, was happy to oblige with as accurate an evaluation of the tax loss as we have heard.

Using federal tobacco consumption data, he computed the formula that analyzed what the state has lost through the declining rate of cigarette consumption, versus what it has lost-and continues to lose-through illegal, non taxed sales. The estimated loss from illegal sales comes to around 40 million cartons a year; and at approximately $40 per carton the loss to New York State is a staggering $1.6 billion/year.

But Rosenthal also documented the loss of business that this Indian avoidance has generated-90% of cigarette wholesalers that were operating 10 years ago have closed-and that doesn't account for all of the bodegas that have shuttered as 60% of their tobacco business has gone to the black market that is fueled by reservation sales.

But it gets worse. With buttleggers operating with impunity right in front of local bodegas, store owners have been forced to resort to fighting fire with fire-buying Internet smokes and selling them on the street in competition with the smugglers. In essence, as Rosenthal points out, we have made thieves out of many an honest merchant.

And kudos to Senator Ruben Diaz who asked the commissioner: "Do the Indian children go to public schools? Do the Indians use the public hospitals and transportation? If so, why don't they pay taxes for the services that they are using?" And Commissioner Comiskey said: "That's a good question, senator, one that I don't have a good answer for."

But the governor's lawyer, Peter Kiernan, demonstrated just what kind of cowardice lies behind the executive diffidence. As NY1 reports: "...the cost of police may wipe out all that extra revenue. 'And that is without trying to assess the cost of physical injury, or the loss of life, or possible property damage,' Kiernan said." Don't enforce the law, then-and allow that rioter's veto to prevail, we guess. All of which makes Paterson the Neville Chamberlain of New York governors. How sad a spectacle.

So the senators received an earful-with the convenience store owners stating their case as well (led by the inimitable Jim Calvin of NYACS). It is now up to the senate to devise a solution to the governor's hard to fathom timidity. There's too much money at stake to drop the ball now, and if the governor's too afraid to act, someone needs to find a way to give him a spinal transplant.

For the Love of Money

The Bloomberg campaign's ability to buy support is now taking on Biblical proportions-with the admonition that money is the root of all evil becoming a kind of catch phrase to describe the fervor with which a wide range of folks are finding the mayor irresistible. Here courtesy of the omnipresent Liz Benjamin is the first example:


Today, Polish-language Nowy Dziennik - Polish Daily News and Spanish-language El Universal Prensa endorsed Mayor Bloomberg’s bid for re-election. Nowy Dziennik has a circulation of roughly 22,000 and is distributed across the five boroughs."

Now, in a more scrutinized election campaign this kind of chest bumping would be treated with a heavy dose of scorn, given the fact that all of these endorsements have come with an obvious price tag. Mike Bloomberg's ability to lavish tens of thousands of dollars on almost every paper that is published in NYC has achieved the desired result-the quid pro quo of support.

A case in point serves as an example. Andy Wolf, who runs the Riverdale Review, has been a persistent thorn in the mayor's side-attacking him at every turn, and even printing some of our own broadsides on the paper's front page. Do you know how much money the Riverdale Review has received in advertising from the Bloomberg campaign? Absolutely zilch!

This is pure pay to play-but as we have pointed out time and time again, it is a P-T-P scheme that has the money flowing in the opposite direction; from Mike Bloomberg's inexhaustible supply of cash. Which brings us to Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, an anodyne for Bloomberg in running against an African-American challenger. Booker has been doing down field blocking for Mike-and did so this past Sunday in African-American churches all over Queens.

Now, as the NY Times report, we find out that young Mr. Booker has also been lavished with some monetary affection from the Bloombucks stash-albeit through a convenient second hand source: "On April 17, Mr. Booker, a Democrat, crossed party and state lines by endorsing Mr. Bloomberg, an independent running as a Republican, in Harlem. About a month later, Mr. Bloomberg’s longtime accountant contributed $26,000 — the maximum allowed — to Mr. Booker’s re-election committee, according to campaign finance records."

It's amazing what a little monetary affection can bring-and has anyone heard from the irrepressible Al Sharpton recently? Money can buy both love and silence, it appears. So we move inevitably to the upcoming election with Mike Bloomberg having enough folks on retainer to beat off his challenger. But what about the dire fiscal challenge that made his third term so compelling in the first place?

As Michael Powell tells us in this morning's Times, Bloomberg has difficulty articulating just why he has opened his personal bank vault for another electoral spending spree: "But by night’s end, what was missing was the urgency that motivated the mayor to embark on this most controversial of his election bids. Months ago, he suggested that the city’s dire fiscal condition, the ledgers dipped in red ink, required his cool competence and financial legerdemain. But asked the question on Tuesday night — what do you hope to accomplish in the next four years that you haven’t done yet? — Mr. Bloomberg turned prosaic. “So,” he said, hesitating just a second, “I think it’s more of the same, making sure that we continue the things, making sure that we expand the universe of people that benefit from those things.”

No compelling rationale can be proffered because the third term overreach was never really about anything but self-aggrandizement. And, as the campaign ends, Mike Bloomberg finds that given the amount of largess he has spread around-and the level of editorial ass-kissing he has received-he doesn't even need to fake it. Everything gets buried in an avalanche of spending, and in the most ironic fashion, Bloomberg has demonstrated that NYC really is a luxury item-one that only he can afford to buy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Third Term Mike: Nostradamus

Mike Bloomberg is proving to be more than a mirthless technocrat and businessman-he's now become a seer. And his remarks yesterday at NYU envisioning the city in 2013 are truly inspiring; if you are someone who is inspired by the musings of a fellow who has spent a little bit too long in his own echo chamber: "I’m so proud of what we’ve done over the past eight years, but I’m running because I believe the next four can be even better. So let’s fast forward four years...By 2013, we will also have created - far and away - the best - public - school system - of any big city in the country. Not only will more middle class families be staying in the City and sending their kids to school here, I believe we will start to see an entirely new phenomenon: Families from around the nation and the region will be moving into the City for the schools."

Is this unhinged, or what? Let's juxtapose this solipsistic vision with a sharper dose of reality-like what's in this morning's NY Post: "New Yorkers are fleeing the state and city in alarming numbers -- and costing a fortune in lost tax dollars, a new study shows. More than 1.5 million state residents left for other parts of the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy. It was the biggest out-of-state migration in the country. The vast majority of the migrants, 1.1 million, were former residents of New York City -- meaning one out of seven city taxpayers moved out."

So the schools with be so outstanding that they will stem the exodus of tax payers? Sounds like a psychotic break to us-and Bloomberg's vision for 2013 conveniently avoids the harsh economic reality-one that, as Nicole Gelinas points out, he deserves a great deal of credit for fostering: "Mayor Bloomberg, you presided over the biggest economic boom that the city has ever seen. But you also presided over the biggest spending boom that modern New York has ever seen. When you took office, the portion of city spending paid by local taxpayers, as opposed to federal and state subsidies, was about $26.3 billion annually. Today, it's $41.5 billion, a 31 percent jump after inflation, and more than 20 percent higher, adjusted for population, than under Mayor John Lindsay. Much of that spending went to higher benefit costs for public employees, as well as for Medicaid."

And the NY Daily News, avoiding the finger pointing that the mayor deserves, makes a similar point today: "From 2000 to 2008, 1.5 million people left the state, including 1.1 million from the city. Most went to the Sun Belt, but it wasn't the weather that drew them. What stole them away was the promise of a better life at lower cost. And, make no mistake, the departees were not down-on-their-luck types. They were solid wage earners with average adjusted gross incomes in 2006 and 2007 of $57,144, according to Internal Revenue Service statistics analyzed by the Empire Center for New York State Policy. This migration is a result of an economic squeeze that has become unendurable for working- and middle-class families. While a lucky few at the very top have prospered handsomely, the broad middle has suffered wage stagnation and a rising cost of living."

And this happened under whose watch? Funny, but this didn't even get a brief mention yesterday when Bloomberg did his P. T. Barnum sucker act over at NYU. Third term Mike did, however, get to try out his newly honed comedy routine.

As Clyde Haberman tells us: "Buoyed by the polls and his own astonishing campaign spending, Mr. Bloomberg seems confident that four more years at City Hall are in the bag for him. Monday morning, he spoke about the New York that he envisioned in 2013, when his third term would end. This was in a speech to students attending New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. He was pleased, he told them, to speak at a school named for “a distinguished three-term mayor.” That produced thin laughter. Maybe the students had the Monday morning blahs. Or maybe they simply didn’t think it was funny. “I thought I’d get a better laugh than that,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “It’s not easy to do three-term jokes, folks.”There’s a reason for that."

And that reason lies with the underlying cause of why the folks are fleeing this "luxury item" city-as the News cogently observes: "This migration is a result of an economic squeeze that has become unendurable for working- and middle-class families. While a lucky few at the very top have prospered handsomely, the broad middle has suffered wage stagnation and a rising cost of living."

The paper goes on to hold the governor accountable, while not even giving a passing shout out to Third Term Mike. But isn't that basically unfair? After all, most New Yorkers feel that Paterson is really over his head with this governing thing; but Bloomberg? Isn't he Mr. Indispensable, the guy we simply can't do without in this most serious of economic crises? You know, we're staring to feel some sympathy with Paterson's complaints about unfair double standards.

Bloomberg-Induced Coma

It appears as if the Bloombergistas may be worried that New Yorkers, lacking enthusiasm for the ebullient billionaire, and exhausted by his relentless huckstering, will simply stay home next week. As the NY Times reports: "His administration’s record aside, and his campaign’s unmatched spending notwithstanding, Michael R. Bloomberg’s aides in the field mince no words about exactly what will determine the outcome of next Tuesday’s mayoral election. “At the end of the day, every election is about one thing: making sure your supporters get to the polls and vote,” Lenny Speiller, the campaign’s get-out-the-vote director, declares on the Bloomberg Web site. Recalling the record-low turnouts in last month’s primary and runoff, Mr. Speiller exhorts Bloomberg volunteers to shift into overdrive."

And, of course, there's plenty of money for that as well-leaving us to wonder whether the Beatles can be resurrected to do a reprise-with altered lyrics-of their "Money Can't Buy You Love" single. As Speiller (what an apt name for those of you who understand Yiddish) says: "“Our efforts have been and will continue to be the most expansive and effective grass-roots operation this city has ever seen,” he said in a blog post dated Friday. “Tonight we will knock on our 1,500,000th door, make our 550,000th volunteer phone call and hand out literature at our 4,000th transit stop and high traffic location — and if you think that’s impressive, you haven’t seen anything yet!”

These folks are actually patting themselves on the back for an ability to spend Bloomberg's unlimited funds-as if that's a sign of acumen and sophistication. The reality, it seems, is that there could be a record low turnout next Tuesday: "With the mayor leading in public opinion polls by 16 percentage points or more, most New Yorkers might think he has nothing to worry about. But elections have been lost — most notably David N. Dinkins’s 1993 re-election race — because people who insisted to pollsters that they supported a candidate ultimately did not bother to vote. And a number of political analysts say that a predicted record-low turnout next Tuesday may jeopardize Mr. Bloomberg’s projected double-digit victory margin and even deliver him a third term with the lowest total vote received by a New York City mayor in nearly a century."

And this is in spite of how grateful we all should be for Bloomberg providing us with more choice in this election season. What the mayor failed to tell us, was that the best choice he has given us is the one to stay home in protest of his arrogant over turning of the term limits law, and his record attempts at numbing us to death with Soviet-style campaign pronouncements.

But the low projected turnout could well mean a much closer race than the latest polls are indicating: "Those analysts discount the projections of a large margin of victory because, they argue, the most motivated voters are likely to be those who are angry with the mayor and inclined to vote against him, largely because of his reversal last year over term limits. Still, few, if any, independent analysts are going so far as to predict that Mr. Bloomberg will lose, given his sophisticated and amply financed get-out-the-vote operation, abetted by the support of major unions. “There’s no doubt that the term limit issue will be driving a lot of voters to the polls,” said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, “but my guess is so will Bloomberg’s vans.”

So it may come down to Bloomberg's ability to hire chauffeured limos for every voter-along with the free beer that Tammany Hall used to use as a motivator back in the day: "Mr. Bloomberg won in 2001 with 744,000 votes. He won a second term four years later with 753,000 of the 1.3 million cast. If as few as 20 percent of eligible voters turn out and Mr. Bloomberg wins even by a 10-percentage-point landslide, he would be re-elected with fewer than 500,000 votes — the lowest total since John F. Hylan’s in 1917."

So we're back to the future it seems.-with enthusiasm as low as it can be. This is some legacy for the greatest campaign profligacy of all times. The Bloombucks have done their job in driving voters into a coma; a sad day for democracy in NYC.

Curb Your Enthusiasm!

Curbed is reporting on the latest EDC efforts to appear as if it has a great deal of momentum going in its plan to redevelop Willets Point-and remove the legitimate property owners: "Now, with the one-year anniversary of the rezoning win fast approaching, there is Willets Point news to report. The city's Economic Development Corporation has announced a new set of acquisition deals with landowners in the, er, colorful area, bringing the total amount of iTri land acquired to about 70 percent. And now the bigger headline: The EDC has issued a Request for Qualifications to interested developers. Could this crazy plan actually be happening? You gotta believe!"

What's left out of EDC's Lombino breathlessness, is that the city agency doesn't have agreements with over half of the current property owners-and that its methodology has apparently been changed, indicating an almost complete absence of truthfulness. As its press release tells us: "The City is contemplating moving forward with a staged development strategy for Willets Point that will first focus on the southwest portion of the District that includes approximately 18 acres of development area and streets and about four acres of an interim buffer zone."

This is a complete about face from its original assertion that, because of the soil contamination, the entire 60 or so acre parcel needed to be developed all at once. So, as Meatloaf used to sing: "What'll it be boy?" To us, it looks as if the city is continuing to posture-and we're in for a long an expensive process that the city lacks funds to see to a conclusion. Just wait until the budget starts to crater and the re-elected Bloomberg tells New Yorkers that he's going to spend $700 million to evict hundreds of tax paying businesses and thousands of workers-mostly immigrants (another example of how the mayor's campaign rhetoric directed at immigrants rings hollow.)

As fantasy prone as the EDC statement is, it lacks the imagination of the Queens BP who commented as follows: "Each step forward gives us a clearer vision of a plan that will redevelop Willets Point in way that will capitalize on the resources surrounding it, including recreational uses and a network of highways, while strengthening the entire region. The redevelopment of Willets Point will also provide construction and permanent jobs that will broaden our City’s tax base and create a much improved, greener environment for a new generation of residents and businesses.”

Our funny bone got tickled with the "network of highways" remark-an indication that Helen has overlooked the fact that there is no rational plan in place to get people in and out from upwards of 1,000,000 square feet of development. And we're still waiting for the city to put a price on all of this malarkey. The city should be informed at the costs-after all, the pie in the sky benefits are being trumpeted, so why not put a price tag on all of this so we can do our own cost-benefit analysis?

Paterson: NY Times Worse Than New York!

You gotta give David Paterson some credit for feistiness-and his calling out of the NY Times on its criticisms of his leadership put a smile on our face. As Liz reports: "Still stinging from the Oct. 19 New York Times editorial that deemed him “weak and ineffective,” Gov. David Paterson took some shots at the Gray Lady this weekend, DN Capitol Bureau Chief Ken Lovett reports.
Employing the old "those in glass houses" analogy, Paterson noted the Times is suffering from its own money problems and announced last week it will be cutting 100 newsroom positions - about 8 percent of the total - by the end of the year. “Two days after this high edict about what they think about what I’m doing, they laid off 100 people from their newsroom,” Paterson told the state chapter of the National Federation of the Blind on Saturday."

You go guv! The Times is probably one of the last places that should be issuing obiter dicta on someone else's fiscal competency. Of course, the governor couldn't leave well enough alone, and went on to complain that he was being unfairly ridiculed because of his limited vision: "During his speech, Paterson also said he has been subjected to "degrading" attacks and "blatant hostility" due to his visual impairment. This comes on the heels of his claim in August that black elected officials like himself, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and even President Obama are subjected to unfair scrutiny by the media because of the color of their skin."

Which would normally prompt us to comment on the Times tangle as an example of the blind leading, well, you know the rest, so we won't go there because it really appears that this administration is in its death rattle phase-and there's no sense beating on a dead horse; no matter what its sighted condition might be.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fresh Initiative Hearing Today

The City Planning Department's initiative to bring new supermarkets uinto areas that have been labeled as, "underserved," will be heard today at the City Council's Zoning and Franchises Committee. Our own analysis is as follows:

Mike Bloomberg’s administration is promoting a program of new supermarket development in the city-and hopes to bring an additional 15 stores into New York over the next decade. What is missing in this effort, is the recognition that, under Bloomberg’s watch, the city has lost 300 local markets

The Fresh Initiative, then, avoids confronting the larger problem of why the city is losing neighborhood supermarkets-a problem that devolves from the city’s high cost of doing business (high taxes, rents and over-regulation primarily). A focus on marker preservation, rather than new market construction, would force attention to be paid to the policies of the current administration that have contributed to the efflux of these important local businesses.

In addition, concomitant with the disappearance of these local food stores, , is the loss of good paying union jobs with pensions and other benefits; a situation that has been exacerbated-promoting more store closures- by mega-development policies that have led to the proliferation of non-union box stores such as BJs. So the loss of local markets has been accompanied by the loss of good jobs and their replacement by part time and low wage employment.

A sensible policy of supermarket retention-providing low income New Yorkers with better access to healthier foods-needs to be developed along side of any program of subsidized new store development. If retention policies are ignored, new store promotion becomes at best a palliative; but at worst a contributor to even more losses as subsidized markets put older stores at greater risk of failure. And, it goes without saying, that any public subsidy effort in this area-or any other, for that matter-must include a provision for living wage so that New Yorkers get the most mileage out of the use of their tax dollars.


It seems that Queens weeklies are giddy about the brownfields grant that was received by the Flushing Willets Point Corona LDC-forgetting the controversy surrounding whether the group is legally allowed to lobby in the first place. This controversy was given a renewed focus this past week when the NY Post revealed that AG Cuomo was investigating the political activities of NY charities: "The issue of charities or not-for-profits giving political contributions is a matter we are currently investigating. It is not appropriate, and it is not legal, and we want to make sure it doesn't happen anymore," a spokesman for Cuomo told The Post.

Now we await to see whether or not the AG will be taking a closer look at local development corporations, also not-for-profits, acting as lobbying arms for economic development initiatives. In particular, the aforementioned Willets Point LDC has to answer whether its application for not for profit status with the federal government-where its president Claire Shulman specifically claimed to eschew any direct lobbying-proscribes it from lobbying for the brownfields grant-or for anything else.

Because, as the Times Ledger reports: "The Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. got the largest grant among 24 projects across the state to receive money through the state’s Brownfield Opportunity Area Program." Now, this wasn't achieved through any kind of immaculate conception-not when the Parkside Group is involved in advocacy for the group.

All of this is, of course, speculation, since we can't read the AG's mind. But we do know that the local development groups are trying to defend themselves by claiming that what they do isn't real lobbying. Former president Bill Clinton might be of some help with this effort: "Years from now, when we look back on Bill Clinton's presidency, its defining moment may well be Clinton's rationalization to the grand jury about why he wasn't lying when he said to his top aides that with respect to Monica Lewinsky, "there's nothing going on between us." How can this be? Here's what Clinton told the grand jury..."It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

So it goes with lobbying, we guess. But let's make one thing perfectly clear. Shulman's group was formed by a public/private partnership designed to advance the interests of, not only the city, but of the private business owners who make up the board of Shulman's LDC. This effort was both controversial and difficult-and the LDC was conceived of to advance the interests involved through the creation of the impression that this was a true grass roots initiative-and not the manufactured Astroturfing that it really was.

If, as we believe, this effort was illegal-and not just because Shulman failed to register as a lobbyist-then the entire land use review was corrupted and needs to be overturned since Shulman and her faux group played a central role in the campaign to remove local businesses from their properties. The ball is in the AG's court on this-and the family legacy is at stake as well.

As Crain's reminded us a few years back: "If Willets Point businesses' fight against eviction propels a champion of the underdog into a political career, it wouldn't be the first time. In 1963, a young, unheralded lawyer named Mario Cuomo took on Robert Moses, who wanted to raze the very same Queens site for aesthetic reasons before the 1964 World's Fair. Mr. Cuomo won. "It started a whole chain of events that got me into public life,'' recalls the former governor, who grew up in the borough's rough South Jamaica section."

Can history repeat itself? Stay tuned.

Small Business Error

The coalition that is behind the Small Business Protection Act, legislation designed to protect retailers against exploitation and eviction, has now launched a pre-election campaign that basically counsels, "none of the above;" advising Hispanic New Yorkers to vote for neither Mike Bloomberg nor Bill Thompson. This, in our view, is a big mistake-precisely because if the fact that the grave conditions facing immigrant businesses have not only happened on Bloomberg's watch, but have been exacerbated by his policies.

In addition, the counseling of abstention is actually promoting Bloomberg, since it encourages potential anti-Bloombertg voters to stay home. Albor Ruiz highlights this issue in yesterday's NY Daily News: "Dominican business owners in New York, well-known for their enterprising spirit and their work ethic, will not vote for Mayor Bloomberg in the upcoming mayoral election. Not that they like William Thompson, his Democratic opponent, any better. Actually, they won't vote for either one of them. As far as they are concerned, it doesn't make any difference who becomes the next mayor."

And the group's logic is faulty as well: "Dominican small businesses are in crisis," the poster reads. "Yet neither Bloomberg nor Thompson have done anything to alleviate the high rents, extortions and landlord abuse Dominican small business owners endure." Perhaps, but only Bloomberg has been mayor for the past eight years, and accountability for his non- and mal- feasance is important-even if Thompson is unlikely to truly address this pressing issue.

The group's leader Steve Null, underscores our point: "According to Steve Null, director of the Coalition to Save Hispanic Small Businesses, the merchants are upset that both men will come into their communities seeking support. They make speeches about how important they are to the future of the city but will do nothing to stop greedy landlords from destroying thousands of businesses, says Null."

Now Null is our friend-and we support his goals-but his group's actions are both wrongheaded and self-defeating. The key objective should be to sanction the incumbent for his misdeeds; and thus send a message to the challenger should he, by some divine intervention, actually win. Sometimes, the lesser of two evils is actually the right course, unless moral purity is more important than pragmatic political success.

"Unprecedented Economic Ills"

We had thought that it would do little good to comment on the editorials of support coming from both the NY Post and the NY Daily News for the re-election of Mike Bloomberg-and we let the Post fatuous hosannas stand without critique-but sometimes we just can't help ourselves. And when it comes to yesterday's Daily News canonization effort, its gag response-inducing encomiums had to to be challenged.

First, there's the issue of greater choice-a guffaw when the mayor first used it as a rationale for overturning the will of the voters on term limits: "As for term limits, Bloomberg was right, in our estimation, because the extension has given November's voters greater choice. Had he bowed out, the winner of the Democratic primary would be coasting to victory as the public's sole option."

Of course, this dishonestly elides the fact that the Democratic field would have looked like Grand Central during rush hour if the prospects of the $100 million man wasn't looming in November-and neither the News or the Post mentions, or gives a tinker's damn, about the obscene levels of Bloomberg spending that gives the notion of choice a distinctively hollow ring.

All of which underscores how the tabloid press has failed to live up to the journalistic injunction of, "speaking truth to power." Hard to do when your all so cozy as bugs in the same billionaire rug. And Morticia has some more side-slappers in his slavish obeisance: "And, freed of electoral considerations, Bloomberg could swing for the fences without regard to political fallout. The rule would have to be: all pragmatism, all the time. No calculations of the sort that won labor peace through outsize raises."

Translation: We can't be honest, so in the tank as we are, and say that Mike Bloomberg was as crassly political as any Tammany ward-healer in his first two terms-and gave away the store to the municipal labor force while raising taxes and bloating the public payroll. Now, however, as we have already commented, he can play Mack the Knife with impunity.

And, since Bloomberg has already exhibited a callous disregard for the fate of small businesses and community quality of life-see Jim Dwyer's piece in Sunday's NY Times on the plundering of Bronx parkland-we can only imagine what an unfettered Bloomberg will do in the next four years. This prospect, however, doesn't phase the Park Avenue crowd-safe in the knowledge that the mayor will always look after their interests.

But, why won't Mike raise taxes some more-like he did in 2002? "Freed from electoral consideration," Mike could continue to be Mike and, as he did with the sales tax hike in this election year, continue to adhere to his Lindsay-like philosophy of sticking it to middle class tax payers. And in its brief lukey warm shout out to Thompson, the News inadvertently hits on this theme: "He has also given voice, constructively, to New Yorkers' real frustrations with living in a city where everything seems to go up but paychecks."

But the role of Bloomberg, in both creating as well as exacerbating this situation, is left unexamined by the hagiographer at 33rd Street: "Finally, New York is beset by unprecedented economic ills that will force the next occupant of City Hall to do more with far less. Who would you trust to get that mountain of a job done?

Breathtaking! No critique at all of the way in which Bloomberg has outspent even David Dinkins, raising taxes to unprecedented levels-shuttering small stores all over the city as a consequence; and has obligated the tax payers for the next fifty years with bloated pensions for a municipal workforce that has increased in the manner of Mickey Mouse's duplicating brooms in Fantasia's Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Let's face it, we have as free a press when it comes to this mayor as the old Soviet Union-at least as far as the tabloid editorial boards are concerned, And did anyone think that Pinch would come out swinging against the $100 million man? Sorry, this Pinch hasn't grown an inch.

Here's his "excoriation" of the man who simply made a mockery of campaign finance reform-in the paper's overall enthusiastic endorsement of its future bail out hope: "Like Mr. Thompson, who has made the mayor’s wealth a major issue, most New Yorkers are concerned about Mr. Bloomberg’s spending $85 million — so far — to win re-election. In his first campaign in 2001, he argued that he was spending so much to introduce himself. Now a nationally recognized figure, he argues that as a candidate running on Republican and Independent Party lines, he needs to fight for votes in a city that is so predominantly Democratic. We think Mr. Bloomberg exaggerates his vulnerability. New York City’s campaign finance system is one of the best in the country. He does everyone a disservice by not complying with the system’s limits on spending."

But it should be pointed out that, as bad as the editorial boards have been, the reporters and columnists-especially at the News and the Times, have distinguished themselves in an effort to provide balance and perspective about the Reign of Mike. And Adam Lisberg does just that in yesterday's News, by pointedly critiquing the mayor's blatant tax dishonesty: "Bloomberg has been careful not to make an explicit no-new-taxes pledge, though, telling a Crain's breakfast last week: "Nobody can ever promise for sure that they won't raise taxes." He should know: The last time he said he wouldn't raise taxes was his 2001 campaign, which was followed by his 18% property tax hike to fill a $6 billion budget gap. Which could add up to a bit of a credibility problem."

Yah think? And going back to the phony claim that the voters have more choice with Mike running for a third term, it might be nice for Mort to muse a bit on how a $100 million dollar flood of ads and mailings not only sucks the air out of the democratic debate, but also limits the voters' awareness's that there is even another candidate running-making the argument for more choice ludicrous. In fact, the only way most New Yorkers are aware of a Bloomberg opponent comes from the attack ads that we've seen proliferating in the final weeks of this one sided campaign. Choice? More like Grade A fraud.

So, with "unprecedented economic ills" facing New Yorkers, we have one candidate running from his tax and spend record, while using his vast fortune to attack his opponent as duplicitous on-of all things, taxes. As Lisberg points out: "But he hasn't said how he'll balance the budget either. When reporters asked him the other day, this was his response: "I'll talk at another time. I can't in two seconds here outline how you're going to balance the budget. It's much too serious for that, and much more complex." We're still waiting for a more serious and complex answer. In the meantime, we have those TV ads and mailers slamming Thompson. Shown a copy of one of Bloomberg's mailers last week, one of Bloomberg's highest-paid advisers shrugged and said, "Thompson is not running on his record either." Then he walked away."

Just as the editorial boards of the Post and the News have walked away from the truth about Mike and his record-so intent, as they are at acting as an amen chorus for their leading classmate. We can't wait for the fallout when the financial sh#t hits the fan-and when it does, the shameful sycophancy of the editorialists will stand exposed..