Monday, October 05, 2009

Terminal Limits

Well, now at least we no know why crime in the streets is lower-it has migrated over to the city's Buildings Department. As the NY Post opines Saturday: "Clearly, the agency needs urgent attention: Six former city buildings inspectors, including three associates of the Lucchese crime family, were nabbed Thursday on bribery charges, following a two-year probe by the Manhattan DA. Sure, organized crime -- or bribery -- in the construction biz isn't exactly new. But typically, the inspectors themselves aren't bona fide mobsters, right?"

But the mayor's certainly got his priorities straight, right? In the middle of an election cycle that finds him overwhelming the airwaves with wave after wave of airbrushed pictorials of what is administration has done, or will do, for the city, this is no time for inconvenient truths: huge upcoming budget deficits that will have to be addressed by hard choices; record levels of unemployment that are a result of private sector stagnation; street peddler chaos on the streets resulting from little or no oversight-of this we hear not a peep.

Instead, we learn the following: "Mayor Bloomberg this week said that getting Albany to pass gay marriage is the city's "No. 1 priority." This, we are to assume, represents progress and not politics-and isn't simply an example of what the normal pol does when he is trying to change the subject during hard times-pander to a constituency on an issue that affects just a small sector of the city's floundering electorate'

But it is remarkable, isn't it, that Bloomberg has spent over $65 million and hasn't said boo about the looming crisis-you know the one that was trumped up to be the rationale for overturning the public's will? And is it little wonder that the NY Times finds that folks remain upset with his power grab-even when they support his efforts over the past eight years? If in fact the economic crisis is a compelling reason for giving Blomberg a third term, then don't we deserve an explanation of just how he will confront these not insignificant challenges?

Instead we get avoidance, and a refusal to honestly address the issue: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s re-election campaign can generate reams of statistics on how quickly the city repaired potholes in each neighborhood. It can produce memos on climate change and public health, and even translate fliers into Creole. Just don’t ask about term limits."

What the electorate deserves is a simple commercial that outlines the steps that the mayor will take, if elected, to ameliorate the budget deficit, raise revenues, and reduce the ongoing municipal pension time bomb. Can NYC afford to continue to grow the size of its government while the private sector shrinks and tax revenues plummet? Someone who is not beholden to the special interests would, one assumes, be free to speak the truth about the kind of pain that lies ahead.

Normal politicians, however, typically avoid inconvenient truths in favor of bloviating and misdirection. Which category does Mike Bloomberg fall into as he runs for a third term? Heck, he doesn't even want to talk plainly about the immaculate deception of term limits removal: "Rosemary DeStefano found that out on her doorstep in the Bronx the other day when a Bloomberg volunteer showed up, asking for her vote. When she complained about how the mayor had the law changed to stay in office, the volunteer recited details of his economic plan. When she persisted, he extolled Mr. Bloomberg’s promise to create 400,000 jobs.“They missed the whole point,” she said."

The re-election strategy here is fundamentally-and thoroughly-dishonest; and seeks to flood the airwaves with subject changing paeans to proposed policies that will, in all likelihood, never come close to fruition. This is literally breathtaking in its disingenuousness-and the people are chaffing at the campaign's failure to level with them on term limits: "The Bloomberg campaign can’t convince voters to not be upset about this. It won’t work,” said John H. Mollenkopf, a professor of political science at City University who has informally advised the Bloomberg campaign. “If you ask New Yorkers what they did not like over the last eight years,” he added, “term limits is the major negative.”

A, "Why I changed the term limits law," message to voters is desperately needed-and the avoidance of the topic-like is so often the case with a dying relative-creates the kind of discomfort that will pervert the mayor's, hopefully, last term; precisely because it is built on falsehood: "The mayor’s political advisers privately acknowledge the public anger, but since they cannot reverse Mr. Bloomberg’s actions, they are looking for ways to deflect attention from it. They have created a new round of commercials that play up Mr. Bloomberg’s middle-class roots, to soften his image as an imperious billionaire who defied the will of the voters."

Everything, that is, but the unvarnished truth-and a clear explication of the rationale for doing what Bloomberg did. Adding insult to injury here is the use of millions to attack the hapless Thompson: "They are leveling frequent attacks at Mr. Thompson’s record, as president of the Board of Education and comptroller, to send the message that, even if voters are still resentful about term limits, they would be foolhardy to choose an untested leader."

All this is by design: "If voters insist on talking about term limits, volunteers are instructed to tell them the mayor “is not guaranteed” a third term and has given them “more choice” by changing the rules." This ploy is not only besides the point, it is nonsense-and when Thompson brings it up, the Bloombergistas attack him, rather than talk candidly about why the mayor did what he did: "Bill Thompson wants to make this election about one issue,” said the mayor’s campaign manager, Bradley Tusk. “And given his track record that’s understandable. But the performance of the mayor has an enormous impact on people’s lives, and because of that, voters choose their mayor based on very real tangible issues.”

So, in our view, should the mayor-as is likely-achieve his third term coronation, it will be an achievement that is built on a dishonest foundation, one that thoroughly contradicts his-false in our opinion-image as an honest leader, free from the tawdry aspects of politics and, therefore willing to tell New Yorkers what they may not want to hear. It will be an inauspicious start to a final foray that does not bode well for either NYC or the legacy of Michael Bloomberg.