Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Knucklehead Award? DN Should Self Certify

As Liz is reporting Mayor Mike, quite apparently no longer in campaign mode, snubbed some school children on his way out of city hall: "A group of students received a lesson in government responsiveness today Mayor Bloomberg whisked by them on the steps of City Hall while they protested a plan to relocate their school, the DN's Kate Lucadamo reports. Despite their cries, Bloomberg didn’t stop. His bodyguards surrounded him so the Clinton School for Writers and Artists students couldn’t hand him a letter, parents said. Undeterred, members of the group chased him and yelled, but he quickly got in his car and disappeared."

We can almost imagine what the "above politics" mayor was thinking: "Thank God I don't have to pretend to care about what these little idiots want." But the sheer callousness-or, perhaps boorishness, of the mayor's response deserves recognition-and we suggest that the NY Daily News respond forthwith with its coveted "Knucklehead Award" for the callous creep.

Not that we're gonna be holding our breathe waiting for this deserved recognition to be sent the mayor's way-not when the Daily News editors seem to be taking their talking points directly from city hall. Yesterday, as if on cue, the News tuned up the governor's budget-a day after the mayor did the same in Albany: "The consequences of Gov. Paterson's failure to craft the revolutionary budget that the times demand are coming into focus - and they are a nightmare for New York City. Confronting a historic deficit, Paterson's approach was utterly conventional and, it is now clear, unworkable. He made hard choices - but they were ordinary choices, rather than extraordinary measures designed to fundamentally restructure state spending."

And in case we didn't know this was a directed comment, we read: "As a result, Mayor Bloomberg testified yesterday, Paterson's plan would force the city to:

*Reduce the ranks of the city's teachers by 8,500 through layoffs and otherwise.

*Lay off 3,150 cops, reducing the NYPD's strength to 1985 levels.

*Lay off 1,050 firefighters and close firehouses.

*Lay off 500 parks workers.

*Drop protective services to 2,700 at-risk."

Bad, bad governor! But earlier the News was less caustic-criticizing Paterson for being unimaginative, but crediting his recognition of the need for austerity: "For floating a budget that would hold spending nearly flat in the face of a historic economic downturn, Gov. Paterson is reaping a whirlwind of outrage from all the usual do-nothing suspects...What the governor proposed was a workmanlike plan to close a $7.4 billion deficit by biting the two single largest areas of state spending: schools and Medicaid."

In recognizing the "workmanlike" nature of the plan, the News understood that the governor-hemmed in by big spenders in both houses of the legislature-was devising a plan that was realistic: "Unfortunately, flaws and all, Paterson's plan is the best we're likely to see. Now he has to stick to it, invoking the full powers of the governorship to block the Legislature from rolling him."

And what about the role played by Bloomberg's ill advised profligacy? Airbrushed out of existence-dismissed like the school children who were left aghast on the city hall steps. As the News observed yesterday: "New York City taxpayers are now in a hell of a bind. After successfully squeezing billions of dollars in costs out of his budget through efficiencies, Bloomberg is up against a $4 billion deficit of his own. And Paterson is digging the hole deeper."

Oh, that valiant, frugal Mike Bloomberg! Is someone having a psychotic episode over on 33rd Street? This is the mayor that raised taxes and spent money like a drunken stockbroker-bloating the city's budget to the point of needing stomach stapling, fiscal bypass surgery. As the NY Times points out this morning-commenting on all of the lucrative jobs being reserved for the mayor's campaign staff: It has been an especially lucrative period for those who left city jobs for the campaign and came back. After the election, Patricia E. Harris, the first deputy mayor, returned to her $245,760 job; Degan Leopold to a $86,528 job in Ms. Harris’s office; and Christiana Huus to a $91,000 post in the office of citywide events coordination. On their way out of campaign headquarters, all received generous campaign bonuses, paid out of Mr. Bloomberg’s pocket. He gave $400,000 to Ms. Harris, $12,000 to Ms. Leopold and $16,000 to Ms. Huus."

Are these hirings part of the "efficiencies" the News lauds? As the Times goes on to say: "The hirings hold risk for Mr. Bloomberg as he tries to make a case to the public that the city is in dire financial need. On Monday, he told state legislators that proposed reductions in state aid would force the city to lay off 18,000 people."

And the overall picture sure isn't the lean and mean one that the News' lap dogging would suggest: "Under Mr. Bloomberg, the city’s labor expenses have swelled, even as the number of workers on the payroll has fallen slightly. The cost of salaries and benefits for the municipal workforce has grown to $35.7 billion from $22.4 billion since he took office, according to the Independent Budget Office. Rising pension costs have caused much of the rise, but Mr. Bloomberg has fueled that problem by granting big raises to city workers, including his own staff. Over the summer, as the financial crisis deepened, Mr. Bloomberg granted City Hall workers annual raises of up to $18,000 a person..."

So, what all of this underscores is the extent to which the Daily News editorial page is an ongoing saga of homage to the wonders of Mike Bloomberg-with side stories on Espada, Monseratte and Rangel (and now Paterson; getting a picture here?) acting as distractions from the peccadillo's of the paper's hero; presented with all of the honesty of a Socialist realism painting.

Which gets us back to those left in the Blomberg dust school kids down at city hall that Liz was so kind to tell us about: "“When I saw him pass by I thought he might stop,” said 12-year-old Miranda Rowe who was holding a letter. “I didn’t think he would just not accept it. I was surprised he didn’t do anything, that he just walked away,” she said. “I thought they’d actually listen because we took the time to come out here and protest.” Miranda’s mother said she was “shocked.”

Miranda's mother's shock would be understandable if all she knew about the mayor she had learned from the editorial pages of the Daily News. For the rest of us, it's simply business as usual for the Mike Bloomberg we have gotten to know over the past eight years.