Monday, February 01, 2010

Hire Education

Has the NY Post seen enough? Are they ready to offer us up a soupçon of buyer's remorse for their support of the fiscally responsible Mike Bloomberg for a third term as mayor? Perhaps not, but in yesterday's paper they went after the mayor for his questionable hiring practices in the aftermath of his doom and gloom State of the City address: "Is Mike Bloomberg truly tone deaf — or does he just presume to a level of entitlement that applies to no one else? The answer appears to be: both. Just days after warning Albany that proposed cuts in state aid to the city would force him to lay off 18,000 municipal employees, it was reported that Mayor Mike had created city payroll slots for 15 staffers of his re-election campaign."

But give Bloomberg credit for a clever response to the hiring question: "The mayor claims he’s merely recruiting the right people “in tough times.” Yeah, right, like in the Park's Department: "But political operatives have snatched up positions — many paying a nice six-figure sum — at agencies like the city’s tourism bureau, the Parks Department and the city Commission on the UN (which, perhaps coincidentally, is run by Bloomberg’s sister)."

The Post needs to keep reminding its readers why it was so crucial to overturn the will of the people to return this incumbent back for a third turn at the wheel. We can't see how anyone could envision that the third time would be a charm.

In fact, the mayor's personnel decisions are so egregious that the Post actually finds itself on the side of municipal labor-a position that the paper agrees is quite awkward: "These are tough times, and Bloomberg should be leading by example. Indeed, it’s not often we find ourselves agreeing with labor leaders on fiscal issues — but Harry Nespoli, president of the Municipal Labor Council, is right when he says, “If we are tightening up our belts all over, we should be tightening up the belt at City Hall.” After all, the folks in Albany are just looking for reasons to ignore Mayor Mike’s dire warnings. Why does he go so far out of his way to give them one?"

Because of his adorable imperious self, that's why. And perhaps now the Post can start to take a more critical look at all aspects of the Bloomberg modus operandi-like his use of phony and possibly illegal campaign donations, something that the paper's Dave Seifman revealed over the weekend: "A $750,000 personal campaign contribution that Mayor Bloomberg channeled through the state Independence Party during last year's mayoral election landed in the hands of a top aide, The Post has learned. The aide, John Haggerty Jr., served as a Bloomberg "volunteer involved in some of the activities" of Special Election Operations LLC, a hastily formed company that hired 200 to 300 workers to do poll watching on Election Day, according to Ken Gross, counsel to the campaign."

Can anyone say street money and political corruption? It goes back to what we've been saying all along, the mayor has inverted the normal flow of money, but the results are equally as suspect-the subornation of the democratic process in the interest, not of the public, but of a truly special interests-the aggrandizement of Mike Bloomberg.

The only rules that he follows are those that benefit brand Bloomberg-and can we get Mini Me Mort away from Espada and Monseratte long enough to actually serve the public interest by holding the mayor to some, or any standard of ethical conduct? Unlikely. But this has all of the smell of a Tammany Hall production, and from someone above the tawdriness of normal politics, no less: "One veteran GOP consultant said he believed Special Election Operations was designed to dispense "street money" -- cash that's spread around on Election Day to volunteers and for such incidentals as lunch."

And today, the Post editorializes, asking the mayor what did he know, and when did he know it: "Mayor Bloomberg needs to come clean now about what he and his supporters were up to near the end of last year's campaign. The Post's Fredric U. Dicker and David Seifman first reported Friday on the curious circumstances surrounding the $1.2 million the mayor pumped from his personal fortune into Independence Party accounts just before last Election Day. Campaign-finance records show that Bloomberg cut two $600,000 checks to the party -- a key ally -- on Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 of last year. The party promptly turned around and gave $750,000 of the money to a shell company associated with key Bloomberg operatives."

The Post goes on to demand that the mayor come clean-but perhaps his new hire Wolfson should, a curious new city employee under any circumstance: "John Haggerty, a former Bloomberg campaign aide, told The Post that he used the money to pay poll workers on Election Day. But a longtime political operative says he believes the cash was actually used as "street money" -- handouts deployed by campaign surrogates on Election Day to "encourage" voters to go to the polls. Were they bribes, perchance? Now, it's possible that Bloomberg has a better explanation for these curious events. It's also possible that he had no idea what was done with his money. But if so, he needs to find out, fast -- and provide a full public accounting."

Inquiring minds would like to know. So, as we embark on this usurped third term, we await all of the policy initiatives that will lend credence to the arguments of all those who led the fight to give this guy another bite of the Big Apple-and we may have actually found one. As the NY Daily News reports: "Fewer than six months after the vast majority of elementary and middle schools received A's on school report cards, the city announced plans Friday to overhaul the grading system...First off, officials said, they'll be grading on a curve: only 25% of schools can get A's the next time around."

Obviously, we are now headed into a new phase of political honesty-post election, of course-and to add luster to this refreshing new direction, we have Howard Wolfson advising the mayor so that crass political motivation will undoubtedly be eschewed. But as long as the Post keeps up its vigilance, than at least there will be some degree of long overdue oversight. Now, if only the News and the Times would recover their critical spirit we might have an interesting four years.