Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bloomberg's One Note Chorus

When the NY Times raised the question of the lack of diversity in the Bloomberg administration, it instigated something of a firestorm-over 200 comments were elicited to the article. Now it appears as if the city council may hold hearings on the subject. As the Times reports: “The New York City Council is considering holding oversight hearings into racial and gender diversity at the top levels of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration, according to council members.”

And the paper goes on to cite the comments-pro and con-of a variety of notables; but with one glaring omission. Somehow, the Times could not track down the bashful Al Sharpton to say one word. Yes, the same Sharpton would regularly lead protests against the racial insensitivities of former mayor Rudy Giuliani, is apparently out of town attending a lockjaw convention. How unfortunate is that timing?

Gee, who knew that if Rudy only had billions of personal wealth to throw around-and a cohort of billionaire friends to call on-he could have gotten that annoying professional protester to take up an alternative avocation: “No knitting, no peace.” Wouldn’t it be great to get the price tag on the silence of the formerly reliable public scold?

But without Sharpton to provide public drama, we are left with the second stringers-elected officials who, although lacking in the ability to generate high public drama, nevertheless are concerned about the Wonder Bread quality of the cast of the eight year running Broadway play, “The Bloombergistas.” As the Times points out: “Councilwoman Deborah Rose, chairwoman of the civil rights committee, said that the article reminded her of a 2008 Village Voice article, which found Mr. Bloomberg’s record lacking in hiring minority contractors. As a result, “the mayor is called upon yet again,” she said, “to answer for his continuing poor record on minority hiring and contracting.” It was not clear when the hearings might take place. But Ms. Rose added: “Having recently brought in three out-of-town, white males as deputy mayors, the mayor has once again shown an indifference to living up to his own vows to bring diversity to his administration. In 2010, we must do more to ensure greater opportunities for all citizens.”

But, as we commented on yesterday, it is not only the color of the cast of characters, it is their world view that concerns us-or, to paraphrase Elmer E. Schattschneider, the Bloomberg choir sings with a distinctive upper class accent. And his development policies reflect that class bias.

But when it comes to all things Bloomberg we can always count on Ed Koch to not say a discouraging word: “But others were willing to give Mr. Bloomberg the benefit of the doubt. “It’s a constant struggle,” said former Mayor Edward I. Koch. “You say to yourself, as I know Bloomberg does, that the first thing I want to do, particularly in difficult times, is to get the best people who can do a good job, irrespective of whether they are green, white, Hispanic or Asian.”

Oh sure, you can just imagine Mike Bloomberg saying that-right before he conducts his periodic lineup of usual Wall Street suspects. In a city as large and diverse as NYC, isn’t it possible to find an economic development official who doesn’t have a trained incapacity that devolves from a purely financial background?

And the Times does manage to find a toady of color to give the mayor his blessing: “Kenneth J. Knuckles, a former commissioner in the Dinkins administration who is now chief executive officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, said that he believed that Mr. Bloomberg’s commitment to diversity was genuine. He also said that he was consulted regularly by top Bloomberg officials for candidate suggestions, especially minorities, but that recruitment was sometimes hard because government does not pay as well as the private sector, among other factors. “You have to look long and hard — it’s not as easy as one would think to find highly qualified minority candidates,” Mr. Knuckles said. “I think they want to do it, but obviously they haven’t gone far enough.”

Damn, it is hard, but when you get stuck, you can always find a good quality guy in, let’s say, Greenwich, And Knuckles, who when on the planning commission once asked us why we were never in favor of something-an expected question from an inveterate cheerleader like good old Knuckles under-is certainly right about the difficulty of getting quality minority appointees; that is if the search party is relying on Knuckles to help discover the talent.

And speaking of lockjaw, how about the following shuck and duck? “One person who knows a lot about diversity, but wasn’t talking on Tuesday, was City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. Ms. Quinn presides over a legislative body that is more than 50 percent minority, and she has been full-throated in celebrating the Council’s diversity. But she declined to comment on whether she felt Mr. Bloomberg, a close ally, had failed in his diversity efforts. “I think individual elected officials have to speak to their own hiring status and hiring practices,” she said. “So I don’t really have any comment on that.”

Second fiddle’s a hard part , you know, when they don’t even give you a bow. But back to our main point-and we recall Greg David’s comments on the choice of Robert Steel to replace Lieber as deputy mayor of economic development: “There's already some skepticism about the appointment, namely because Steel's experience is so deeply rooted in finance and Wall Street."It's a very ironic choice for Michael Bloomberg, who has staked the next term on doing things differently in economic development. Innovating and growing new businesses and diversifying the economy," said Greg David of CUNY/Crain's New York Business.”

Sure he is Greg, but it’s hard when your concept of diversity is going to a former partner at Lehman Brothers instead of someone from Goldman Sachs. But, by all means, the council should hold its hearings. Just make sure that when it does, the scope of the inquiry has a bit more breadth than simply the color of the appointees-and goes to the color of money nature of the Bloomberg Weltanschauung.