Monday, December 13, 2010

Crash and Burn-the NYC Tax Payer

Mike Bloomberg, you remember, the guy we just have to have for a third term because of the city and the country's dire economic straights, is now planning on charging you if you need the assistance of the FDNY after an accident-and it's a no fault situation since you'll have to pay even if it wasn't your fault. The WSJ has the story: "Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended on Friday his administration's plan to charge New York City motorists for emergency services at accident scenes, conceding it's a backdoor tax that is necessary in tough fiscal times."

No, Mike, it's more than backdoor tax, it's double jeopardy for citizens who have paid their taxes and will now be billed again if they have the temerity to need the services they've already paid for. The mayor, still working on his stand up routine, went on to explain: "The Fire Department has to do more with less," Mr. Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. "Would you like them to close firehouses? Or would you like them to have less technology in case something goes wrong?" Mr. Bloomberg said. "I don't think so. So, they've got to raise the money."

No, it's New Yorkers who are being asked to pay taxes for less municipal services. But the mayor's misdirection begs the question: Why is the city under this mayor's stewardship in such bad shape that it has to double bill citizens for vital services? Perhaps Bloomberg's fiscal acumen has been a tad overrated. Watch the public reaction here-and the opinion surveys that follow.

As the NY Times reported: "On Saturday, car owners greeted the idea with opposition. One man, Steven Telvi, 46, who was working at a gift shop he owns on the Upper East Side, said, “I think the city using the Fire Department to charge money for services is a disgrace.” Mr. Telvi, who was in a car accident in September, credited the Fire Department with responding first to his crash and said it was a pawn in a budget game. “It is the guys downtown with the checkbooks,” he said. “If they need the ‘jaws of life,’ to cut you out of a car, is it going to cost extra?”

The reality is that Bloomberg has allowed municipal government to become a bloated and distended monstrosity-adding both payroll and pension obligations that the city just can't afford-hence the FDNY outrage. As CM Jimmy Oddo said last week: "We needed this administration because it was uniquely qualified. What in this modification would you argue is unique?” Oddo asked the budget director to a round of applause. “Where’s the payoff for the term limits vote? Where is the radical idea?”

As the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas pointed out two years ago: "It's almost jaw-dropping that the mayor, faced with these projections and with no hope of a return to a bubble-era "normal" on Wall Street, has made things worse. City workers' salary growth, for example, is set to rise 13 percent between now and our drop-dead year - largely because the mayor late last year voluntarily entered into labor contracts granting hefty raises to both civilian and uniformed workers. The cost of higher pay adds nearly $1.7 billion to the drop-dead-year deficit."

But now, the pension chickens are coming home to roost-as the NY Daily News editorialized yesterday: "Want to know the single biggest reason why New York City is thinking about laying off thousands of teachers, jacking up parking meter fees and scaling back fire protection? The answer boils down to one word: pensions. The public pension time bomb that fiscal watchdogs and this page have
warned about for years is now exploding - and ripping huge holes in government budgets across the state."

And do you want to know why Mike Bloomberg was re-elected-aside from the fact the he spent over $100 million to do so? It was because the local press airbrushed his record of fiscal irresponsibility-just as Morticia did yesterday when his paper lamented the city's pension bomb without once mentioning the mayor's name.

So now, after nine years of failure to reduce the size and scope of municipal government, we've come down to the outrage of folks being double billed for emergence services-and how is this going to play in Mike's quixotic attempt to pave a, "middle way," for America? When conservatives and independents alike are ranting about government bloat-and the need to cut back its size-here comes Mike Bloatberg to save the day. Right!

It's time that we step back and give this mayor's tenure a more honest appraisal than we have become accustomed to by reading the local tabloids-papers owned by moguls with close ties to their rich classmate Bloomberg. If the mayor does mount a real third party effort-and not just play act with a, knock-off, "No Labels," front group-he will not be able to airbrush his record of liberal profligacy; not when he emerges beyond the wall of collusion that has been constructed for him by the local flacks.

Run Mike, run!