Wednesday, December 29, 2010

John Vliet Bloomberg Reprised

Four years ago we first compared Mike Bloomberg to John Lindsay-but we did so because both men represent a sanguine view about the putative benefits of big government. Yet, our comparison came with one caveat-that being the mayor's superior management skills: "It is becoming increasingly clear that Mike Bloomberg's philosophy of government is extremely close to that of the late John Lindsay. His response to the recent report released by the IBO underscores his view that the government that delivers the most "services" is the exemplar for good government. To his credit, the mayor is a much superior manager to JVL and is, of course operating in a political and fiscal climate that is much different from that of the mid-sixties."

Four years later, the recent CityTime scandal, and the inept handling of the Christmas snow storm, forces us to insist that the comparison with the patrician Lindsay has acquired a singular and remarkable symmetry. And, as if on cue, we have the reminiscences of 1969-the year John Lindsay not only got snowed in, but simultaneously lost his luster. It began with Senator Kruger's angry linkage: "...State Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) slammed the removal effort as a "colossal failure" that put "countless lives at risk." He compared the blizzard to the 1969 storm that nearly destroyed the career of Mayor John Lindsay. Bloomberg may have had that kind of political fallout in mind as he hastily scheduled photo ops in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens."

City Room followed with this report: "Many of our readers are still waiting for the plows to reach their area (and will continue to wait). Feeling trapped and abandoned, at least a few recalled the time when the city was caught with its plows up on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1969. That’s when a mere 15 inches of snow froze the streets for days. “This is reminiscent of Mayor Lindsay’s 1969 Queens debacle. Once again a mayor ignoring the boros,” said Nickie. “The difference is that Bloomberg isn’t running for mayor again so he has no great motivation to get us plowed out.”

A day later, the NY Daily News also follows suit: "beginning to look a lot like 1969 - and Mayor Bloomberg is starting to resemble the late Mayor John Lindsay. Survivors of the crippling '60s blizzard and Lindsay's memorably mishandled response say Bloomberg bungled this week's 20-inch snowfall, conjuring some ugly memories. "It's an honest comparison to 1969," said Richard Hellenbrecht, 62, of Bellerose, who griped that his neighborhood had yet to see a snowplow - and put the blame squarely on the three-term mayor."

Now its one thing to be accused of having an ideological affinity to one of NYC's liberal icons, but quite another for that comparison to rest on managerial ineptitude-and the criticism is beginning to appropriately resemble an avalanche: "One snowstorm, two mayors. Michael Bloomberg on Monday: "The world has not come to an end." Michael Bloomberg yesterday: "I regret everything in the world."
That is the sound of a mayor defensively and snippily trying to justify why so much of the city is still buried in the white stuff - and not succeeding. While it's not all his fault personally, it doesn't matter. He has to answer for a city response that is lacking. Just as a mayor gets to bask in the glory when the Yankees win the World Series, he gets to be pummeled with snowballs when the streets aren't plowed quickly enough. It's part of the job."

This is from Morticia's elves, the same folks who were absolutely convinced that a twice held city referendum had to be overturned so that Mike Bloomberg could have a third term. As did the Murdoch crew, who now appear to be seriously reconsidering their faulty judgment-even copying our, "Snow Job," headline: "Michael Bloomberg, who aspires to be known as the greatest mayor ever, was a tad testy yesterday. Why? Because Mother Nature had snowed on his parade and -- as mayor -- he had to deal with it. In the event, not very well. Certainly, New Yorkers aren't terribly dazzled by the city's performance...Asked if he had any regrets, Bloomberg went sarcastic: "You know, I regret everything in the world." Maybe even running for a third term? Bottom line: It's the mayor's job to run the city; the buck stops with him."

Good thing he didn't imitate Ed Koch and ask, "How am I doing?" As the Post opines, not well at all: "And yet, for the past 48 hours, New Yorkers have had to endure a brutal ordeal -- with emergency calls backed up, roads left unplowed, riders trapped on trains, buses stuck in snow . . .A potentially iconic video bouncing around the Internet summed it all up: a city tow truck hauling a backhoe out of a snowdrift -- and smashing up a parked SUV in the process. Says the mayor: "Yelling about it and complaining doesn't help." On Monday, he actually said the situation created mere "inconveniences" -- and urged folks to "go out and shop or take in a Broadway show." Maybe if he had done a little "yelling about it," the streets would have been plowed yesterday. Certainly it's hard to imagine Mayor Giuliani taking such a laid-back approach to the problem. Never mind being the "greatest" mayor, Mike. How about being just mayor?"

And these are his friends and allies, imagine what his enemies are saying. But this isn't just about scoring political points. The city's inept response was deadly: "A blizzard baby delivered inside the lobby of a snowbound Brooklyn building died after an emergency call of a woman in labor brought no help for nine excruciating hours.The baby's mother, a 22-year-old college senior, was recovering Tuesday night at Interfaith Medical Center, where her newborn was pronounced dead at 6:34 p.m. on Monday. That was 10 hours after the first 911 call from the bloody vestibule on Brooklyn Ave. in Crown Heights. "No one could get to her. Crown Heights was not plowed, and no medical aid came for hours," said the student's mother."

But, that''s not all-and we think that the death toll will mount: "In Queens, a woman tried to reach 911 operators for 20 minutes Monday and then waited for three hours for first responders to arrive. By then, her mom had died, state Sen. Jose Peralta's office said. Laura Freeman, 41, said her mother, Yvonne Freeman, 75, woke her at 8 a.m. because she was having trouble breathing. When the daughter couldn't get through to 911, she enlisted neighbors and relatives, who also began calling."

And the anger at the mayor is palpable-and we don't believe it will dissipate-particularly as the city council launches its post mortem after the New Year: "A 76-year-old Bay Ridge heart attack victim nearly died when an FDNY ambulance became stuck in a snowbank, but he was rescued by a gang of good Samaritans lugging him through the unplowed streets on a sled fashioned from a gurney. "My husband could be dead right now," said Lucy Pastore, whose husband, Salvatore, was in stable condition at Lutheran Medical Center. "The mayor acts like this is a minor inconvenience. Makes me sick."

One last tragic reminder of the fruits of this massive managerial failure-courtesy of the WSJ: "Dominick Caratozzolo, 63 years old, of Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, suffered an apparent heart attack on Monday morning and died before paramedics arrived, more than 3 ½ hours later. Fire officials said a 911 call was placed from his apartment at 8:09 a.m. Firefighters arrived at 9:40 a.m, and emergency responders showed up at 11:42 a.m., officials said. The patient was declared dead at the scene."

And so it went-and continues as the city struggles to dig out. In our view, the more this fiasco gets scrutinized, the more the festering outrage will boil over. Lisa Colangelo gives us a good hint of things to come: "One sanitation supervisor said any blame for the cleanup rests on the shoulders of the city and not workers. "They were so unprepared for this storm," said the supervisor. "They were scrambling like crazy on Christmas Day calling people and trying to get them to come in."

For nine years, and through three election cycles where hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to convince a hapless electorate that Mike Bloomberg was truly an indispensable leader, we have been told to be eternally grateful that Mike Bloomberg has deigned to grace us with his unparalleled expertise. We never bought the hype, perhaps because we witnessed first hand the reality behind the hoo ha. Now others are belatedly joining us, and we say, "welcome aboard!" But what took you so damn long?