Monday, January 31, 2011

Master of the House-But Not the Best Innkeeper in Town

There is a brewing controversy over the future of Tavern on the Green-with Donald Trump and the restaurant union, Local 6, believing that they can save the famed eatery; while NYC's famous inn keeper, Mike Bloomberg, is skeptical. The NY Post has the story: "Tavern on the Gone? Mayor Bloomberg raised that possibility yesterday, when he said that the shuttered Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park might never reopen -- at least not in the splashy form that made it famous to generations of wedding and bar-mitzvah celebrants. "Tavern on the Green at the moment doesn't exist," the mayor declared on his weekly radio show. "Whether it'll ever come back, I don't know."

About the things the mayor doesn't know, there are entire encyclopedias written-but as far as Tavern is concerned, this is what we would categorize as a no-brainer. You have one of the world's savviest entrepreneurs pledging to bring the eating icon back and save 400 union jobs in the process-what's so difficult about the mayor simply saying, "Make my day?" Instead, we have the continuous affront of the tavern site being overrun by mobile food carts-a wonderful libretto for the Bloomberg comic opera.

The Post captures the Bloomberg hubris in all of this: "In New York, of course, Bloomberg pretty much is the government
And right now he's "getting in the way" of Donald Trump's effort to restore and reopen once-iconic, now-shuttered Tavern on the Green.
Bloomberg prefers a clutch of food trucks, and Bloomberg intends to get his way. Never mind that Trump apparently has the backing of the restaurant workers' union. And that he also has a pretty good track record when it comes to reviving faded Central Park projects -- as he proved back in the '80s with the Wollman Rink."

Bloomberg, seeking to become a latter day Zagat, doesn't think a high quality restaurant will work on the site-ignoring the fact that, absent the past few years, it made a ton of money for a long time: "Bloomberg doesn't think a reincarnated Tavern will work. "It's not clear you need another big sit-down, touristy kind of restaurant," he said yesterday. But who elected him king of the free market? Trump is willing to put up his own money. So why does Mike Bloomberg insist on "getting in the way of everything"? Because he's Mike Bloomberg."

And just who is this Mike Bloomberg? Well, that's a good question considering how the mayor kvelled over the Chinese communists ability to get things done when he visited that country. As the Post opines: "The sight of China's successful high- speed rail last year seems to have overwhelmed Mayor Bloomberg. According to Esquire magazine, Bloomberg -- who was in China for an international climate summit -- visited a state-of-the-art rail platform, where he complained about what he called the reason similar systems haven't been built here: "In America, the ultimate capitalist system," he said, "government is getting in the way of everything."

Revealing that beneath the capitalist raiments, lurks a pure bred autocrat-someone uncomfortable with the messiness of democratic procedures. James Taranto in the WSJ, citing at length the same Esquire piece, riffs along these lines:
"It's an astonishing moment, and a clarifying one--one of the most successful businessmen in the world, and certainly the most successful executive-cum-politician in American life, the leader of a city so important that its police force is bigger than the armies of most countries, expressing something close to envy for one of the most ruthlessly planned economies in the world, a system that still treats its people as disposable bits of an immense machine, where the government doesn't get "in the way of everything" because the government is everything."
Which leads Taranto to observe: "The word "capitalist" has two distinct meanings, which those on the left like to blur. Bloomberg is a capitalist by occupation, which is to say that he is a business tycoon. But he is not an ideological capitalist. He does not believe in freedom."

This is, of course, unsurprising to us-we have observed just how committed the mayor is to government qua government-as long as it is a government that he is in charge of. And no one has been more promiscuous in the use of the mechanism of eminent domain than Mayor Mike-underscoring further the extent that, as Taranto points out, "he doesn't believe in freedom."

But make no mistake about it, the Tavern kerfuffle is all about Mike Bloomberg's overweening pride-a point that Steve Cuozzo made last week in the Post: "You don't have to love Donald Trump to cheer the news he's struck a "deal" with union boss Peter Ward that could reopen Tavern on the Green. You can even hate Ward's greedy Local 6 and be glad. But their pitch puts Mayor Bloomberg in a pickle more delicious than anything from the "gourmet" food trucks in the former Tavern courtyard. Having destroyed the old Tavern for no good reason, Bloomberg is now torn. Letting Trump revive the place from the ashes would embarrass him, as Ed Koch was when Trump saved the Wollman Rink from City Hall's incompetence in the 1970s."

At the same time, it would dramatize the contrast between government bureaucratic boneheadedness and the creativity of entrepreneurism: "It would accomplish at a stroke what the city failed to do in two years of pipe-dreaming, proposal-soliciting, finally choosing a new operator -- and then sabotaging him."

The city's failures with the Tavern are symbolic then of the larger endemic incompetence of the Bloombergistas-and, along with the snow storm and CityTime fiascos, we see the mayor's image of managerial acumen toppling the way that the statue of Saddam Hussein did upon the fall of Baghdad. Our only regret, is that the mayor's fall from grace didn't happen a couple of years earlier-to spare us from this last term stench.