staying around. from carbonnyc's flickr
Highly recommend Wayne Barrett’s Village Voice feature on Bloomberg and his third term – you get a sense of the collusive egomania required for someone like Bloomberg to run again. Barrett sees the move as a pure act of self-obsession, an argument I try to avoid for its narrowness, but it’s pretty persuasive in this case. Bloomberg co-ordinates his business interests, city office and charity donations into an independent economic force all of his own, turning them into a vast machine that serves himself and enough other rich and powerful folk to keep himself in power indefinately.
Stunts like unilaterally withholding property tax rebate checks (which, he, um, can’t do legally) are the real legacy of the Bloomberg Mayoral reign. He has vastly centralized power into the executive of city government, and sidelined the power of the City Council by leveraging his personal wealth and business connections.
Against this background of intimidation by Bloomberg’s money and clout with fellow billionaires, no viable candidate has fully stepped into the ring to challenge him. Any serious challenge would work wonders to undermine the rising hegemony Bloomberg exercises over the city, injecting dissent into the developing consensus that Bloomberg offers the last hope to our city.
worth millions! from numbphoto's flickr photostream
Real estate prices throughout the city keep going down – except in Willets Point, where the Mayor wants to avoid another development disappointment, and is buying up property at many times the assessed value. Despite the fact that the city is running out of money, apparently the EDC and Bloomberg feel A-OK spending millions on property that eventually will be sold back below cost to a private developer that then will profit more off of people paying rent above cost. The real absurdity is that those millions are perhaps more than the city ever spent fixing the streets, cleaning up toxic waste or performing basic city services in the Point. That money could go towards actual city services in the area to make it an independently vibrant and viable neighborhood, but instead it’s being spent to support a mostly private development scheme. It’s not quite a pyramid scheme per-se, but it reveals how the city government has been turned into a machine for artificially raising property values at the cost of just about everyone besides real estate developers.
Marty! from vivaantarctica's flickr.
The string of folks sticking in their current city government positions demonstrates the absurdity of the term limits extension – it’s a wave of incumbents staying in place (including Mr. Playmate Markowitz) rather than seeking the offices that they originally said they would pursue, the opposite of the good-government argument about voters choosing whoever they thought was the best candidate for the job. Instead of seeking open races for the right job, incumbents self-selecting for races they know they can win by force of political inertia.
But that was the purpose all along, and the best reason for folks to push incumbents out of office whenever they get the chance. While not the same as forcing them out via term-limits, supporting an extension or taking advantage of one provides a compelling display of self interest at the cost of voters, and a good argument for getting them out of office ASAP.
or by order of mayor. from stellets' flickr
Bloomberg announced his budget cuts on one of the most overwhelming media days of the year, right after a historic Presidential election. Standard fare. (Not much unlike the Friday Night Massacres of the Bush administration, announcing environmental cuts on Fridays before the nearly-dead Saturday news cycle).
I’m no wonk on the city budget, but I’m not particularly happy with the idea of cutting city worker’s jobs, particularly as New York City continues to lose them vis-a-vis the surrounding metropolis. That seems to be cutting the city’s working-class feet out from under it when targeting higher taxes on the very wealthy might actually present a better option for balancing the budget while maintaining spending.
Also, I can think of some pretty frivolous uses of city money that should see the chopping block before anyone’s job gets lost – Washington Square Park leaps to mind.
There are some good things here: trimming police jobs in the bloated absurdity that is the NYPD, repealing the homeowner credit (not that many people own, and focusing on owner-relief shouldn’t be a priority), but Bloomberg’s credibility on the budget is running pretty low, and I’m interested to see the meat of what this means.
work with this. from Tony the Misfit's flickr
Obama’s campaign ran on a series of wildly effective symbols and phrases that drove the campaign to the electoral and political heights we see today. Watching returns and his acceptance speech last night, you could see how he drew on an immensely powerful set of tropes and symbols used to define the nation and his role in it.
The next important election I see is the New York City Mayoral campaign. I think it’s wildly important to get Mayor Bloomberg out of office ASAP, and I want to work to make it happen.
Any opposition to Bloomberg doubtless will try to pivot off of the Obama Hope and Change messages, but it seems like cities lack the same type of empty-ish symbolic tools that made his message possible. That should be the first task of any mayor going in to this campaign, seeing the changed look and feel of politics: develop new symbols – both visual and rhetorical – that represent a new city, a new sense of hope, and a united front against the narrow interests that have come to control this city
a flurry of trouble. from CarbonNYC's flickr.
Anthony Wiener pointed out the real reason Bloomberg wanted to rush the term limits bill, and it had nothing to do with the need to prepare for the election ahead of time. The real reason for the rush probably has more to do with the Presidential Campaign than anything else – Bloomberg used the news media’s total obsession with Barack Obama and John McCain to push through a bill while eyes were turned towards the election.
I wonder what the term limits fight would have looked like if it had taken place in December? It’s certainly harder to get folks out to a protest in the cold, but it would have allowed the opposition a better platform to project their concerns about the bill, and might have marshaled enough public disdain to keep Councilmembers from bending to Bloomberg.
Fortunately, folks in and around city government paid a little more attention, and it looks like Bloomberg lost a good deal of political capital with the local folks he relies on for support. At the very least he’ll have more trouble pushing the bills and initiatives he uses to keep in the news, and members of city government will be less willing to run cover for him leading up to the election in 09.
More guns than you. from mudpig's flickr photostream.
Serious dissonance in the NYC news today. Bloomberg just donated six figures to an independent campaign called Americans United for Safe Streets, who mailed out a flier that features police officers in their formal wear best under crosshairs.
Almost simultaneously, the New York Medical Examiner gave word that two brothers killed by police this weekend were shot in the back. In the back.
Now, I can think of a number of cases of (black and latino) folks killed by police in the past year (NYPD killed 13 ppl in 2006 via gunfire), but very very few cops killed during the same time. The 758 NYPD officers have been killed since 1806, a rate of less than 4 a year, with only 321 of those the result of gunfire. The point being, that in the majority of violent interactions between police and citizens, the police do the shooting and killing. That means that maybe Mr. Mayor might do well to focus on reigning in police before ginning up fear to support move overzealous policing of city streets.