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.
who is giving what in this picture? from wallyg's flickr photostream
The problem with McCain-style spending freezes is that some things really truly should be fully funded by the government. Privatizing or relying on user fees for essential transportation infrastructure amounts to a flat/regressive tax on the poor – be it roads and cars, which force folks to pay for gas to get to work, or MTA’s latest attempt to raise fares yet again. Yes, they can, and probably will.
Space should not be a commodity sold off to the rich who can afford the convenience of proximity, nor should money determine access to urban space. More MTA fare hikes amounts to a further privatization of urban space, part of the process of wholesale gentrification and up-scaling of the City that Bloomberg et al promote. There’s a reason folks advocate against progressive taxes and for budget cuts – because it runs parallel with a larger project of upper class warfare against the poor.
Avella at Atlantic Yards. from Tracy collin's flickr.
Tony Avella put out his first campaign literature of the Mayoral Campaign just as Bloomberg got his way on term limits. I think the themes on his first page – “a fighter for our neighborhoods” and “the revolution” (!) will shape up as the key themes of the campaign. With Bloomberg planning to run another all out $50 million plus campaign, challengers will need to mobilize natural constituencies – class most importantly. Bloomberg’s effort to upscale the city amounts to a spatial class-war, pushing poor folks to the margin of the city.
Avella’s rhetoric and his appearance at Atlantic Yards (above) shows how his campaign plans to approach dealing with the changing face of the city. I’m interested to see how it works out – I think there’s a risk with being so overt about the class terms used (the election isn’t actually a revolution and Avella is no Che), and I think there’s a good chance the community/grassroots organizer vote will be split among a number of candidates, including at least one that pulls a John Kerry and makes a ‘viability’ appeal the center of their campaign.
I’ve kept from writing about the term limits vote because:
1. the fix was in from the start
2. I think that this is a pretty clearly bad move, and that’s been made evident elsewhere on this blog.
But here’s an interesting tidbit by way of Cathryn of the Washington Square Park blog – NYU President John Sexton took time from flying to Abu Dhabi to wander down to city hall and testify for the repeal of term limits.
NYU requires a load of favors from New York City, from tax breaks to zoning changes to park renovations, and John Sexton knows who is scratching his back. Sexton became NYU President not long after Bloomberg became mayor, and their fates and goals are linked – a transformation of the city to a upper-middle class ‘global’ playground, with an economy that relies on service industry and cultural labor. Sexton’s testimony shows just how public ‘private’ universities can be, and the fate of the city under a 3rd Bloomberg term.
Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York posted this image from a 2004 brochure given out by the city’s department of Economic Development. It carefully maps out the areas Bloomberg plans to overhaul during his term. Note the concentration in the outer boroughs – with a particular focus on Staten Island. Bloomberg is looking to Manhattanize the outer boroughs and spread ‘development’ as class war – that is the other half of what is at stake in the Term Limits vote today.
If you’re going to rush a vote on Term Limits, why not do it with a bill that would allow for a referendum? The urgency to get this done – now – betrays the argument that there would be inadequate time to organize a referendum. Expect pandemonium Thursday.
Compare voter input.: Establishing term limits: two voter referendums. Eliminating term limits: two hearings that function as friendly advice to the mayor and city council. Thanks.
he's on yr teevee. from .HS. flickr photostream
This post from Gothamist shows exactly why Bloomberg shouldn’t be allowed to run again – because it shows how an endless incumbency allows for a manipulation of city resources to control elections. Bloomberg (or whoever wants to be Mayor-for-life) can game around money to deputize the entire political class of New York to work for him. Bloomberg’s manipulation of Mayoral money – and his re-distribution of money towards friendly charities – shows how incumbency creates an uneven playing field, and not some sort of competition that the best candidate necessarily wins.
In fact, Bloomberg’s vast wealth makes him particularly dangerous as a three term or more mayor. Rather than a temporary guard against financial crisis, a vastly wealthy mayor creates a long-term threat to democracy, because he can devote $30 million+ of his huge huge wealth to every election he runs, indefinitely. Even outside of the question of overriding *2* voter referendums, Bloomberg’s bid poses a threat to the (meager) democratic system in New York City
In trying times, at least we can know that rich people are funny. A total fucking meltdown and a power-grabbing Mayor have provided excellent opportunities for the return of the ‘Billionaire’ meme. (the meme began with Billionaires for Bush, and since taken on a life of its own)
Billionaires for the Bailout have made appearances in DC, backing the new age of corporate welfare in the name of leaving No Billionaire Behind. Just yesterday the Billioniares for the Bailout faced down the menace of Ralph Nader on Wall Street, standing firm in the face of the Radical Left’s attempt to undermine our support of the folks really in charge. The meme is overseas: the Billionaires made news all the way in India.
Back closer to home, the well-organized Billionaires brought out support for their friend and colleague Mayor Bloomberg on the issue of term-limits extensions, even if the repeal would still allow non-billionaire candidates such as Speaker Quinn or Anthony Wiener to run. As I’ve pointed out before, many New York City-focused movements are stiff, boring affairs, and I’m glad to see the Billionaires jump in to a high-profile battle like term limits- with Bloomberg’s media machine and billions to spend, folks opposing him will have to come up with something better than “the people have spoken” and “just say no” style appeals – I hope the Billionaires for Term Limits Except For Billionaires inject some energy and wit into the Bloomberg push-back.
"He'll hold you down like paper weights" from CarbonNYC's flickr photostream
As speculation raged about Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s plans for a Presidential run, he kept saying he had the best job in the world. Turns out he really meant it – voters and term limits be damned. Seeking a third term as Mayor in 2009, billionaire Bloomberg recently launched a pre-campaign campaign to overturn New York City’s term limits law, twice passed by voter referendum in 1993 and 1996.
To justify his overturn of two referendums, he had to sweeten the deal for the City Council and Voters alike. To help shepherd a controversial term limits bill through the City Council, he proposed exempting Councilmembers from term limits restrictions along with the Mayor. To sell the deal to voters, he proposed limiting the term limits extension to current office holders only.
His argument to justify the move? With Wall Street crumbling, the city needs continuity and financial leadership to weather the storm, and no voters have no better option than the Billionaire Mayor himself.
Not everyone is happy with the move. Organizations with names like It’s Our Decision and The People Have Spoken coalition sprung up immediately to demand that any term limits change occur through referendum. Mayoral candidates like Comptroller William Thompson and Representative Anthony Weiner spoke out against the extension as well (although fellow candidate Speaker Christine Quinn supports the extension, perhaps because she already sits pretty nicely as the second most powerful person in city government).
(one of three posts written for a college-blogging job prospect)
the patron saints of civic billionaires
A loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires assembles to agree to provide themselves flexibility and a little less oversight. An agreement reached not quite in secret, but rather obscurity. Money changes hands? The rules change. Public announcements and verbal handshakes follow.
We’ve seen this before.
Despite the fact that Bloomberg would like to run again on the platform of economic expertise in a time of crisis, his last few weeks of public appearances during the developing economic crisis focused almost entirely on himself. As everything went to hell yesterday, he hosted a meeting in the mayor’s mansion to discuss extending term limits – not the city’s finances, not the impact of the depression on tax revenue, not the housing crisis from mortgage defaults – his own re-election. I suspect this is a sign of things to come in a third Bloomberg term, where economic security rhetoric will continue to serve as a thin mask for overt self interest. Look: these people didn’t get to be billionaires out of benevolence or civic interest.
The lesson of the economic crisis needs to be that accountability and democracy not only make sense as moral imperatives, but that they also protect against the failures of government. Bloomberg cannot or will not resolve the root causes of the economic fallout from Wall Street’s collapse: he is a friend and peer of the CEOs whose companies keep imploding, trusting his economic wisdom at a crucial turning point for New York is like trusting your retirement funds to the golden boys of economics who ran Lehman, Bear Stearns and Merill Lynch. The faith we place in Mike’s type of expertise necessarily implies a loss in faith in the democratic checks we need to keep everything from going totally fucking haywire – and it probably means more of this bullshit.