On January 1, 2014 Michael Bloomberg will no longer be mayor of New York City, but he will continue to pick at the threads of the nation’s social safety net in indirect and almost untraceable ways.
The question is whether Bloomberg does it deliberately or not. Clearly he is working against elected Democrats in red states and thereby he assists Republicans who are not friendly to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits or gun regulation.
In 2006 Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and became its largest funder. Its admirable mission is to promote public safety by cracking down on illegal firearms. Spurred by horrific homicides in the intervening years, the group has grown from an initial 15 to one thousand mayors in 46 states, including four in Arkansas, a state that increasingly leans toward Republicans.
Trouble began when, with Bloomberg-like gusto, this group took shotgun aim at those who did not rally to their dictates. These included moderate politicians in red states who declined to support unpopular legislation to restrict gun ownership, including background checks. This story unfolded around the nation throughout 2013, but the N.Y. Times just reported that Bloomberg’s aides were warned that they are endangering Democrats’ political chances. If Democrats lose, Republicans win, and their platform is not friendly to gun restrictions.
Former President Bill Clinton phoned Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s Deputy Mayor for Government Affairs and Communications, to request that the Bloomberg group drop its ads against Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, a beleaguered Democrat facing re-election in Clinton’s native state. Request denied. The ads ran. Pryor may have scored points with his constituents with his retort that he did not take orders from Bloomberg or New York City. We will find out next November when Arkansans either let him keep his Senate seat or award it to a Republican. I am betting that Pryor’s opponent won’t back gun restrictions either. Does Bloomberg think that far? He would if he truly cared about this issue or if he cared enough to hire people who could think effectively. Is Bloomberg aiming for gun restrictions or for a Republican majority? No one should count on his being a straight shooter, even with a $31 billion fortune in ammo. The people of New York City and the nation are not rid of him by a long shot.
Wealthy New Yorkers have managed to shut down debate about what is good for New York City, including the vanishing middle class and those who believe in zoning laws. A N.Y. Times story today about opposition to Mayor Bloomberg’s outsize development plan for area around Grand Central Station points out that disgust with the plan for midtown east has helped to revive the formerly moribund City Club of New York. It reports that club secretary Stuart Pertz, an architect who was on the City Planning Commission in the 1980s, says that organizations are stymied by their need for donations and they fear offending executives, or working against their interests, when they need them to provide funding.
The Bloomberg Administration is finally drawing to a close, four years later than we expected it to by law, but puppeteer Bloomberg will still have his billions, so look for this situation to continue. The Koch Brothers and those hedge fund managers who do not receive crippling fines from the government, all hold sway on important boards. At this point non-profits that are afraid to pursue their missions, or decided to pursue agendas at half-throttle as many do, should disband for all our sakes, or, as in the case of the once influential City Club of New York, get loud.
“We’ve gotten comfortable seeing low-wage workers as sharecroppers. When was the last time the mayor blew a blood vessel about the systematic violation of wage protections?” That question comes from Harvey Robins, who held top positions in the Koch and Dinkins Administrations, as quoted in Michael Powell’s column this morning in the N.Y. Times. Robins would like to see insurance companies subject to the business tax and would end the $17 million property tax abasement for Madison Square Garden. Robins, who served as deputy schools chancellor in the Koch Administration and ran Dinkins’ Office of Operations, is so revolutionary that he asks why Chicago and Boston keep their libraries open 50 hours a week while NYC barely muster five days.
I would like to know who Robins is endorsing in the mayor’s race. Better yet, I want to hear lots more from him.
Bloomberg Policies Are Stopped, Frisked
The Bloomberg Administration rationale for what it now calls stop-question-frisk — that blacks and Hispanics are the ones most likely to commit crimes — is the mindset that inspired two policemen to chase black Ramarley Graham from the street into his grandmother’s home and gun him down by her toilet (see earlier post). Happily, a federal judge ruled today that the practice violates civil rights and has called for a monitor to oversee NYC police. Bloomberg claims that stop and frisk reduces the number of police deaths and he does not know what he will tell their families if stop and frisk is eliminated. What does he tell the parents of teens who are needlessly slaughtered by over-anxious police armed not only with guns but with data that says criminals are likely to be minorities and therefore minorities are likely to be criminals?