Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mike Bloomberg: the Oligarch Mayor

Mike Bloomberg should have never been elected to a third term. In fact, he never should have been able to run.

Though the mayor’s never been fond of democracy – just look at the Republican National Convention protests where thousands of demonstrators were rounded up and held illegally – the term limit debacle takes the cake.

Yes, term limits were initially hoisted upon New Yorkers by another city billionaire, Ron Lauder in 1993; the voters did uphold the limits in a second city-wide referendum.

Bloomberg and Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker and his absolute ally, did everything they could to steam roll the legislation through the council. Only a few brave council members like Charles Barron and Bill de Blasio, who has since been elected public advocate, dared speak up. De Blasio said that the term limits move was “more reminiscent of a banana republic," than a major American city.

After the term limits extension, Bloomberg spent a record $102 million dollars ($112 per vote) on an ambitious shock-and-awe electoral campaign. Just like in a banana republic, no one was safe from the constant bombardment of Bloomberg propaganda. The oligarch mayor’s face was as prominent as Big Brother’s.

That exorbitant war chest also went to buying his way onto ballot lines and purchasing endorsements. The New York Times reported that the Independence Party ballot line cost him, “a vow to take a second look at nonpartisan elections and a $250,000 contribution.”

After Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ publically endorsed the mayor that, “Mr. Bloomberg’s longtime accountant contributed $26,000 — the maximum allowed — to Mr. Booker’s re-election committee.” The Times also reported.

Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice said that he once hoped the mayor’s “money had bought us a leader that was finally free of the circle of donors, lobbyists, and powerbrokers that consumed earlier mayors and confounded the public good.” Instead, the mayor has simply bought the city and will do with it as he pleases.

The mayor’s argument that as a CEO, his financial expertise makes him the best equipped to steer us out of the great recession. It has been noted that New York is lagging behind the rest of the country in growth. Only time will tell if his third term will be a disaster like other third term mayors. More New Yorkers are on food stamps than ever before. In August, the last month with data available the number of New Yorkers collecting benefits has shot up. The New York Times reported that the figure has “surged” to 1970s levels.

The narrow margin Bloomberg took in the recent election proves he is not invincible. This time around he may finally realize he’s not only accountable to real estate and business interests but also to the people of this city. They might have elected him, but it was with little confidence.

Bloomberg didn’t just defeat Bill Thompson. He defeated the voters of New York City.

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