Merit Mike Makes Hard Choices

Bloomy Champions Services, Rejects No-Tax-Hike Orthodoxy

The Bloomberg team's determined shots at these sacred cows was in sharp contrast with the empty rhetoric of Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Comptroller Bill Thompson, and Gotbaum, whose conference-closing panel failed to seek a single sacrifice from any special interest. The three Democrats were more eager to demand that Washington and Albany aid our uniquely damaged city than was Bloomberg, who dismissed any notion that a federal government grown "more conservative" in the last election "would give you operating money" to help close the city gap.

Indeed, Bloomberg's low point Saturday was his assertion that his decision to raise taxes right after the governor was re-elected "had nothing to do with the electoral schedule" and that he wasn't "trying to protect somebody," even as he continued to give George Pataki a pass on the commuter tax, bridge tolls, and anything else that might help the city. But the three Democrats were no better in assessing Albany's abdication, or in putting forward a specific agenda for it.

While Ed Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani all wound up at war with the CBC, boycotting its conferences and, at some points, barring mayoral staff from attending, Bloomberg actually met his current girlfriend, Diana Taylor, at a CBC event and brought her there this weekend. Shaw and his labor, finance, and budget brass dominated the panels, and labor leaders took center stage in ways they never had before, unwilling to concede the need to make productivity sacrifices. Though a Giuliani deputy mayor had actually called donors to the group in an attempt to get them not to contribute, Bloomberg promised that he would return next year if invited—regardless of how critical CBC was of him in the interim. It was an engaging example of how he's changed the temperament of this town.

Koch is now a panelist himself at the conferences he once assailed, declaring Saturday that he "could not remember a single commitment made by the unions" during his 12 years as mayor "that they kept," a reference to unimplemented productivity improvements that was challenged by UFT president Randi Weingarten, who spoke right after him. Koch said the only way to get the unions to accept the work-rule changes required to make the city more efficient was to give each of them a hard choice between the changes and a specific number of layoffs. But with the property-tax increase, etc. narrowing next year's gap to a more manageable $3.1 billion, as well as the passionate opposition to layoffs that Bloomberg delivered at the start of the conference, that threat, already adopted by Connecticut's Republican governor, seems unlikely here.

You can almost hear an ex-mayor Bloomberg, at some future CBC conclave, ruing the day that the unions stopped him, like every mayor before him, from reversing the featherbedding that consumes so many city dollars.

Research assistance: Sandy Amos, Yi Chen, Will St. John

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