Want to Work for Mike Bloomberg? What's Your Batting Average?

Softball, campaign promises, and the miserable minority-contracting record of the Bloomberg administration

These numbers, ironically enough, have been regaled in a course celebrating Bloomberg's economic-development policies at the Harvard Business School, where SBS official David Margalit was once a student of the very same professor who later conducted the case study of SBS. Walsh and a deputy mayor both appeared before the class in April. David Zipper, another former Harvard Business School student, was retained as an SBS consultant while still at Harvard and then hired to run the training-grant project.

Donald Jackson, the former HR director, vividly recalls being summoned by Walsh and told to look for ballplayers: "When it came time to select summer interns, he would go on the Internet and look for college players—and he wanted people based on their baseball stats, not their ability to do the work of the agency," he says. "I would have to call coaches and arrange to schedule information sessions for the kids. He was only looking for one or two players to improve the team's record for that summer. We got several interns that way over the years. Rob was never very subtle about why he hired someone: 'This person is a great outfielder.' "


SBS insists that "Jackson was never instructed to call a coach or recruit players," though it doesn't deny that he did, or that Walsh searched the Internet for players. While insisting that interns were recruited on merit and that only three played ball (the Voice identified five), SBS concedes that Walsh did call one coach. Walsh's message to intern applicants on the SBS website notes how much the agency values "the energy interns bring to the office, be it on an important project or as a great second baseman."

Robert Walsh, who has run SBS since Bloomberg took office, hasn’t had a single meeting with the mayor to discuss the MWBE program since the new law went into effect in late 2005.
Frances M. Roberts
Robert Walsh, who has run SBS since Bloomberg took office, hasn’t had a single meeting with the mayor to discuss the MWBE program since the new law went into effect in late 2005.

Virtually every one of the dozen agency sources that the Voice spoke to had a softball story similar to Jackson's. One recalled being asked about playing for the team during the entry interview. Another acknowledged the influence of softball, but insisted that it was just one of the social determinants of status and salary within the agency. "Happy hours" were another: Walsh took the current director of the MWBE program (who now plays on the team) to a nearby bar for her first interview. SBS acknowledges that Walsh "often discusses volunteer work, sports, and hobbies as a way of evaluating candidates' communications and interpersonal skills."

That's the most dysfunctional thing about fiefdoms: They create their own values. A bored second-term mayor, flirting with national ambitions, has never understood that integrating the business community and building trades are indispensable prerequisites to truly integrating the city. Handing off these re-election hoaxes to the same agency he relies on for imaginary job-development boasts is the way to get exactly what he wants in both cases: pretense.

The mayor who took his oath of office several months after 9/11 and steered the city deftly through its darkest days is on automatic pilot now, cruising into blessed history. Once a neophyte at politics, these days he is just one more pro­—smugly turning valleys into mountaintops, counting on the faintness of collective memory, and all too certain of his own not entirely deserved acclaim.

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