Michael Bloomberg's Velvet Coup

Is Mayor Mugabe an outrageous comparison?

Echoing Canada was George McDonald, president of the Doe Fund. The homeless-assistance group also benefits from the mayor's private giving and holds $25 million in city contracts. McDonald didn't wait for the hearings. On Columbus Day, he dispatched a crew of Doe Funders to the parade to cheer the mayor with signs proclaiming "Now More Than Ever." Newsday's Dan Janison watched these antics. "Must have been an impromptu decision to volunteer for this on a holiday," he noted.

Outside the council chambers, McDonald began sputtering when Henry Stern, former parks commissioner and foe of the mayor's bill, asked him if his city contracts had influenced his thinking. "You're saying I'm corrupt!" McDonald shouted. "We get $10 million from the city, and we do good work!"

Actually, fear was the most corrupting factor in City Hall last week: fear of angering a mayor who may well rule until 2013. Fear paralyzed the city's most powerful unions—the only possible political counterweight. The teachers' union quietly passed a resolution calling for term limits to be submitted for a new referendum—the thrust of a bill proposed by leading council dissenters Bill de Blasio and Tish James. The union never even issued a press release on it. The battlefield was left to the Working Families Party, of which the teachers are influential members. The WFP mounted a valiant campaign with a tiny budget. It had $50,000 for a TV ad buy opposing the mayor. Last year, the teachers' union spent $2.1 million on its Albany lobbying alone.

Labor's loudest voices at the hearings were in mayoral lockstep. Leaders of the building trades talked about how good Bloomberg has been for construction jobs. The uniformed municipal union leaders repeated in tandem the mayor's mantra that regular elections are the real term limits. Unmentioned were recent generous contracts or the ones now pending. AWOL from the scene was the biggest municipal workers' group, District Council 37. The union's city contract is currently being negotiated.

Only plucky Arthur Cheliotes, leader of Local 1180's city administrative workers, stepped forward to defend labor's honor. Cheliotes looked lonely as he waited hours to speak. "The mayor has cleverly gamed the system by not letting term limits get on the ballot this November," he said when he finally testified.

By the way, did you know that dissident labor leaders keep getting killed in Uribe's Colombia?

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