Citizen Bloomberg

How our mayor has given us the business

Citizen Bloomberg

After a charmed first decade in politics, Mayor Mike Bloomberg is mired in his first sustained losing streak.

His third term has been shaky, marked by the Snowpocalypse, the snowballing CityTime scandal, the backlash to Cathie Black and "government by cocktail party," and the rejection by Governor Andrew Cuomo of his plan to change how public-school teachers are hired and fired. With just a couple more years left in office, Bloomberg is starting to look every one of his 70 years.

Soon, he'll be just another billionaire.

Jesse Lenz
Bloomberg LP's headquarters, the Bloomberg Tower. Nicknamed "the Death Star" by fans and foes alike, the huge screens displaying data, the glass walls, and the open floor space in place of private offices or even cubicles are all meant to symbolize "transparency"—one of the many buzzwords from his business that Citizen Bloomberg brought with him to City Hall.
Celeste Sloman
Bloomberg LP's headquarters, the Bloomberg Tower. Nicknamed "the Death Star" by fans and foes alike, the huge screens displaying data, the glass walls, and the open floor space in place of private offices or even cubicles are all meant to symbolize "transparency"—one of the many buzzwords from his business that Citizen Bloomberg brought with him to City Hall.

The mayor's legacy is remarkably uncertain—largely because he's done his best to keep New Yorkers in the dark about what it is he's really set out to do in office.

In part, this is because the mayor has been far more effective at selling his Bloomberg brand than in getting things done. But it's also because what he has done—remaking and marketing New York as a "luxury city" and Manhattan as a big-business monoculture—he prefers to discuss with business groups rather than the voting public.

Withholding information while preaching transparency is a Bloomberg trademark. He aggressively keeps his private life private—meaning not just his weekends outside the city at "undisclosed" locations, but also his spending, his charitable giving, and his privately held business.

New Yorkers who have received city, campaign, or Bloomberg bucks in one form or another and who expect to do business again in the future agreed to speak anonymously with the Voice about the mayor's personality, the intersection of his political and private interests, and the goals he aims to achieve.

Several sources agreed to speak only after hearing what others had said. "It's Julius Caesar time," said one source. "There's lots of knives, but no one wants to be first." Others refused to be quoted, but encouraged me to give voice to their complaints—which sometimes diverged but often built into a sort of Greek chorus, an indictment of Bloomberg's mayoralty from those who have seen it in practice, and are vested in it.

"Hanging out with a billionaire does bad things to your brain," a source said. "It makes you think you're right."

The candidate who first ran in 2001 on his private-sector résumé and a deluge of advertising never did bother telling voters much about his agenda.

He pledged in that first run not to raise taxes and to step away from the daily running of his private company if elected to public office, but he brushed aside both vows after the election. In the case of his business, he claimed to have kept his word until his own testimony in a lawsuit unsealed in 2007 showed that he'd been far more active than he'd previously acknowledged.

The vast redevelopment schemes he unveiled in office were never mentioned on the stump.

New Yorkers have no trouble picturing Giuliani's New York, or Dinkins's "gorgeous mosaic," or Koch's "How'm-I-doing?" New York, or Beame's bankruptcy, or Lindsay's "Fun City."

After two full terms and change, what do you call Bloomberg's New York? In many ways, the mayor has been merely a caretaker.

While Bloomberg has called himself the "education mayor," his claimed success with the public schools has been exposed as largely accounting tricks.

When asked to describe the boss's vision for the city, aides and allies tack post-partisanship on to a checklist of Bloomberg LP buzzwords: transparency, data-driven results, and a CEO fixed on the bottom line. Pressed for actual accomplishments, the city's post-9/11 resurgence usually is mentioned first.

The attack and its economic fallout played key roles in all three of Bloomberg's runs, though the story has less to do with strong leadership than with good timing and salesmanship.

The attack itself, along with his opponent Mark Green's fumbled response to it, helped put Bloomberg over the top in 2001. The ensuing Fed-sponsored low-interest-rate bubble inflated New York's markets just in time to help rescue the mayor from record-low approval ratings and ensure his re-election in 2005. When that bubble finally burst in 2008, the Wall Street meltdown became the public rationale for the "emergency" third term.

"Post-partisanship" has always meant the party of Bloomberg, a convenient handle for a lifelong Democrat who left the party to avoid a contested primary in New York. After the presidential plotting that occupied most of his second term fell short (the big hit that began his losing streak), Bloomberg aimed for a soft landing with a nakedly undemocratic "emergency" bill to allow himself a third term. Instead, it alienated New Yorkers and wrecked his expensively built reputation as a "post-political" leader in the process.

Transparency has always been something Bloomberg has preferred to pitch rather than practice. In his 1997 business memoir, Bloomberg on Bloomberg—a sometimes valuable guide to the mayor's approach—he notes that "if public companies change what they're doing midstream, everyone panics. In a private company like Bloomberg, the analysts don't ask, and as to the fact that we don't know where we're going—so what? Neither did Columbus." It's a philosophy Bloomberg brought with him to City Hall.

"Data-driven"? It's hard to credit that when crime numbers are artificially deflated by re-classifying rapes as misdemeanors, NYC-reported public school gains disappear when compared to outside measures, and when the city's 65 percent graduation rate is undercut by state tests showing only 21.4 percent of city students are ready for college.

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20 comments
Max Coyne-Green
Max Coyne-Green

A true shame that insatiable leftists can't appreciate arguably the finest public servant of the 21st century--especially one that has fulfilled the most ardent desires of liberals far more successfully than any of his blue-aligned counterparts. His fundamental understanding of wealth-creation, the nature of social contracting between citizens and their public servants, and the true principles of liberalism is unparalleled amongst politicians across America and perhaps the world.

Feng Ke
Feng Ke

People cannot live without friendship, but it's not esay to get real friendship. It is like a tree. We need to sow the seed of honety, use passion to water it, use principle to cultivate it, and use understanding to take care of it. In this way, the tree of friendship can grow well. ===http://www.finejie.com==== ===http://www.finejie.com===

770myspace
770myspace

You have to love this mayor so what if his employees make a lot of money he is charming sleazy deliberate flamboyant extravagant classy and rich just like NY no time for jealousy

Mokkaknyc
Mokkaknyc

Finally the spell that Almighty Bloomberg has had on the media and the NYCEstablishment appears to be dissipating? Bravo Mr. Siegel. I hope to see more analytical critiques of Bloomberg's three terms which will no doubt leave the city worse off than before a billionaire businessman from Boston was chosen to lead a metropolis of immigrants and working class people.

Jillsisler
Jillsisler

Wonderful article, beautifully written about an absolutely disgusting character!

Louis Profeta
Louis Profeta

I forget The Village Voice, not being near, I miss the satisfied laugh reading clever satire, good to be back finding my truth, thanks all.

Louis Profeta
Louis Profeta

Cheer Village Voice, I feel the same way of Bloomberg, he promotes Bloomberg, it makes more shekels doing that for biz, the subway rides are just a free ad, I laugh at what money goes through insecure confusion worrying about "growth" factors on a graph, subway's, sure shot. Glad you shout the news,I'm afraid, sure, right!

The disgruntled NYer
The disgruntled NYer

The fools who kept voting for this dictator have just as much blood on their hands as Bloomturd. He has remodeled this city into his own wetched image and I don't even know this city anymore. Even New Yorkers' attitudes haven't improved as he as also molded half of them as well. I wish some of the hypocritical celebrities who have backed him like Whoopie Goldberg, Matt Damon and Iman realized the dread this guy has brought to the city if they weren't so busy admiring their rich status and how Mike caters to them. The next time you see any of them walking around in a NY street, be sure to throw a rock at them and let them know the fury of the disgruntled working class.

Suzannah Troy
Suzannah Troy

Vote for Christine Quinn if you want Mike Bloomberg for a 4 term from the golf course! I was at the fore front of the YouTube resistance against Bloomberg's 3rd term starting with"Mayor Bloomberg King of NY" noting he was not going to break laws, just change them and I predicted 10 months before the election Bloomberg might not win due to Voter Anger! A month and half before the election my YouTube Channel was removed.nNorman Seigel represented me along with many people contacting Google and I got my work back. Did Wayne Barrett get fired because he reported Mike broke campaign laws which is a misdemeanor A and carries jail time. Sure hope Christine Quinn and Tony Simone are not campaigning on company time, oops, NYC gov. time!

Donny Moss
Donny Moss

As the article points out, Quinn and Bloomberg cut a deal: If Quinn strong-armed the Council to vote in favor of extending term limits (against the voters' wishes), then he would back her for Mayor and call off the Dept of Investigation's probe into her multi-million dollar slush fund scandal -- a dirty deal between two dirty politicians. If you want to help Bloomberg make more money and if you support corruption, then vote for Christine Quinn.

Gay Movie Fan
Gay Movie Fan

I was born in NYC and spent the first 52 years of my life in Queens. But four years ago I had the opportunity to move to a mid-sized "city" upstate and I took it, especially when I found out that my $70k salary would allow me to live like a king instead of the pauper I was inceasingly becoming while remaining in my beloved city. Now I can afford to own a car, own a house, don't have to look at tourists or answer their dumb questions and I find that, culturally, there are interesting museums, theatre and even art happening far away from the Lights of Broadway. I go back to visit less and less and when I do, I wonder why I ever put up with the crowds, the smells, the rudeness, the crime, the high prices and the filfth. The NY of my youth is but a memory anyway; Mayor Guili-Nazi saw to that. Get out while you can; if you get a chance RUN. New York will never be the New York of the 1940's - 1970's again.

Sammy
Sammy

This is a trenchant piece but it has some real oversights. C'mon guy, don't just tell me about the failure of the creative/service class vision I want to know what they city missed out on by chasing that dream.

It's good to see a journo willing to take on the billionaire king, but Siegel you're gonna pay for this in his fourth term when he passes full mayoral control of the press.

VJ Machiavelli
VJ Machiavelli

"The Prisoner of City Hall" is going to love to read this article.

Before there was the "Oracle at Delphi" there was Count Vampire J. Machiavelli

VJ Machiavelliwww.VJMachiavelli.blogspot.comThe Legislative Budget is Too Damn High

Anna1199
Anna1199

I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, GrabPenny.com

Feng Ke
Feng Ke

People cannot live without friendship, but it's not esay to get real friendship. It is like a tree. We need to sow the seed of honety, use passion to water it, use principle to cultivate it, and use understanding to take care of it. In this way, the tree of friendship can grow well. ===http://www.finejie.com==== ===http://www.finejie.com===

 
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