Citizen Bloomberg

How our mayor has given us the business

Much as City Hall staffers dream of a Bloomberg job as the big payoff for their loyal labors, few reporters will go out of their way to tweak a potential employer, let alone one who frequently lunches with their current boss. And especially one whose long-rumored ambition is to buy the Times one of these days—a buzz that the mayor's camp hasn't discouraged, Berlusconi comparisons be damned. (The Italian prime minister and Ross Perot are two of Bloomberg's neighbors when he weekends in Bermuda).

Along with Berlusconi, other comparisons heard in various conversations about Bloomberg included his Trump-like leveraging of his name ("It would be me and my name at risk. I would become the Colonel Sanders of financial information services.... I was Bloomberg—Bloomberg was money—and money talked"), his Hearst-like seduction of legislators with private jet rides and self-serving party-jumping, and his Rockefeller-like use of his private fortune on behalf of the state GOP, though for very different reasons.

The lifelong Democrat who became a Republican to dodge the mayoral primary has also given millions to the state GOP (as well as $250,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2002, and $7 million in support of the 2004 Republican convention in Manhattan). The cash shipments continued even after the mayor left the party in 2007 to hitch his star to the misleadingly named "Independence Party"—run in the city by crackpot cultist Lenora Fulani.

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.

While Bloomberg's support for the GOP dwarfed the money he channeled to the Independence Party, both received just a drop from his enormous bucket of cash—which still made Bloomberg easily the state Republicans' biggest patron, his table scraps their feast. The party repaid that support in part with their ballot line in 2009, two years after he'd left the party, to go along with his "Independence" line, which proved crucial to his 2001 and 2009 wins, and would have been key had his presidential plans moved forward.

His Albany cash, though, has often failed to pay off. Perhaps that's because Bloomberg hasn't been willing or able to salt the state's interest groups and leadership class as thoroughly as he has the city's—his political persuasiveness and popularity have always been coterminous with his cash. In each of his terms, major aims—Far West Side development, congestion pricing, and teacher hiring—have been simply abandoned in the capitol without so much as a vote. Those losses came despite dealing with three weak governors before Cuomo, whose dramatic ascent has left the mayor further diminished. (One of Bloomberg's rare wins in the state capitol, mayoral control of the city schools, was actually given to him by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the mayor's most frequent Albany foil—who had withheld the same gift from Mayor Giuliani.)

Given Citizen Bloomberg's success in buying off the city's opinion makers, cultural institutions, community groups, and organized protesters, it's no wonder the mayoralty began to feel too small for him, and he spent the bulk of his second term trying to leverage it into the presidency. While his signature congestion-pricing plan failed in the city, it succeeded in landing him on the cover of Time. He followed up by a nationwide victory tour with then-Chancellor Joel Klein and well-compensated occasional sidekick Sharpton to tout the school system's "amazing results."

The master salesman, who talked of transparency while keeping his own cards down, used his fortune to establish at City Hall the "benevolent dictatorship" he saw at Salomon and then employed in his private business: "Nor did so-called corporate democracy get in the way. 'Empowerment' wasn't a concept back then, nor was 'self-improvement' or 'consensus,' " Bloomberg writes in his business memoir. "The managing partner in those days made all the important decisions. I suspect that many times, he didn't even tell the executive committee after he'd decided something, much less consult them before. I'd bet they never had a committee vote. I know they never polled the rest of us on anything. This was a dictatorship, pure and simple. But a benevolent one."

But dictatorships never last. "Once Bloomberg leaves a room, it doesn't exist to him," said one source, skeptical that the mayor would care about maintaining his influence after he exits office. But given the value of his name, he is taking care to be sure that it isn't damaged in the exit process.

Campaign filings released last Friday show the lame duck nonetheless spent $5.6 million on TV and direct mail spots promoting himself in March and April. And after failing to groom a successor, the mayor has belatedly been trying to institutionalize parts of the Bloomberg way.


"The administration is finally trying to do systematic reform, that's what [Stephen] Goldsmith is here for," a source said, referring to the former Indianapolis mayor who emerged as a star of the 1990s "reinventing government" movement, and signed on for Bloomberg's third term as a deputy mayor. "I think he's really frustrated. He complains a lot about lawyers."

While Police Commissioner Ray Kelly reportedly mulls a Republican run, buzz has been building that Bloomberg will support City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, his Democratic partner in changing the term-limits law, as his successor. A slush-fund scandal left her damaged, but a third term she and the mayor pushed through bought her time to recover, along with a chip to cash with him. Mayor Koch last month outright said that Bloomberg had told him he was backing Quinn, before Koch dialed back his words later the same day.

But some of the Bloomberg-for-Quinn hype has come from operatives with reason to find a new patron once the billionaire exits office. The mayor, meanwhile, has reason to want a pliant speaker in his final years.

"Even if he does back her," a source noted, "he's not giving her $100 million for a campaign, or to wield as mayor. Once he's gone, it's done."

hsiegel@villagevoice.com
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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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