When billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg was first elected to office, this newspaper endorsed him as the lesser of two evils. We believed that he would be able to govern the city well and bring back the sense of community that had been taken during the Giuliani administration.
And for a second, he did.
He was a mayor who made hard decisions and stuck to his guns to make the city better, but then he got the taste of power–the executive power that the position brings–and ran roughshod over the entire city. Under Bloomberg, the police continued to make themselves the enemy in many communities. Over 4 million New Yorkers have been subjected to stop-and-frisk in the last 10 years. Nearly nine out of 10 have been innocent, and of those 4 million, almost 90 percent have been people of color. There have been great disparities in the use of stop-and-frisk, and in the end, the city is no better for it. Yet the mayor continues to say that this policy has made New York City safer, but for whom?
After the police, we move onto education, and right from the beginning, he was determined to get rid of the Board of Education. While the BOE was not always a well-run machine and certainly could have used some revamping, to obliterate it completely was unnecessary.
With the dismantling of the BOE, he also took away almost all parental control of the schools. Parents had little say as to what was going on in their children’s education. Subsequently, his appointment of Cathie Black as schools chancellor was a complete affront to all who still believed in the New York City school system and its ability to educate our youth. Even he had to concede this was a monumental blunder.
And then on top of it all, there is his love affair with charter schools, which are invading and destroying institutions of learning that generations of our community have attended, and graduated from and from which we have greatly prospered.
So we move on from education and his ill-conceived idea that homeless folks need to be charged rent to stay in the shelters. Good plan if you want people there longer without any hope of ever leaving. Now today, six years after his proposal, the homeless numbers are worse, but I am sure it has nothing to do with them not paying rent.
From there, we move onto his congestion pricing plan. It failed miserably. But when he lost that battle, he decided that he would just make New York a very vehicle-unfriendly place. He did this in many ways, first by creating bike lanes. On the face of it, not a bad idea, but when executed as the mayor did, it created a traffic nightmare and in some cases, a real danger to bikers and pedestrians alike. The creation of turning bays has reduced parking significantly, and when people double park, it creates an even worse experience.
Couple that with the creation of plazas in the center of Broadway, Fifth Avenue and sundry other streets in New York, and once again Bloomberg has gotten his way, forcing drivers off the street because driving has become impossible in many parts of the city.
And let’s not forget his campaign to try to break the unions of the city, citing them as special interests when the biggest special interest in New York these days is actually Hizzoner and his wallet.
More recently, and perhaps most publicized, is how his Honor is going after soda, which, in effect, is going after small businesses under the guise of fighting obesity. If the mayor truly wanted to fight obesity, he would add nutrition counseling to various city programs and teach people how to cook healthy meals and make good choices. He would also expand and/or bring back physical education in the schools.
All the soda ban would do is cost people more money, create more garbage and have little effect on how much soda folks drink. Judge Milton Tingling got it right when he called the ban “arbitrary and capricious” and said that the Board of Health had overstepped its bounds. But now the mayor is appealing, as we would expect a man with an ego the size of this city. Bloomberg gets what Bloomberg wants–sometimes.
However, far too often, he finds a way to get over, and to that end, he must be stopped. Facing nine more months of Bloomberg is much too long, and we can’t just wait on the sidelines and see what he does. We need to be vigilant and protect our city and our communities at every turn. He does not give up, and neither should we.