Monday, August 19, 2013

Making sense of Bloomberg

We're nearing the end of The Twelve Years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, latest holder of the job many people call the most practically important political job in the world. There are certainly political jobs with greater fame and glory, but in terms of day-to-day impact, being the mayor of the most important city on the planet has an immense effect on the lives of the people of the world.

So, as these final few months draw to a close, people are trying to Make Sense Of It All.

Here's a roundup:

  • In a massive special edition, the New York Times features a number of articles on The Bloomberg Years. A simply gorgeous interactive map walks you through the geography of the changes to the city over the years of his term. And in The Impossible Mayor of the Possible, Jim Dwyer runs down some of the mayor's accomplishments:
    Elected to lead a city that was the grieving, wounded site of an atrocity, he will depart as mayor of a city where artists have been able to decorate a mighty park with thousands of sheets of saffron, for no reason other than the simple joy of it; where engineers figured out how to turn sewage gas into electricity; where people are safer from violent crime than at any time in modern history.
  • In Vanity Fair, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords salutes Bloomberg for his work on gun control and violence: Michael Bloomberg
    When he might have focused on his own legacy and a post-mayoralty more about Bermuda than about background checks, he has instead chosen to work in partnership with gun owners like me and my husband, Mark, with sheriffs and police chiefs, and with veterans and moms and Americans from all over this country to protect our Second Amendment rights and keep our communities safer.
  • The New Yorker discusses another controversial Bloomberg initiate: "stop-and-frisk": Ruling on Stop-And-Frisk, Remembering Trayvon Martin
    Over the past decade, the New York City Police Department has conducted roughly 4.4 million searches, overwhelmingly of black and Hispanic young men. In eighty-eight per cent of those stops, no subsequent ticket was issued. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have called the practice integral to the city’s decreasing crime rates, crime has continued to fall even as stops have been curtailed. To critics, the policy amounts to officially sanctioned profiling of the city’s black and brown residents—and, on Monday, Judge Shira Scheindlin, in a major ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging the program, agreed.
  • In Forbes, Caleb Melby notes that Bloomberg has had many a controversial notion: Before The Ban On Sugary Drinks: 7 Other Controversial Mayor Bloomberg Initiatives
    • 1. Calorie Counting At Restaurants
    • 2. Trans-Fats Banned
    • 3. Bullying Salt
    • 4. Smoking Limits
    • 5. Hybrid Taxi Fleet
    • 6. Limiting Liquor Access
    • 7. Money For Laid Off Financiers
  • The New York Daily News notes that the various candidates to replace Bloomberg are eager to discuss which of his accomplishments they'd overturn: Foes on life after Mike: From bike lanes to smoking bans, what they’ll keep and what they’ll dump
    But not everything will remain the way Bloomberg leaves it on Dec. 31. The candidates are split on the future of the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactic, and some say they would convert Bloomberg’s open-office City Hall bullpen back into standard offices with walls.

    Not everyone is sold on letter grades for restaurants, and some say they would drop the appeal to a court decision that has so far blocked Bloomberg’s effort to ban large sugary drinks.

  • The website New York International, naturally, focuses on issues beyond the city limits: Mayor Michael Bloomberg: An International Retrospective
    For internationals, the mayor’s office has supported more open business investment, spearheaded reform of the immigration system, and made a point to remind people that NYC is a city built by immigrants for immigrants. Bloomberg’s legacy in NYC is almost certain not to stop simply because he leaves City Hall, and his ongoing business interests and political clout are sure to make him a voice to listen to. Overall, internationals in NYC have done well under Bloomberg, and can only hope the next incumbent continues the mayor’s efforts to make this a truly global city.
  • New York Magazine's Chris Smith, who has published dozens of major articles on Bloomberg, recalls the mayor's work during Hurricane Sandy and gives him credit for actually trying to make a difference: The Mayor in the Eye, and The Mayor and His Money
    When the history of the Bloomberg administration is written, the question to be answered won’t be whether he was out of touch with the little guy. It’ll be whether Bloomberg was hampered by the grandiosity of his thinking. There is a numbing gigantism to the mayor’s vision of the city, to all those gargantuan development plans he’s pursuing across all five boroughs.
  • In The Brooklyn Rail, John Surico analyzes the mayor's labor legacy: Mike’s Labor Legacy
    Remarkably, after eight years of stalemate with the Giuliani administration, few complained. The unions gave in to City Hall, and their paychecks, at last, increased. Through back-and-forth mediation, the businessman had settled a lengthy bargaining war between city government and its workforce.

    But the peace didn’t last. The mayor’s second term would become a succession of labor breakdowns; between 2006 and 2010, contracts for the major public sector unions began to expire. In response, the unions would begin to distance themselves from the mayor. Perhaps Bloomberg, a leader originally presumed to be more labor-tolerant than Giuliani, was not so different from his predecessor after all.

  • In Salon, David Sirota investigates Bloomberg's human rights efforts: Bloomberg’s no “Freedom Mayor”
    As mayor of the Big Apple, Bloomberg is a national political figure — and his positions supporting dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, backing gay marriage and defending the right of an Islamic center to be built in Lower Manhattan are certainly of national interest, laudable and pro-freedom. However, two of those three positions (Ai Weiwei and gay marriage) are hardly politically courageous in a socially progressive city like New York. More important, citing these three isolated examples to declare Bloomberg “The Freedom Mayor” who represents a “full-throated defense of liberty” is a propagandistic whitewashing of his larger anti-freedom record

I'm sure there's more to be written, and I'm sure I've missed some of the better work so far.

But one thing is for sure: after 12 years leading New York City, Michael Bloomberg has certainly had an interesting career, and seen the city through, as they say, "interesting times".

Hopefully whoever comes next will be worthy of the next steps in the path.

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