No Confidence, No Alternative
REWARD BY DEFAULT
When he became Mayor almost four years ago, Bill DeBlasio was the last man standing after five other candidates in a grueling primary destroyed themselves, and a general campaign so flat and anti-climactic that only 17% of all the eligible voters in NYC bothered to come to vote. It was at that point that DeBlasio showed his true character acting as if he’d won by a landslide, had a mandate and could rightly be the ‘progressive’ candidate for President of the United States. Seriously.
Well it’s not that easy. When you are a media-savvy novice, holding no public office, but surrounded by shrewd believers, words alone can do the job. Ask The Donald. But when you are holding office and talk the big talk, people would like to see something happen besides words. Calling for change in many basic service areas but not being able to make a change in any of them and then have them get worse, has got to be counted against you. Unless of course you are running with no opposition and can get away with failure and be reelected because there was no other credible choice. That’s good luck for you but bad luck for the people of New York who expect that Mayors will at least get some things done.
The good luck is all DeBlasio’s. He will easily win reelection in November and be Mayor of New York for the next four years. Sadly there is no one running against him who will make much of a dent in the overwhelming Democratic majority population in NYC.
His likely Republican opponent, real estate developer Paul Massey dropped out in futility blaming the cost of a campaign against a sitting Mayor. But he had neither the knowledge, the experience, the presence, or the ability to manage the money he was raising to seriously interest anybody. And he didn’t. The only man who had what it takes, businessman John Catsimatidis, decided not to run and so like it or not, DeBlasio redux.
Conservative Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis from Staten Island entered the race to gain some public recognition and now finds herself the candidate. She is not serious about winning because there is a formula for Republicans wanting to be Mayor of New York and she is ignoring it or is being kept away from it. She is bright and issues-intelligent enough to have no difficulty finding lots of flaws in DeBlasio’s performance…or lack of it… but in November, once again, no one will bother coming to the polls and it won’t matter.
Will we all survive? Of course. No one man brings down a great city or a great country no matter how much both a city and country need help to be great. But will it hurt real progress? Absolutely. DeBlasio has proved his incompetence, his inability to turn his words which can sound so good into actions that make things better. He promises, promises, promises and like his chief adversary in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, his promises are about great tomorrows years from now – that they can call progress.
GAMES POLITICIANS PLAY
As NYC continues to prosper because of a stunning tourist trade greater than ever before, DeBlasio adds city employees to the payroll making it the largest in NYC history. He calls this investment but in fact it is an old political trick to insure a vote in November. You add employees…union employees wherever possible because New York unions support him (though he is not a favorite of the Police Benevolent Association). This doesn’t make him special. Mike Bloomberg gave the NYC Teacher’s Union massive increases before his first reelection bid. The city is still paying those increases and will for several more years…though the results show that teachers are not better prepared and students are doing worse…with only one-quarter of its high school graduates prepared for college.
A greater game – a classic – has been playing in the last few months as DeBlasio sought a continuation of Mayoral control of schools from the State Legislature.
Two things to remember: First it is the State that controls all New York schools. If the Mayor appoints a Chancellor, the State must approve. It must approve a NYC schools budget. It can pick the curriculum for all NYC schools. So it is the State that controls.
The second point to remember is that the State Assembly is totally controlled by Democrats and while there are now more elected Democratic State Senators than Republican, a group of eight Democratic State Senators has formed an “independent caucus” and almost always votes Republican. With a “split” Legislature, the Governor calls the shots.
The Assembly said yes to the Mayor’s request for a continuation of school control but the State Senate said “no” unless the Mayor would agree to the formation of more charter schools. The Mayor linked closely to the Teacher’s Union which opposes charter schools, said no. The Governor said nothing and the State Legislature in its last meeting before adjourning till next year, did nothing. And that was that…or so it seemed.
But something else happened during that last evening session that set off the continuation of the ‘game’.
Andrew Cuomo sought to rename the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge after his Father, the late Mario Cuomo, three-time Governor of New York. There was no preparation for the renaming…just a bill dropped into the State Assembly and State Senate. The bridge had already been named the Malcolm Wilson Bridge for the former Lt. Governor under Nelson Rockefeller and a two time Governor himself. Few noted or ever used that name.
The Senate voted to approve the renaming. The Assembly, voted overwhelmingly to deny the renaming…killing the bill.
Suddenly Andrew Cuomo decided that turning NYC schools back to a Board of Education was a bad and perhaps expensive idea. He recalled the Legislature to reconsider its do-nothing action and in a large nod to the State Assembly, had the State Senate approve Mayoral control of schools for two years without any additional considerations. Oh, and while they were at it, the Assembly said yes and the State Legislature approved the renaming of the Tappan Zee for his Father.
Games politicians play.
But the games don’t end there…they never end…
In a reversal of his “sincere desire” not to burden the taxpayer with legal bills of $2.3 million accruing as a defense of his fundraising actions…actions that came close to indictments, the Mayor, comfortable now with his chance for reelection, has “seriously thought it over” and decided to let tax payer monies pay for $2 million of it…with the rest coming from private money.
They may be rivals for something in their own minds, but Andrew and Bill can play the same games. It’s just that Andrew does it SO MUCH BETTER.
LOOKING FOR LEADERSHIP
America and New York have got to stop looking for leaders, for a select number of men or women who can shape our destiny. We, the people, must shape our own.
We must become active in ways we have avoided. We must at least vote. We do not. There is no other form of democratic government in this World that has the pathetic turnout of voters that we do.
Even when we read that millions voted, we avoid knowing that only one-third of us bothered to vote in Presidential elections. It is just as bad in elections in State and local governments.
Yes there are activists. Yes there are our young people, driven by college debt and by poor job markets making noise. Changes have always taken place. We think of technology taking away jobs, but it’s more than that. There are 6 million unfilled jobs in America right this minute but our people are not trained to do them. Our education system has failed us and politicians have no answers.
What we need are ordinary people: alert, as informed as they can be, engaged, mobilized but seeking answers not just an examination of problems, idealistic but not naïve, knowing what they want but able to work with others on a big picture, critical but not cynical or hopeless, aware of their rights to act and be, citizens.
We need more citizens able and willing to lead those who would be leaders to a more successful nation, a more successful city.
Top down doesn’t work anymore. Top down is only interested in itself.
Bottoms up!! A toast to the future and to a new reality.