Game On, Mayor Bloomberg

Much focus on the national election today. And a lot of electricity in the air. All warranted of course. But it’s hard not to think that NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg scheduled his signing of the overturning term limits legislation for Monday, November 3rd when he knew that any news reported, today – Election Day – that wasn’t about, well, the election, would be somewhat obscured. Smart guy, our Mayor.

Except I can’t help thinking that he has overreached. He plotted every last aspect of this elaborate scenario. He maneuvered the system like no one’s seen in a long time. Mr. Bloomberg lined up the media editorial boards, fellow corporate CEOs, reluctant billionaires, compliant charitable groups which receive the benefit of his personal fortune, and 29 New York City Council members to go along with his master plan. And he accomplished his goal: the chance to install himself (with the help of $80 million dollars) for another 4 years of unprecedented power to “finish” what he started and couldn’t quite seem to push through in eight years.

I’m sure our billionaire Mayor is thinking that next year, his last year under this second term, and then the next four, will be like his previous seven.

He’d get away with his deceitful maneuverings to replace the city we know with the affluent, bland city he envisions. His under-functioning agencies would stay under the radar.

The media would continue to only talk about how great he is.

If something went wrong that fell under the domain of city governance, they wouldn’t link him to it by name.

The people who might raise a ruckus about it – mostly community groups – didn’t have the power to really get anyone’s ear. And so it goes.

Except, what if it didn’t?

What if this “game changing moment,” as Letitia James defined it on the day of the City Council term limits vote, is “game changing” for our Mayor?

Yesterday, he sat through four and a half hours at City Hall listening to the people, a large percentage of whom were very angry. They didn’t mince words. They told it like it is. As today’s New York Times article stated: “during the bill signing, a man unaccustomed to direct, public criticism endured a heavy – and very harsh – dose of it from those he governs.” Mr. Bloomberg probably figured he had no choice but to endure it (public comment is part of every bill signing) and this will be over – people have short memories, he memorably said – after this one day.

Except, what if it isn’t?

There was a young man who spoke yesterday at City Hall, David Tieu. His picture is in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, and The New York Post. His testimony was show stopping. He said “look at how I’m dressed” which was supposed to signal something about his work but I wasn’t certain what. I read in the paper today that he is a deliveryman. He expressed how he had to drop out of City University when Mayor Bloomberg imposed further cuts onto the CUNY system (City University of New York). He stepped away from the mike and he pointed at Mr. Bloomberg and said: “You’re Public Enemy Number One! That’s all I have to say. To hell with your agenda!” Most of the stories didn’t go into that agenda leaving out mention of the whole having-to-drop-out-of-school thing and what his issue with Mayor Bloomberg is. Mr. Tieu took the day off from work to address the Mayor personally.

Josephine Lee of Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side critiqued Bloomberg’s rezoning plan for those and other neighborhoods, saying “all you’re doing is displacing working class communities and communities of color.”

Under Mayor Bloomberg, there have been more rezonings of neighborhoods than in the previous five administrations combined. Typically, these rezonings lead to displacement of long time residents and businesses. Replaced by shiny glass buildings, high rents, “luxury” housing, big box chain stores, more privatization and corporatization of, well, just about everything, and more shiny people. The kind Mr. Bloomberg likes.

What gave me hope about yesterday, this game changing moment, is, at last — in a public forum — hearing the stories that each individual told … seeing people’s faces, people coming together, people at last having a place to say what is so wrong with this Mayor and, yes, his agenda.

Game on.

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