Saturday, October 15, 2011

Public Officials and the Dead Fish Smell

By the time they're on their way to serve a third term, even the best elected officials from either party begin to stink up the joint. It's just the way it is. Anecdotal proof. Ed Koch started out as a decent mayor in NYC, finding his footing during the first four-year term. He was re-elected because of his sound democratic (lower case) values. Cared about the poor and the working class, didn't piss off Wall Street too much, and was friendly to tourists and businesses. Then the third term he just coasted. By coasting I mean he became merely a titular head of the Big Apple. He didn't really do anything, and you can't get away with that laissez-faire behavior in the city that never stands still. You can tell when they're done when they just show up at social events, at the St. Patrick's Day Parade, and at firefighter's funerals. Koch was a liberal in a town of knee-jerk liberals, but by the time he left office, nobody in the city could stand him.

Gov. Mario Cuomo, whom I had the privilege of working for during his last administration, made a cogent remark to me about three weeks before he was defeated for a fourth term by George (nobody's ever heard of me) Pataki. We were in the pool house at the Executive Mansion working on a speech. The Governor looked weary, his shirt collar loosened, one of the few times I ever saw him without a tie on. He had his watch off, next to the speech. The polls were basically telling us he was about to be an ex-Governor. He said, "You know, I'm running against myself." And I knew right away what he meant. After 12 years, everybody just got tired of Mario being Governor. He knew it, I knew it, and the voters knew it.

Mike Bloomberg's career is following the sort of arc of both Cuomo and Koch. He's nearing the end of his third term, and New Yorkers who voted for him him two or three times no longer can stand him. I didn't vote for him in the last election, simply because he maneuvered the city council to repeal term limits. You can't act like a king in this town and get away with it forever. I refer you to Jimmy Walker. Google him to see how his tenure ended.

Bloomberg had made some memorably bad decisions. His transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn is a complete bozo. She's the one who decided to put in bike lanes all over the city and then commissioned a study to see if they were feasible. You never see a delivery person or a messenger in a bike lane. You hardly ever see a bike in a bike lane. Now we're bringing bike sharing to the city, a la Paris, where it works very well. It will be a disaster here. Why? It's a different culture. I guarantee there will be accidents, breakdowns, and city lawsuits up the kazoo. I hope NYC's liability insurance is in date.

Dan Doctoroff, the mayor's major guru, tried to sell the city as an Olympic venue and there was no way he could gussy up the Big Apple to even make the finals. Why? He wanted to build a stadium on the West Side, which was a non-starter for too many reasons. You could have had the Olympics in NYC if you held all the events in the four boroughs other than Manhattan. (Archery in Central Park, and the marathon could have been held there and traffic would be no worse than the miserable way it is every day.)

In my next blog, I'll rant about congestion pricing, which Mayor Mike also screwed up, even though it was basically a good idea.

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