Michael Bloomberg bought New York City again yesterday. His favorite plaything, New York City had just become irreplaceable to the billionaire turned faux politician. Never mind that he had openly criticized Rudy Giuliani for wanting to stay on an extra three months. When you are dealing with an ego the size of Bloomberg's, your memory is selective and short.
Bill Thompson came close. For those of you who are unaware, Thompson was this year's sacrificial goat to the altar of Bloomberg. Something funny happened on the way to the sacrifice however. The people tried to fight back. The result was a narrow victory for Mayor Mike; much narrower than he thought his 90 million had bought. The 51-46% margin was nowhere near the 20 point blowout of Fernando Ferrer in 2005. What caused the closer than expected outcome? Term limits.
You see, the voters of New York had voted twice previously to guarantee no more than two terms for elected officials. It was in fact this law that Bloomberg stood so valiantly by when criticizing then Mayor Giuliani for daring to subvert the will of the voters for three extra months. But those same rules do not apply to Mike apparently. When faced with the prospect of not being allowed to run for a third term, he sought to overturn the will of the voters. He found allies in the City Council who also were facing term limits restrictions on running for a third term and together, they firmly planted their thumbs in the eyes of the voters of New York.
Obviously the voters of New York do not like having their eyes clawed out, hence the slim 5% win for Bloomberg. But how then did he win at all? I can give you 90 million reasons. Bloomberg is one of the richest egomaniacs in the world. So when he faced the prospect of facing the wrath of the voters he simply bought them. Mike Bloomberg spent 90 million dollars to buy the Mayorship of New York City. As a resident of New York City, I can personally attest to the lengths Mike went to buy my vote. I received no less than 20 impressive advertisements in the mail from him. Full page, color advertisements. The kind that obviously cost a lot of money. Most of them either bragged about his record or slashed his poor opponent to pieces. I say poor because I did not receive one advertisement from Bill Thompson; who obviously did not have 90 million dollars to spend to convince me why he would be the better Mayor. Poor Bill. He was just a politician trying to run fairly for office. His unfortunate luck, like Mark Green and Freddy Ferrer before him, was to run into a billionaire opponent whose money is only exceeded by his vanity.
I know some of the conventional wisdom is that Mike has done a good job. I could care less. Term limits were voted on by the people. What Mike Bloomberg did yesterday was say that he alone was more important than the people he claims to want to serve. It is an autocratic, dictatorial stance that is not acceptable in democratic circles. As a resident of NYC I can say that I personally do not think that the city is demonstrably better off. The transit system is an unmitigated disaster and the fares keep rising to the point of making working in NYC almost unaffordable. The education system has not advanced greatly. The infrastructure is not radically better. Sure he has not been a bad mayor but I am curious how 33 of Bloomberg LP's top 124 customers have come to do business directly with New York City under his tenure. The appearance alone is somewhat questionable and unseemly.
But this is not even really the point is it? What kind of a mandate does Mayor Mike now have? I say NONE. What does it say when only 51% of the people vote for you and you outspent your opponent by 90 million dollars? It says that you really lost. Mike Bloomberg bought New York City again yesterday. But he did so with very little fanfare or luster. He did so by screwing the will of the voters and thumbing his nose at the people he claims to care so much about. He has been exposed as a hypocrite and an egomaniac. The truth is no matter how good a job he did, New York City could have survived -- even thrived, under someone else's leadership. It could have been Bill Thompson. Heck, it could have been anyone else. New York City did quite well for itself before Mike Bloomberg and it will do quite well after he leaves, assuming he ever allows us to move on without him.