Those of us in New York City who have been celebrating the Obama victory have little time to enjoy the moment. A New York State budget deficit of 12.5 billions is forecast for the near future. At this moment our present governor David Patterson has expressed no desire to increase taxes on the wealthy instead he has emphasized budget cuts (which will affect basic services) and layoffs.
The City also faces a budget deficit along with an incumbent Mayor whose solutions to this crisis include higher taxes (for all New Yorkers), budget cuts (affecting housing, education, senior citizens) and even plans to charge 6 cents for every plastic bag we receive from retail stores. The mayor, who recently used his political muscle to “convince” the City Council to extend term limits, believes he is the most qualified to lead New York City through this crisis. He is so convinced that he is the most qualified that he has announced that he is ready to spend 80 to 100 million dollars to get reelected.
When Bloomberg initially was elected he rationalized spending such large amounts of money as being because he was then unknown. We have yet to hear him explain why if he is doing such a good job he has to spend such large sums for his 3rd campaign.
Bloomberg wealth, as reported by columnist Les Payne(NewsDay) has greatly increased during his seven years as Mayor. He has risen to near the top in Crains most wealthy.
This wealth he will use to buy the support of Democratic Party bosses, individual Democratic elected officials, receipients of Bloomberg city contracts, unions who benefited from his 4% raise and community groups who have received private contributions from the Mayor. Jack Newfields’ famous book “City for Sale” comes to mind.
Although Mayor Mike sees himself as the most qualified candidate there are many areas of concern. Many New Yorkers have accused the Mayor of being fixated with the major projects (Yankee Stadium, New Jet Stadium, Willets Point, an Arena for the New Jersey Nets)-while doing nothing about the main issues that affect poor/working and middle class NewYork families. The Times reported this week that recent investigations indicated that the city and state will contribute close to 700millions dollars for the new Yankee and Mets stadiums.
The Housing crisis is at its worst. More families sleep in Shelters than ever before. Finding a one bedroom apartment below $1200 dollars in rent is practically impossible. Housing forclosures have reached epidemic proportions. The housing policies of Mayor Mike seemed to have done nothing to stem the tide of the crisis.
There is a serious question of infringement of civil liberties during the Bloomberg administration. The police have often ignored first amendment rights of protestors-while “caging” protest and making permits more difficult to get. Youth has been further targeted by this administration as reported in a recent Nat Hentoff (Village Voice) column. His article highlighted the illegal arrests of over 300 students for actions which would normally result in School discipline. Criminalizing more young people, while ignoring the inbuilt discrimination of the New York City Criminal Courts against Black & Brown youth, has had devastating effects.
Under Bloomberg there has been a steady increase in arrests for small amount of marijuana possession. This in spite of Bloombergs prior admission that he himself has smoked marijuana. The amount of police hours that goes into these arrests is a total waste of time and money. The recent controvercial arrest of Michael Mineo, for allegedly smoking one joint involved five police officers.
Bloomberg claims that education has been the cornerstone achivement of his administration. Test results show only minimal progress despite a curriculunm which mainly focuses on taking tests. School overcrowding is rampart and chronic student absentism has recently been reported. Many schools are running away from special education students in order that their overall school testing achivement not be lowered.
Recently Bloomberg has called for a restructuring of the Senior Citizen Center System. Already beset by cutbacks, senior are now facing more service reductions and closing of centers.
Bloombergs proposed new cuts will have the most impact on working and middle class people. Those who have continued to expand their wealth, unencumbered by the so-called economic crisis, will not be asked to step up.
The energy, enthusiam, unity and organizing skills that highlighted the Obama campaign must now be used to clean up our own City. This clean up must not only confront the mayor but also those shamless politicians who abide by his every command. These politicians-whose allegiance is to mayor Bloomberg and his money, not to their political party, must be swept out.
We must prepare for the Bloomberg candidacy. The only way of imposing term limits on the mayor, is by defeating him. In order to defeat him we need a candidate who has a progressive agenda which will challenge the Bloomberg program. If William Thompson, Anthony Weiner or anyone else wants to run for mayor they must tell us how they will deal with the crisis in a different way.
We can expect that Bloomberg will spread his wealth around and buy a great deal of support. Democratic bosses like Jose Rivera(BX) and Vito Lopez(Brooklyn) will be the first to sell their party down the river. We can expect many of the City council members who supported the extension of term limits to support Bloomberg. They are businessmen-not Democrats. We can expect TV commercials with children(of schools supported by Mayor Mike) telling us how great Bloomberg has been. Without a doubt we will see Willie Colon, Margarita Lopez and even Jennifer Colon preaching the greatness of Mayor Mike. Union Leaders-who recently were rewarded with a 4% raise(for their cooperation in helping the Mayor convince the City Council to extend term limits), will most surely sing his praises. The poverty pimps will be lining up hoping to land some of Bloomberg’s cash.
As we who have studied history know it is very difficult to beat such large sums of money. Will all those faces that testified against extended term limits be able to unite around a candidate? Can these groups and individual devise a strategy to punish the City Councilmembers who voted for the Mayor? Just as the nation swept aside the republican party in this national election-can New Yorkers say no to a billionaire Businessman Mayor-whose only solution to their problems will be higher taxes, more cutbacks and a “six” cents for a plastic bag? Will there be a Coronation or will there be a real Fight? STAY TUNED