After losing control of the New York City Mayoralty over the past twenty years, it was almost inevitable that the Democratic party would regain the Mayor’s office in this overwhelmingly Democratic city. Unfortunately the worst possible candidate won the Democratic party primary, a far left radical named Bill DeBlasio. Perhaps he was mistaken for an outer-borough moderate by some, since polls show a majority of the population disagrees with many of his positions. Whatever the case, any of the other candidates would have been far better for the future of the city.
What is in jeopardy now is all the progress that has been made over the past two decades since Rudy Giuliani first became Mayor. I was never a fan of Michael Bloomberg, who succeeded him, but he was, at the very least, a competent manager. DeBlasio, who currently holds the ridiculous position of “Public Advocate,” has a long record of left-wing activism that does not bode well for running a large, diverse, and complex entity like New York City. Worse, he has been joined by several radicals elected to the City Council, with an agenda that draws on dreams of a revolutionary people’s commune.
We in large measure have the courts to thank for this ominous prospect, by exceeding their authority and declaring the previous city charter unconstitutional, due to supposed population representation issues. There used to be a Board of Estimate which held real power, in addition to the City Council. The Board consisted of the five Borough Presidents, who actually had something to do at the time, the Mayor, the Comptroller, and the President of the City Council. By the court’s logic it was unfair for Staten Island to have the same vote as a borough with a larger population, say Queens. The trouble with this is that the boroughs predate the city, which only assumed its present form in 1898, when they were joined to become “Greater New York.” Brooklyn, for example, was an independent city long before the consolidation, and could well have done better than in this Manhattan-centric configuration. Representation of these distinct political entities was thus a condition of the amalgamation, and provided a check, particularly on budget and land-use issues.
One of the principle policies of the radicals is to increase taxes on the “rich,” or “1%,” although such taxes always seems to trickle down to everyone else. I could care less about the 1%, especially since most of them are oh-so- fashionably progressive in New York City. But their liberalism will then be attenuated by the raid on their pocketbooks. If they are targeted with taxes they will simply move to one of their other houses and make that their legal residence. That means everyone else will be stuck with the bill for the lavish government expansion proposed by these candidates.
But it is not even the radical policies that are the problem, but rather the administrative ineptitude likely to result from them. For whatever the radical designs, they will inevitably crash into established institutions, resulting in inertia. Indeed the “establishment” is already nervously on board, buying in with campaign contributions, especially from the same ubiquitous real estate interests that are ever present. Given all the weight on one side, it would take a miracle for the alternative candidate, Republican Joe Lhota, to be elected.
Meanwhile, since the pot will have been increased, more hands will be reaching for the spoils, which inevitably will be distributed politically, resulting in the corruption and dysfunction we have seen in the past. Legislation and expenditures will once again be politically based rather than being determined on the merits. We will again start to hear terms like “ungovernable” and “unmanageable” associated with the city. Then as the political appetites exceed the available resources a downward spiral will commence.
New York City has come a long way since flirting with near-bankruptcy in the 1970s. We really don’t need to go there again.