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Tom Finneran: Mayor Bloomberg- The Mayor of Small Ball

Friday, November 16, 2012


Tom Finneran, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

How about candle-lit dinners for fifteen consecutive nights?  How romantic! And in New York, the city that never sleeps… or bathes, or flushes, or apparently even thinks anymore.

How else to explain the meek and passive acceptance of a busybody Mayor, playing bully with table salt, transfats, and carbonated soda. What a small ball performance these past several years.

From this distance it just looks sadly pathetic. But down there, many thousands of the folks the Mayor purports to lead, some of them elderly, alone, and very afraid, have been without heat, without light, and without water. Add in, in my opinion, without leadership.

At least the third world has the charm of ancient ways. And the tax rate is considerably lower. You don’t get what you don’t pay for in the third world. But, consider New York, where the taxes are stratospheric, Nanny Bloomberg rules, and the most basic necessities of modern life are obliterated for days on end. In Bloomberg’s New York, you don’t get what you do pay for.

Storms like Hurricane Sandy have been barreling up the Eastern seaboard of the United States for hundreds of years. Mariners of old knew the “hurricane seasons” in all the oceans of the world. We do not suffer from lack of knowledge. In fact we have ample instruction from many storms which greatly eclipsed the force and intensity of Sandy. What we suffer from is a lack of leadership.

And Nanny Bloomberg is the perfect example of a smart man, cynically playing small ball over table salt while averting his gaze from the yearly reality and risks of storms which actually affect the real lives of his voters.

It is no laughing matter, indeed it is frighteningly sad when the Mayor either cannot or will not clear the streets of New York after a snowfall. Or when tons of rotting garbage piles up on the sidewalks of New York’s neighborhoods. And, not least, to ignore, year after year, the many vulnerabilities of the city’s basic infrastructure, knowing as we all do that hurricanes and storm surges are yearly phenomena and risks for all East Coast cities.

Is it too much to ask a public leader to think ahead- beyond the next press conference about super-sized sodas— and to assemble some smart action-oriented people?  It’s a basic responsibility of leadership to assemble smart people and to utilize their wisdom and experience. Is it impossible to contemplate putting a city’s power lines underground? Or to design and put in place storm gates to protect subway and roadway tunnels? Or to have reasonably proximate public safety warehouses for the storage of generators and other essential emergency equipment?  

The answer is obvious. Other cities and countries, far less wealthy than New York, have done it for many years to the great benefit of their citizens when nature’s disasters strike. Forgive the comparison, but Nazi Germany under a relentless non-stop campaign of Allied aerial bombing, was able to keep essential railroads and factories operating despite such a formidable and ferocious assault. I’ll concede that a military dictatorship has some advantages of action but Mayor Bloomberg’s city is at peace, not war, and the injury to his city was entirely if generally predictable. Yes, hurricanes will come again.

If Mayor Bloomberg seeks a legacy he might commit to a “two percent solution , addressing in a steady and cumulative way, the most urgent infrastructure risks confronting the city. If he had started such a program when he became Mayor he’d have addressed nearly a full-quarter of those risks by the end of his third term.  And what successor Mayor would dare abandon such a prudent course of action?

New Yorkers are the ultimate realists. No New Yorker would ask or expect an immediate all-out campaign to completely protect New York from next summer’s risks. The sheer expense of such an effort would stop it in the starting gate. That’s why “slow and steady” has to be the creed. In fact, New Yorkers would probably appreciate one or two candle-lit dinners with their families and a couple of days at home helping vulnerable neighbors. But, when it goes beyond week one, then week two, the romance is gone and the circumstances are  horribly grim.

So come on Mr. Mayor, I want you to succeed; give up the small ball nonsense, deliver some heavily salted transfat French fries and Coke to your beleaguered constituents, take some heat, and show some leadership.

This is America, 2012, and it’s long overdue.


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