Bloomberg Sings My Way
There's an interesting article in the Times about Bloomberg's management style. I've heard a lot about this from various people. This article does a nice job of giving you a bit of insight into who this guy is and what he thinks about politics. While he is considered a 'liberal' by his friends, he's more just a rich guy who is personally generous and trusts his instincts unerringly.
Like a lot of billionaires, Bloomberg basically thinks that politics is dirty, and it frustrates him that there are so many conflicting interests. As an officeholder, he shows that this irritation dictates his management style. His money gives him freedom, true, but it also deprives him of essential pressure that allows a Mayor to do a good job.
One city councilman, Charles Barron, learned that when he tried to negotiate with the mayor over the 2003 budget and argued that the mayor should reverse plans to reduce the number of city firehouses.
Mr. Bloomberg, frustrated by the haggling, shouted angrily that he did not care, using colorful language, "if you vote for my budget or not," Mr. Barron recalled in an interview. "I think he has a real thin veil once you push his button. Remember, he's a C.E.O. used to having his way."
Mr. Bloomberg said that he remembered the conversation differently but that he had found the negotiation process in politics much different from that of the business world. "In business, not with everybody but generally, the objective is to get something done that you're talking about," he said. "Here it's more horse trading. The issues tend to be, 'I'll vote for this if you give me something that's totally unrelated.' The discussion is not about the merits of the particular subject."
"It disappointed me," he said.
I can just hear it now - we should run government like a business. The thing is, government is not a business. Businesses are supposed to make money, governments are to supposed to protect and promote the public. That means dealing with the public, with all its guts and glory, and not sticking to only what's on your mind.
Yet the mayor has been forced to adapt. During the battle over the stadium, the administration offered Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the State Assembly, a huge array of goodies for his district - a new school, new parks, new tax incentives for businesses in his area - in a failed bid to get support for the plan.
And his critics tend to object to his claims of being apolitical, noting, for instance, his new, election-year opposition to a freight tunnel that is woefully unpopular in a politically important area of Maspeth, Queens. He had previously called its financing "a priority."
Let me just say that I agree with the mayor's critics. It's not apolitical. It is however incompetent politics.
Still, even now the mayor sees himself as something of a stranger to the political scene.
"Keep in mind, I'm not the average officeholder at the mayoral level or any other level," Mr. Bloomberg said during the interview. "I'm not beholden to anybody; I didn't take any money. I had a freedom, I think, to go and to do things my way."
Thank God Bloomberg doesn't have to listen to the people and can do whatever he wants. Ok, that last bit is a little nasty, but really, the point is that absolute freedom for an elected official is only good for people who have perfect instincts and don't need to listen to other people. And no one has perfect instincts.