Sunday, April 3, 2011

Incredible shrinking mayor: After 9 years of dominating N.Y. politics, Bloomberg's power receding

Opinions – Guest Contributor

Sunday, April 3rd 2011, 4:00 AM

Mayor Bloomberg
Barcelo for News: Mayor Bloomberg

The blizzard was the least of it. It's been downhill for Mike Bloomberg since he not only failed to pick up the snow but seemed to not quite understand why it needed picking up. Never has he been less the master of his own destiny - let alone the city's.

Yes, it's official. Mayor Mike's political stock has been downgraded, in no small part because his new competitor in the political marketplace, Gov. Cuomo, just handed him his hat.

After the frisky new governor brushed off Bloomberg's complaints about state aid cuts and his predictions of dire consequences as so much piffle, the mayor last week responded in very high dudgeon, calling Cuomo's budget deal "an outrage."

That outrage lasted about 24 hours, at the end of which the mayor, quietly chastened, dutifully reevaluated the deal and proclaimed it an example of "good government, a good leader making hard and tough decisions, which aren't always popular."

What happened to Bloomberg's clout?

To find out where it went, we have to understand what defined it in the first place. Bloomberg's charisma, such as it was, was the charisma of competence. After Rudy Giuliani slayed dragons like welfare and crime, Michael Bloomberg promised an era of omnicompetent, innovative, business-style management.

Amid the heady days of the first two terms, as so many things seemed to click into place, so high was he riding that Bloomberg was regularly talked about as presidential material - as the one man who might be able to win independents, Republicans and Democrats in sufficient numbers to bridge the two-party divide.

Then came the rupture. Start with the fact that very notion of business-style management has taken a pretty serious hit across America over the past two years, especially when associated with Wall Street. Then mix in lingering resentment about the undemocratic way he won a third term.

Add to that a real blizzard and a political one:

Mr. Bottom Line was caught sleeping as consultants from CityTime were indicted for allegedly bilking the city of $80 million. He left New Yorkers scratching their heads after a secretive process resulted in the appointment of former Hearst executive Cathie Black as schools chancellor, even though she has zero background in educational administration.

And she didn't help his school-reform agenda: Together, they went begging for changes to the "last-in, first-out" procedure, which hamstrings school administrators with strict seniority rules, and came up empty-handed.

Even if Bloomberg had played his hand perfectly - and he hasn't - the inevitabilities of lame-duck politics were sure to be working against a mayor who's serving one more term than he should have, whose high-handed style never earned him much public affection and who is suddenly overshadowed by a governor who has energetic public support and knows how to work the levers of power.

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