Behind the po-faced façade of a competent but bland CEO of America’s toughest metropolis lurks a breathtakingly calculated mediocrity, a man who silences his critics with cash and is then the first to tell you just how popular he is.
He’s added laws to the books that fine storeowners for having too many letters in their awnings, or ticket cars that are rendered immobile by snowstorms. And don’t even think about lighting up in a bar, sitting on a milk crate, or putting your bag down on the adjoining subway seat. The kind of velvet fascism that rules American corporate culture now rules Gotham, a city once celebrated for its louche glamour and gritty countercultural style, something many puritans wrongly misremember as being only coexistent with rampant crime. (Oh yes, there was middle ground between Mean Streets and Sex and the City, a time when “poverty” could be comfortable, and Times Square was a navigable cesspool far preferable to the Disney World it’s become.)
Though lauded far and wide for his Warren Buffet-like willingness to give to charity (Slate is a big Bloomberg booster on the philanthropy front), less acknowledged is the fact that the mayor’s largesse silences special interest groups and liberal tubthumpers, who might otherwise find fault with the steward of so many of the reviled and “authoritarian” policies of his predecessor.
As Siegel and Goodwin put it, “Bloomberg’s reputation is built on the idea that he’s not just another politician but an apolitical manager who rises above petty interests. But this image reverses the reality. Bloomberg’s failures have been managerial, while he’s been a brilliant success politically by catering - via the city treasury and his own fortune - to those petty interests.”