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At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Fred Siegel’

The Bloom Comes Off The Mayor

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Mayor Bloomberg has enjoyed the sort of adulatory media coverage that would make even Barack Obama envious. Well, maybe not Obama, but certainly any merely mortal politician. Which makes Fred Siegel’s stubborn refusal to join Bloomberg’s Hallelujah chorus all the more startling.

Siegel, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Civic Innovation and a prolific writer on New York City politics, has long been a discordant voice among a local and national punditocracy all too eager to spread the message that Bloomberg, in the words of former New Yorker editor Tina Brown, is “the city’s greatest mayor.”

Recently, Brown and five other prominent New Yorkers were asked by New York magazine to name the ten individuals “who reshaped the city.” Four of the six had Bloomberg on their list. Only two included Rudy Giuliani, and one of those gave him a decidedly mixed review.

To illustrate the absurdity of the above, just think back to the state of the city in January 1993 when Giuliani took over from David Dinkins and the state of the city (9/11 notwithstanding) in January 2002 when Bloomberg took over from Giuliani. Which mayor faced the greater challenges and which has left more of an impact on the city?

At any rate, getting back to Fred Siegel, he’s lately been in a higher state of dungeon than usual about Bloomberg, mainly, as he wrote in the New York Post, because of the way the mayor “deployed his vast personal and political power to overturn the term limits law … [and] his unlawful refusal to send out property tax rebate checks that have been due since Oct. 1.”

Siegel quoted Bloomberg’s excuse that “We have no money … this is not a legal issue, it’s a fiscal issue” – a statement, according to Siegel, “that boils down to ‘I know better.’”

Don’t believe it, said Siegel; “the cupboards are bare because Bloomberg has emptied them for his own political ambitions. While the stock market was heading south, Bloomberg, one eye on a potential presidential run, raised his approval numbers by expanding the city payroll. Since 2004, he has hired at least 40,000 new city employees, while bringing his own mayoral staff to record levels.…”

And, continued Siegel, while “Bloomberg touts himself as a CEO who can negotiate the best deal for the city … part of running the city includes bargaining with people he can neither give orders to, nor buy like the City Council. That’s made Bloomberg a singular failure in Albany, where the mayor tried to steamroll his ill-conceived congestion pricing plan through the Assembly.

“The plan, which seemed designed as much to provide Bloomberg with a green issue for his presidential campaign as to decongest Manhattan, met with a skeptical response. Bloomberg’s reaction was to blame his defeat on ‘gutless’ opponents. While arguing over whether to reauthorize Off Track Betting, the mayor clashed with the normally mild-mannered Governor Paterson, whose support is essential for the city; Paterson came away describing the mayor to the Post’s Fred Dicker as ‘a nasty, untrustworthy, tantrum-prone liar who has little use for average New Yorkers.’”

Siegel went after the mayor in similar fashion last month in The Weekly Standard, writing that “Until a few weeks ago New York had a term-limits law – twice ratified by public referenda – that limited the mayor and the city council to eight years in office. Bloomberg could have held a referendum on overturning them – a referendum he was very likely to win given his 70 percent approval rating. But there were dangers in taking the democratic path. The referendum would have been scheduled for February 2009, and, as Baruch College’s Doug Muzzio notes, voters are likely to be hit before then by hikes in their property taxes, water bills, and subway fares.…

“Instead, operating on the basis of ambiguities in the city charter, Bloomberg strong-armed the city council into overturning term-limits: threatening to cut off funds to their districts and stop his ‘anonymous’ donations to the nonprofits they count on to get out the vote if they opposed his plan.”

Mincing no words, Siegel mocked the mayor’s claims of indispensability: “For the time being Bloomberg, who presided over the great spending spree of the last few years, has been reduced to insisting that only a genius like himself can save Gotham from the fiscal dangers imposed by Wall Street’s collapse (and his own maladministration).”

Still Wrong About Rudy After All These Years (Part II)

Wednesday, February 6th, 2002

As was remarked upon here last week, The New York Times has for the past eight years been what can best be described as maddeningly ambivalent, when it hasn’t been fighting mad, about Rudy Giuliani.

Even when the Times occasionally saw fit to pay some form of lip service to the indisputable truth that Giuliani took a city that was dirty and dangerous – bordering on the brink of anarchy – and transformed it into one that is relatively clean and remarkably safe, there was always a catch, a caveat, a call to arms lest the “mean-spirited” mayor crush every vestige of the discredited liberal political culture that was so intrinsically linked with the Times itself.

That the Times couldn’t quite bring itself to give Giuliani his due, even as he left office on a note of unprecedented triumph and popularity, was evident in the paper’s editorials and most of its news coverage pertaining to his last days in office. (A startling exception was an analysis piece by veteran reporter Sam Roberts, who mused that Giuliani would go down in history as a greater mayor than even Fiorello La Guardia.)

An editorial that appeared on the Sunday before Giuliani’s departure was particularly churlish, typified by the claim that “Even his staunchest supporters know that much of his success was due in part to good timing. His greatest achievements - the drop in crime, the reduction in welfare cases, the economic boom – were mirrored in other cities that had milder-mannered chief executives.”

This attempt by the Times to take some of the sheen off Giuliani’s accomplishments was repeated in force the very next day, in a front-page piece by Dan Barry. “The question of how much credit Mr. Giuliani deserves for the crime reduction continues to spur debate,” Berry wrote. “Several external factors certainly played a role, including the waning of the crack cocaine epidemic and a $1 billion program begun under the Dinkins administration to increase the ranks of police officers.”

And then Barry injected a little old-fashioned Times-style editorializing into his article: “There was also a significant decline in crime nationwide, even in cities with seriously troubled police departments, suggesting that crime would have dropped in the city no matter who was mayor, no matter how improved the police work was.”

Nonsense, according to Fred Siegel, a professor of history at Cooper Union who specializes in urban issues. As Siegel recently wrote in the New York Observer, “No other city has made comparable gains…. In the closing years of the Dinkins administration, tourists stayed away in droves, while businesses and residents were racing for the exits in what seemed like an evacuation. Had Mr. Dinkins been reelected, the flight from fear would have become a flood.”

As for the tiresome assertion that crime has dropped everywhere and Giuliani merely happened to have been in the right place at the right time, that, too, just isn’t true.

“None of these critics,” Siegel pointed out, “supples specifics - with good reason. Crime didn’t fall everywhere, as anyone from Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit or a host of other big cities could have explained.

“In fact, much of the national decline in crime (anywhere from one-seventh to one-fourth) was a reflection of New York’s achievements. And just as important, in some of the cities where crime had dropped, such as Los Angeles and Boston, it has, unlike in New York, been rising again the last few years.”

The latter point was brought home in, of all places, a story the Times ran on Jan. 1. Contrary to the arguments regularly put forward on his paper’s editorial page – and by his colleague Dan Barry in his front-page article that very day - reporter Andy Newman acknowledged that “Violent crime in New York City registered its biggest drop in five years in 2001, a decline all the more startling because it came as the violent crime rates in many other cities finally started to increase.”

Conflicting signals? That’s the least of the problems that occur when a news outlet straps itself into an ideological straitjacket..

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/media-monitor-29/2002/02/06/

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