Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Court of Mayor Bloomberg

If you read history (or fairy tales), you know all about Kings and Queens and their courts. Not courts like courts of law, but courts that were extensions of the royal household, where the men (mostly) and the women (i.e. mistresses) who had the monarch's proverbial ear helped him or her rule the realm.

Since we live in a republican democracy, we don't really have courts but, hey, come on, people who work in the White House or for governors or chief executives are effectively courtiers if they're anything at all. All powerful people have their courtiers -- including big city mayors.

And what big city mayor is more royal than our own Mayor Mike? Everyone calls him the King of New York and he's just that in everything but name only. Actually emperor is more like it, since his power extends beyond politics into both business and media. He controls and influences all of it like the Tsars in Russia used to do.

And like a Russian Tsar, Mike is living large and rewarding his courtiers while the people suffer. Bloomberg is paying his closest fifteen aids high six-figure salaries. Meantime, for "budgetary reasons", he's closing firehouses, not paying teachers enough, and foregoing our city's security by not hiring a new class of police officers. He's also taking an axe to the city budget, slashing programs that help the poor, all in the name of "fiscal responsibility." And yet ... and yet ... there seems to be plenty of money to reward his courtiers, most of whom worked on his re-election campaign, huge salaries.

Now I'm not naive. In these brutal economic times, the mayor has no choice but to slash the budget. Unions and special interests will scream but that's what they're in 'bidness' to do. I hold no brief for them.

But Mike, come on, giving your staff and flunkies, your already wealthy courtiers, huge salaries in the midst of a budget crises is unseemly and grotesque. Oh, I know the argument: we want to hire the "best" people in key roles in city government. That's always your argument. But aren't these "best" people folks who love their city and might be willing to work for a little less -- say $99,999 a year? These salaries are obscene -- especially when one of those you just hired was recently hit with an ethics fine by the board of elections. The fact that this person is still on the city payroll is simply unacceptable.

So Emperor Mike and his courtiers live large while the rest of us do more with less and go without. It truly shows that if you break a certain glass ceiling, if you join the court, get into the club, then no matter the economic weather, you'll have shelter from the storm.

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