2009-09-04 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

More On Our Imperious Mayor Mike: Or, Why You should Start Worrying And Vote For Somebody Else
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to spend millions on his reelection bid, smug in his belief that he is the only person in the entire universe that can govern New York City, or rather Manhattan, which is his version of New York City.

There is lots of evidence, however, that his entire tenure has been a large Madoff-like scam, smoke and mirrors that make voters believe that he is the man of the hour who has brought real progress to the city. But that will prove to be as illusionary as the income statements that Madoff sent his clients each month.

Bloomberg, for example, continues to trumpet the gains that school students have made over the past seven years.

I have written often in this spot that those gains are illusionary, a combination of teaching how to take a test (at the expense of real education in such subjects as social studies and science) and lowering the standard that it takes to pass the test. Now, comes some disquieting proof. In regards to the SAT, over which the mayor and his cronies on the Board of Regents (read, Geraldine Chapey Sr.) have no control, results of city students are dismal.

In 2006, the average SAT reading score for New York City public school students was 447. In 2009, it has dropped to 435. The average math score has dropped as well, to 459 from 471.

If New York City kids are really popping in terms of raising their reading and math scores to levels that are truly unbelievable, then how come they are doing worse on a national test over which the mayor and his minions have no control? I'll tell you. The city and state math and reading tests have been watered down to prove that Bloomberg is a success.

The city says the drop is because more minority kids are taking the test that ever before. Testing officials, however have another story.

Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas says that the results do not look promising for officials who boast about helping students make progress.

"It certainly works against the persistent claim that the city is closing the achievement gap if they're obliged to argue that the reason scores are going down is because more minority kids are sitting for the exam," the professor said.

Education, however, is not the only area where Bloomberg and his administration have lost touch with reality.

Recently, in response to a question on his radio show, Bloomberg said, "Last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don't make a lot of money and their executives don't make a lot of money."

I guess it's all about what you define as "a lot of money," because Bloomberg quickly was informed that he was all wet.

Miles White, the CEO of Abbott Labs, for example, earns $33.3 million a year. Perhaps that's not a lot of money for a billionaire such as Bloomberg, but for the rest of us, it's not chump change.

Obviously, one of Bloomberg's aides checked while the show was in commercial, and he later said, "Some of them are making decent money." Decent money, indeed!

Rockaway residents have long been angry at Bloomberg and his Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe," for cracking down on drinking beer at Rockaway's beaches while allowing his elitist friends to sip champagne in Central Park. When questioned, the answer was always that it was more dangerous to drink beer on the beach in Rockaway than to drink champagne in Central Park or Prospect Park.

There is a ban, however, on using alcohol in any city park.

Bloomberg said this week that he does not agree with the ban.

"I never understood why we don't let you drink in the park," Bloomberg said. "I mean, you go to watch the philharmonic and you can't even drink some wine."

So, I checked again with the Parks Department and asked, in the light of Bloomberg's statement, if a Rockaway resident couldn't have a quick pop while he or she was relaxing on the beach, and the answer still came back as no, that drinking is prohibited in every city park.

Except where Mayor Mike's friends listen to the philharmonic.

As a billionaire who finances his own campaigns, Bloomberg does not accept contributions. As such, he is not subject to the campaign finance laws, and he has no spending limit. Yet, he has moved in recent weeks to limit the campaign spending of those who are less fortunate than him and must take contributions.

Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is one of the Democratic challengers for the mayoralty, said it best.

"For Mayor Bloomberg, who is going to be spending as much as $200 million on the campaign, and who does not participate in the campaign finance system, so we don't know if he discusses all the money he spends and who plays by his own rules, for him to be talking about campaign finance reform in the middle of a campaign is like Michael Vick talking about animal cruelty." "[Bloomberg] would have more credibility if he'd support measures to help candidates facing high-spending, self-financed opponents such as himself," said Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

Does Bloomberg deserve a third term? A fourth?

Or, is he an imperious billionaire, out of touch with the millions of middleclass residents of his city?

A poll that came out late last week points to the fact that voters are annoyed by Bloomberg's non-stop television ad campaign. The poll showed that nearly 90 percent of New York voters had seen at least one of his ads, something that's not hard to believe because the self-congratulatory ads run day and night.

Nearly half, however, said that the ads were annoying rather than enlightening. Nearly a quarter of those polled said that the annoying ads would make them less likely to vote for Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has already spent $36.8 million on his campaign, $12.6 million for the annoying television ads.

Does being a billionaire automatically make you a political winner?

You will have to decide for yourself on November 3, which is rapidly approaching.

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