2011-07-29 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Mayor Defends Record But It’s The Same Old Politics
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Accused recently of bluffing his way through another budget crisis, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was questioned by reporters about his trust factor.

“My family trusts me,” he said angrily when challenged by reporters. “What do you mean about credibility? This city once again has a balanced budget, once again this city is the safest in the nation, the school results are better than they have ever been. Stop me when you get bored. I don’t know. If that’s not credibility, I don’t know what I can do.”

The fact is, Bloomberg has very little credibility on the streets of the outer boroughs, where people actually have begun to see through his smoke and mirrors.

They know that the balanced budget came in the wake of threats of layoffs and draconian cuts.

They know that the city is still not as safe as it could be, that women are still targets despite Bloomberg’s contention that women can walk late at night on any street in the city and be safe from attack. They know that the school results are illusionary. They know that reading scores were up only because the bar for passing the tests was lowered to the basement. They know that more kids are graduating from high school only because there are no more standards for graduation and that nearly 80 percent of those who graduate are not ready either for college or to hold a realworld job.

They know that Bloomberg’s entire administration has been a sham, that his only “successes” have been the proliferation of both trees (at $1,000 a pop) and bicycle lanes.

Let’s take a look at some of his muchballyhooed programs that went south this year.

His plan to pay families for “doing the right thing.” He wanted to pay parents for taking kids to the doctor; for kids getting a library card; for kids taking high school advance placement courses; for kids doing their homework.

After two years, independent studies showed that the payments did nothing to move the mark – that the program spent money but got no results.

Then, there was the plan to pay teachers when their students or schools did better. Just last week, a study was concluded that showed that “merit pay had no effect on increasing either student achievement or teacher motivation.” Of course, the mayor and his chancellor blamed it all on the teachers union, as they always have done, but this time, people weren’t buying the spin. The people are also beginning to understand that Bloomberg uses fines and fees as a tax on every city resident, a tax that neither they nor their representatives ever approved.

Parking meter fees, for example, were implemented as a way of keeping the traffic moving in shopping areas throughout the city. It was not really seen as a revenue-generating activity until Bloomberg came along and basically doubled the fee over his ten years in office. Sometime in August, the meters will go from twenty minutes for a quarter to fifteen minutes for a quarter, meaning that an hour at the meter will move from seventy-five cents to a dollar. For many, that’s a significant jump.

In fact, according to city statistics, the city’s revenue from fees and fines has risen from $830 million to $899 million from 2008 to 2011.

In order to see just how hard this is on city businesses, those with a parking lot must now pay a fine if the rainwater in the parking lot is flowing away from the lot and into a city sewer. That transgression will cost a $600 fine, issued by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“This is just another way to make some money off the back of business owners and local people,” one storeowner told the Daily News. “This is why businesses are closing their doors and running for other places where the owners can make a living without being inundated with fines and fees.”

Even in a time of budget crisis, with libraries closing and firehouses threatened, with proposed teacher layoffs and cuts in day care and senior citizen centers, Bloomberg’s administration hired nearly 1,000 more traffic enforcement agents. The rationale? The TEAs bring in money while the other amenities cost money. That’s the way Bloomberg thinks. He is a businessman first and last. That is why he chose Joel Klein to be his school chancellor and turned the school system over to his business cronies.

You can still see Klein, sitting behind Rupert Murdoch, as his boss tries to explain why he and his employees killed the credibility of journalism by hacking into the private cell phones of public officials and kidnap victims.

He now works for Murdoch as his crisis manager, which is fitting, because he went from one businessman bully (Bloomberg) to another (Murdoch).

If you can believe Murdoch, he was a lousy manager, without knowledge of the crimes that were being committed in the name of his media conglomerate.

It was all somebody else’s fault.

The same holds true with Bloomberg with the CityTime scandal.

Bloomberg so far has distanced himself from the scandal, pointing out that he had assigned people to watch the process and make sure it was on the up and up.

The people he and his commissioners appointed to keep watch have been arrested for taking money from the company they were supposed to be watching.

The scandal is moving slowly up the totem pole.

Next, it will be his commissioners’ turn on the hot seat. Then, if all is right with the world, they will come for Bloomberg. He deserves it.

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