In 2009, a New Yorker profile described Mayor Bloomberg as "more a Medici than a mayor." The billionaire presided over a well-oiled "meritocratic machine" that produced results: "Crime is low, test scores are climbing, and racial tension hardly registers." One of those things still rings true, but now we're entering Very Important Legacy Sculpting Season, in which we mash all of the facts of Bloomberg's tenure with all our feelings over the past 12 years into one, reflexive yelp that we hope will help us better understand our condition under this mayor. Ken Auletta's piece in this week's New Yorker echoes what other Important Voices have already proffered: The Rich People Won.
Auletta's piece has enough Bloombergisms for everyone: stop-and-frisk exaggerations ("Stop-and-frisk has been shown to be—not the only, but the most effective, tool in getting guns out of the hands of kids.”), delightful profanity (“The conservative columnists write, ‘Oh, you should just tell the unions to go fuck themselves!’ "), and a delicious lack of self-awareness (“I haven’t had a vacation in twelve years.")
But the undercurrent of the piece drives home one of the undeniable truths of Bloomberg's term as mayor: there are still far too many people living below or around the poverty line, while the rich continue to multiply their fortunes.
It's in the evidence Auletta cites—real incomes in the eight highest-income neighborhoods in New York City rose 55% since 2002, while 1.7 million residents remain poor, many of whom are prevented from receiving public assistance because of the mayor's "deliberately punitive" policies—and in the quotes from Bloomberg's comrades in commerce.
Kathryn "Wall Street Is Our Main Street" Wylde lavishes praise on the mayor, while Dan Doctoroff, the former deputy mayor and current CEO of Bloomberg L.P., chooses the worst possible movie quote to describe Bloomberg's legacy.
“Mike really does believe in what I call ‘the virtuous cycle’ of a successful city,” Doctoroff said. “And that is that at the end of the day when a city grows, as long as it grows wisely, it thrives. Growth is good, to echo Gordon Gekko’s ‘Greed is good.’"
Mayor Bloomberg responded to Auletta's suggestion that he ignored the city's poor by pointing to the 165,000 units of affordable housing his administration built, along with all the great "entry level" jobs that were created. “No one has done more to help the poor than we have," he said.
The biggest similarity between the 2009 profile and today's? Both have Mayor Bloomberg mulling the possibility of purchasing The New York Times: “I don’t know how to answer. I think you’d see lots of people wanting to buy it. It’s a very prestigious paper.”
That's certainly one way to shape your "Legacy."