Monday, September 14, 2009

NYC Elections: This Time, We Have A Choice

The last two times Mike Bloomberg ran for mayor, he was running against Freddie Ferrer, the Democratic Party nominee. Without hesitation, I voted for Mike Bloomberg, despite my gut level feeling that he was insensitive to the concerns of citizens in the outer boroughs who earn less than a million dollars a year.

What was so awful about Freddie Ferrer? Ferrer criticised the one part of Rudy Giuliani's record that was unassailable, and that was Giuliani's record on crime. At a time when the anemic mayoralty of David Dinkins was in general disrepute, Ferrer spoke up for the Dinkins record. Anyone who lived through the Crown Heights riots or experienced the ubiquitous levels of low level criminality that blighted our existence took Ferrer's pre election posture as a wake up call.

The current crop of Democratic mayoral nominees does not face the voter with such a stark choice. Bill Thompson, who is likely to win the Democratic nomination has not made the mistake of criticising common sense "broken windows" law enforcement policies. I do not feel that I have to choose between a mayor like Ferrer who has fundamentally flawed ideas on crime and a man like Bloomberg, who views the Brooklyn skyline as a distant vista on his political landscape.

Voters who feel that their borough is being mined for tickets and that they are being nickeled and dimed to death look at Thompson with optimism. Although New York's three main newspapers have focused the limelight on Mayor Bloomberg, it will look almost Orwellian if such a ridiculous charade persists after tomorrow's primary.

Bill Thompson has been a City Comptroller since 2001, in truly trying times. He worked his way up in the system, and did not get or buy any hard breaks. If the New York Post and the New York Times choose to ignore him, the people will not. In any normal political environment, Bill Thompson, the son of a Supreme Court justice and a city school teacher would attract widespread attention from the media. This election is anything but typical. A media mogul, a billionaire like Bloomberg can pull strings that most people don't even know exist.

When the New York Post trumpets Bill Thompson owing $1000.00 on water bills and sends Andrea Peyser to interview an ex wife, they inadvertently do Bill Thompson a favour. I have heard far too many people panic because of water bills from the city. I have known far too many decent people who have been badmouthed by a vindictive spouse. When Bill Thompson gets the coverage he gets from the Post, he becomes Everyman. Mike Bloomberg can pay for all the silence he wants. The rest of us have to live with ourselves.

In any election with a candidate other than Bloomberg, an African American with a good shot at the Democratic nomination would get respectful press coverage. But New York under Emperor Mike Bloomberg is not a normal place.

There are countries like Swaziland and North Korea where the king or national leader pays to have songs of praise composed and broadcast at all hours. We laugh at such places with a smug sense of superiority. In New York under Mike Bloomberg, we are not at all far from such an approach to political news coverage. After tomorrow's primary, it will be impossible even for Emperor Mike to ignore the fact that he is indeed running against a viable candidate.

When I was a boy, our house was robbed. Our dog was sleeping soundly. A sleeping pill in a meatball gave the thieves the complete run of our house as drug induced sleep turned a temperamental dog into a sleeping lamb. Mike Bloomberg swaggers through New York with the same self assurance as the team of burglars that breezed through our home forty years ago. With his billions and his media empire, he can afford a lot of meatballs. It is clear that the mainstream media of New York is lapping up Bloomberg's meatball stew. But New Yorkers have a choice. We have woken up from the fog. There is a choice tomorrow, and we know it. Sphere: Related Content

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