Monday, November 02, 2009
Eight IS Enough
Nostrand Park was kind enough to ask, but I'm just going to say it: Eight is Enough. The folks who voted at Nostrand Park's poll agree with me. The voters who went to the primaries and the runoff elections agreed with me, electing two vocal opponents of the term-limit extension. The whole city agreed with me, voting in favor of term limits not once but twice. Bloomberg himself agreed with me as recently as 2005, when he called attempts to subvert the will of the people and repeal or change term limits "disgraceful." The mayor has lavished a ludicrous amount of money on his current campaign, 14 times what Bill Thompson has spent, in an attempt to make the issue go away, but it remains central to the campaign. Should we re-elect an effective, successful mayor who saw fit to run roughshod over the restrains put on his power by the people of New York City?
Bloomberg will almost certainly win today, in part because of his bottomless campaign coffers, in part because of the recognition and prestige afforded by incumbency (as well as all the campaign-trail arguments about experience and continuity), and in part because many people think he's the best man for the job. These individuals will argue that even if leading the charge to change term limits was a bad call on the mayor's part, the election should always be about giving New York City over to the most capable pair of hands. We may have a hard time getting past a blatant smothering of democracy by a billionaire, they say, but that's over and done with, and the question now is which candidate would make the best mayor.
In truth, the two questions can't be disentangled. Bloomberg's decision to mow down term limits reveals a disdain for popular opinion and the democratic process that cannot be set aside once he retains his last of three terms. Even if you think this is a one-time thing, it's extremely troubling, but this isn't new behavior. The two photos above speak volumes about the way the mayor's modus operandi shifts as he deals with different social classes. In 2003, Snapple was awarded an exclusive five-year contract, essentially a sweetheart deal, by the mayor's team to put their products in NYC schools. Thompson, to his credit, opposed the move. When the handling of the contract bid was criticized, as was Snapple's product placement, the mayor called it "political red tape." Snapple's in-school products may be relatively healthy (100% juice, which their retail products are not), but their presence is obviously to build brand loyalty that translates to bigger sales of their high-calorie sugar chugs outside school doors.
Six years later, Bloomberg has just launched his latest anti-obesity ads, which include images of Snapple bottles, and tell straphangers not to "drink themselves fat" by "pouring on the pounds." My day job is in health and fitness education, and while I think educating the public about calorie intake is one of Bloomberg's better moves, I don't like these ads at all. They essentially call people fat, which is ineffective if you're trying to motivate people to change their lifestyle and substitutes a re-iteration of American body-image insecurities for real education. Besides, if you want people to drink less Snapple, it would be far more effective to keep it out of schools than to insult people on the subway. The administration's double-standard here demonstrates an uncomfortable politics that takes a patronizing, stern parent approach to the hoi palloi while making deals with corporations.
Finally, Bloomberg recently struck a local nerve, deploying Rudy Giuliani to stoke fear and racism by raising the specter of the Crown Heights Riots in bashing Bill Thompson. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and while Mike Bloomberg may have been a good mayor, his recent behavior is not commensurate with the preservation of functional democracy in New York City. On that note, I'm volunteering for Mark Winston Griffith in a few hours, so I'm going to bed. Vote today!