Welcome to the New Price is Right
I happen to like Bill Thompson just fine; he’s a smart and thoughtful guy who has served our city well at the Board of Education and as Comptroller.
To the extent that Mike Bloomberg’s educational policies have been about unclogging the deteriorated arteries of 110 Livingston to do an emergency bypass (as opposed to being about absolute power providing proof of the validity of the theorem propounded by Lord Acton), Bill Thompson pretty much served as Bloomberg’s John the Baptist.
Before Thompson-initiated reforms set the stage for Mayoral control, one could not get there from here. With Mayoral Control now having gotten us to a somewhat different destination than reformers anticipated, Bill Thompson may be one of the dozen or so people in the City who has some idea how to mend this beast in the manner real reformers intended.
The Mayor’s efforts to attack Thompson’s record as Comptroller as if he were Alan Hevesi likewise leave a bad taste.
Unlike its state equivalent, the NYC Comptroller thankfully does not serve as the sole trustee of any pension system; Boards regulate Thompson’s every investment recommendation, and on those boards, Bloomberg’s appointees have consistently voted to uphold Thompson.
Outside of Thompson’s efforts to actually subject the Department of Education’s exaggerated claims of success to the sunlight of an audit (earning Thompson perhaps the most morally repugnant Daily News “Knucklehead Award” ever bestowed), Bloomberg has had nothing but praise for Thompson’s record, and when questioned on the matter by one of the few reporters in town willing to be called “despicable” [to undoubtedly be followed by a call to the publisher] shook his head in feigned puzzled ignorance while repeating his mantra of “call my campaign,” as if it were an unofficial fan website.
As such, we owe Mike Bloomberg a vote of thanks for providing us with the answer to the once theoretical question of how much it would cost to selfishly and unjustifiably destroy the good reputation of a public spirited pillar of the community.
Unfortunately, as a candidate, Bill Thompson tends to be cool to the point of chillin. He is the son of a former Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, and had a Jewish step-mother (Bill’s probably been to more Seders than Bloomberg, and I bet he can daven better) who also wore the black robes. This history probably contributes to a demeanor which makes him tend to seem cold and analytical, possibly because he is.
Unfortunately, cold and analytical is probably not the best posture for melting the ice when your opponent is likely to spend $100 million. And that’s just in the money which is traceable; We are not even mentioning charitable contributions, both personal and leveraged; budget lines, from the Mayoral slush fund, Chris Quinn’s slush find and other places in the budget; jobs, whether at Bloomberg LLP, the City, or in various for and not for profit entities subject to Mayoral or corporate sock-puppetry; Republican and Independence Party GOTV operation financed “independently” through their housekeeping funds, and G-d and Sheekey only knows what else.
Standing alone, the off-budget part of the Bloomberg campaign is a money-laundering operation which makes the Working Families Party look like a hot dog stand, although if one wants to see true magic, one has to watch the two in collaborations like the off-budget part of Dan Squadron’s State Senate campaign. The best argument for WFP’s continuing efforts to circumvent the intent (presuming, for the moment, that the intent is all that they circumvent) of our campaign finance laws is that such efforts are the only way to combat the likes of Bloomberg.
So sad, but not so surprising, that it appears that they won’t be used for that purpose. In fact, it appears that many of the WFP’s most prominent components, like the Hotel Trades Council, will actually be part of the Bloomberg campaign’s off-budget efforts. In his valiant efforts to obtain the WFP nomination, Thompson apparently picture a fecund relationship which would give birth to “Father Little Dividend;” instead to use a metaphor derived from Richard Pryor’s Mudbone, he got the WFP after a hysterectomy extracted all the moving parts, leaving him nothing but the box it came in.
But the worst part of the Bloomberg Nor’easter is that the Mayor’s off-budget campaign has largely frozen out the free media as well. All through the spring and summer, the media has treated the Thompson campaign on the same level as those run by the Naked Cowboy (now stripped of ballot status) , Reverend Billy, and psychopath anti-Semite Jimmy “Rent is Too Damn High” McMillan. In fact, the efforts this week by the mainstream media to portray McMillan as a lovable Smurf-like imp, whose delusional jags of hate speech must be ignored or put in the best possible light verges on the scandalous.
Could it be a coincidence that, just as a Thompson victory seems somewhere outside the realm of impossibility, the mainstream media is suddenly showing interested in the campaigns of minor party nutcases?
There is surely a reason this campaign can, against all odds, be competitive.
As a public school parent, I hear a lot of dissatisfaction with Bloomberg. While there have doubtless been improvements on many fronts, and good people put into prominent places (shoutout to Martine Guerrier), the perception that Bloomberg has accomplished miracles in this realm are as greatly exaggerated as reports that the election is over. Moreover, the perception that Bloomberg has accomplished miracles in the realm of pedagogy is held mostly by folks who themselves have no personal contact with the Department of Education).
Likewise, there is a lot of dissatisfaction from other quarters, not all of them liberal. To try to carve out a middle class existence in a City like New York is a constant battle in which residents often feel besieged by forces seemingly intent upon driving them to embark upon a suburban existence. Some of those forces are beyond the realm of government to even impact upon. But some, like the multiple and manifold forms of taxation by summons, are enough to drive even the City’s most ardent lovers into the arms of another.
I hate Rudy Giuliani liker poison, but he is, in living memory, the Mayor of New York who best understood this phenomena. In this regard, Bloomberg is the Mayor who most does not get it. It is why even worthy proposals of his like Congestion Pricing so drive middle class outer borough New Yorkers out of their minds.
There is a out there a great seething resentment, not all of it rational, but much of it quite on the mark, for the sort of clueless lack of concern over this legitimate frustration. And for many, Bloomberg is its personification. In fact, the perception that there is nothing to be done about Bloomberg only fuels the fury of those so afflicted.
The recent tendency of the media to suddenly start spotlighting nut candidates like Reverend Billy and Jimmy Mac seems almost, in the context of its almost heroic efforts to ignore or diss Thompson, to be a conscious effort to dissipate such anger in the manner least harmful to the Mayor. It is almost as if the Press is telling people: “Express your fury, tell them ‘The Rent is Too Damn High.’”
Whatever Thompson’s perceived failings as a candidate, one thing is clear--those hoping to make a statement by casting a quixotic protest vote for a candidate who can’t win should do so in the most effective manner possible: by voting for Bill Thompson. No other vote will even be heard. The only focus will be on Bloomie’s margin--let’s cut it.
And if such protests votes actually yield a victory, Bill Thompson will be a Mayor almost totally liberated from the powers that be, including much of the labor movement. Perhaps a Mayor so liberated, possessed of a cold and analytical demeanor, can address the deeply-held frustrations of the middle class, both those rational and those less so, in a logical manner which might lessen the perception of their burdens, both real and imagined.
That being said, as a frustrated middle class New Yorker with mounting expenses (including a recent car-towing courtesy of the City which cost me over $300), I just want to make clear to the Mayor that, for the right price, Gatemouth is still available for purchase or rental, on or off-budget.