Monday, April 11, 2011

Canning Cathie

This post is guest-blogged by author Julian Brash.

A lot could be said about the recent demise of schools Chancellor Cathie Black, but one point that I make in my book is that Mayor Bloomberg's corporate approach to governing the city has major political weaknesses, as demonstrated by the administration's failure to build the West Side stadium and its inability to pass its congestion-pricing plan passed. One of these weaknesses is what I call the "anti-politics" of the Bloomberg Way: the denial of the legitimacy (and at times the existence) of conflicting interests within the city.

However, as of 2005 or so, in response to the West Side stadium fiasco, the Mayor began tempering his anti-politics and engaging directly with various interest groups using a variety of means (philanthropy, bargaining, city contracts, etc.). By Fall of 2009, Michael Bloomberg's dominance of the city's politics had reached its zenith: the CEO Mayor had become a master politician.

However, it's obvious in retrospect that at the same time, Bloomberg was seriously overplaying his hand. The amount he (over)spent in the 2009 election, his "Wall Street Welfare" plan, his defense of various embattled CEOs, and, of course, his hiring of Cathie Black: all these things were indications that Bloomberg had crossed the line separating political noblesse oblige from class entitlement.

The balance between the upper-class project inherent in the Bloomberg Way and the need to maintain the perception of being dedicated to the good of the city as whole was too difficult to sustain. Black's short and inglorious career as schools chancellor is a reminder of this--and of the fact that the Bloomberg Way is not invulnerable.

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