Mayor Bloomberg and the cleanup

December 29, 2010 12:39:59 PM PST
Opportunity comes in short bursts. When you blow it, you want you clench your teeth, swear to yourself, curl your toes and wish that you could snatch back that moment in time.

I suspect New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been doing a bit of that this week. "If only I had ?.."

No one should doubt Mr. Bloomberg's generosity of heart or spirit. He gives away gazillions of dollars. And while, yes, that's helped him politically, you don't give away fortunes or at least part of your fortune without some large streak of humanity inside.

But his bedside manner has never been particularly soothing, and his hacking-sneezing-nose-blowing performance during the blizzard and in the hours afterwards, has not been his finest as Mayor of the biggest and most ethnically and financially diverse city in the nation.

Make no mistake, New Yorkers have not elected this guy to three terms because they wanted a Mayor Feel Good. Bloomberg isn't worth an estimated $18 billion (at least double his worth when he became Mayor) by being a disciple of either Dale Carnegie or Bill Clinton when it comes to making others feel good.

But his seeming public obliviousness to the problems caused by this blizzard, streets not plowed, public transportation not working, peeps not being able to get out of their homes seemed to raise the disenchantment level with hizzoner. And it also raised the anger level against Mr. Bloomberg to new heights.

Claims that he's out of touch poured into the newsroom, and New Yorkers seemed eager to express their displeasure on camera to our reporters and crews in the field.

INTERACTION: WHAT DO YOU THINK?

The City clearly made some mistakes, why oh why didn't crews salt the roads once the blizzard was roaring, rather than wait till it was over? But there were a combination of factors that, added together, spelled problems. The lack of salting was teamed with a vacation schedule at the Dept. of Sanitation, and cuts in the budget of the aforementioned department, and people not heeding warnings to stay off the roads and streets.

Or, more precisely, as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz so eloquently put it on our air last night, "this was a royal screw up."

If Mayor Bloomberg had been more open to acknowledging the problems on Sunday and on Monday, and done a little "I feel your pain" therapy, then it's hard to imagine New Yorkers wouldn't have risen to the occasion even more than they did. I suspect they would have appreciated any candor from the Mayor. When he finally said yesterday, "I'm angry too," it seemed half-hearted and far too late.

The opportunity was missed. The Mayor's not running for another term, so he doesn't have to worry about re-election. But he is aware of legacy. And there's that speculation that he may be interested in running for the White House in 2012. As one viewer wrote in: "Bloomberg's chance at the Presidency just went up in flakes."

Maybe. Maybe not.

But what did happen was New Yorkers saw a side to the Mayor that wasn't what the moment called for. Opportunity lost. If only?..

Today, with the rising tide of anger more than palpable, the Mayor said he accepted responsibility for the City's inadequate response. The City Council and the Public Advocate are both calling for investigations. What happened this week is not over, not by a long shot.

Tonight at 11, we're on the blizzard's aftermath once again. We'll look at some of the streets that remain unplowed, but we'll also report on what seems to be working, finally, again.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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