New York’s Next Mayor

This November, we will elect a new Mayor for New York City.  But whom?

In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg got the City Council to change the term limits law, allowing him to run for a third term.  My previous experience with third-term mayors (Ed Koch) is that the third term is when the wheels fall off.  There were two referenda for term limits in the 1990s, and I voted for them both times.

On balance, Bloomberg has been a good mayor.  I’ve bristled at his nanny-state moves, like the effort to ban large sodas, but he had been a good manager and has tried to stand up against he public employee unions.  If there had been a referendum in 2008 to change the term limit laws, I would have voted for it: in the ten years since the previous referenda, term limits haven’t actually changed things very much.

But Bloomberg got the City Council to change the law without a referendum.  (It’s a fair question how long a decision made by referendum should stand, but that’s a subject for another day.)  I thought it was a dirty trick, but in 2009, I voted for him anyway: his opponent was just another Democratic politician, ready to raise taxes, give the store away to the public employee unions, and step back from the policies that have made New York the safest big city in America.

Now it’s 2013, and Mayor Bloomberg is not running for a fourth term.  While the wheels haven’t come off like they did for Ed Koch, it’s still time for a change.  But the field is a disappointment:

  • Most of the Democratic challengers are career politicians who currently hold one office or another, and all seem to promise the same things: more government goodies and higher taxes on the rich to pay for it.  (Unlike Federal taxes, there is very little headroom for raising local taxes, as it’s easy to move somewhere else.)
  • I liked Anthony Weiner in 2009, but he didn’t make it through the Democratic primaries.  After he left Congress in disgrace for Tweeting lewd pictures of himself, the bad jokes practically write themselves.
  • Joe Lhota, the former MTA head, is probably the most promising candidate right now.  But it’s hard to tell what he stands for: I fear that he may be so used to building consensus that he will not be able to make the tough decisions.  His opponents will also be able to paint him as responsible for MTA fare hikes.
  • John Catsimatidis, owner of the Gristedes supermarket chain, is a New York success story: the immigrant kid who made good in the Big Apple.  But as a politician, he comes across as inept.
  • George McDonald is an interesting Republican candidate, but I can’t see how he can get traction.
  • Adolfo Carrion is a lifelong Democrat, but this year is running on the Independence Party ballot line, sidestepping the Democratic primaries and guaranteeing him a spot in the general election.  How that actually recommends him for office, I do not know.

We’ll see….

4 thoughts on “New York’s Next Mayor”

  1. The larger question is whether who the mayor is matters. People CAN move out, but often city or state wage tax is still charged based on the number of days worked if you are still working in the city or state. Similarly, the city has certain pension obligations that will be difficult to shed or reduce without going through bankruptcy.

    I’m waiting for the $10 a pack cigarettes tax to help fund health insurance for children, sort of an S-CHIP on steroids.

  2. Yes, it matters who the Mayor is. It doesn’t matter who the Governor is: the state government in Albany is irretrievably corrupt, to the point where I almost wish some cataclysmic natural disaster would befall it. But the Mayor makes a difference, even though many of the policy decisions are really made in Albany.

    A century ago, people feared that the hordes of immigrants then piling into New York City would not become responsible citizens, and vote the city into ruin. As a result, most of the real legislative authority for New York City was moved to the state government, where it has remained. In fact, it is Albany, not New York City, that determines if people who who work in the city, but don’t live there, have to pay NYC income tax. (They currently don’t.)

    1. The sense that I had was that a lot of the policy governing New York City came out of Albany, though I didn’t know that it went back to Ellis Island days. Much of what has to be done is fixed, and it seems that the main role of the mayor is to push back against other demands from Albany and to manage the city.

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