Bloomberg as Alex Rodriquez: The Sad, Waning Days of Stardom and Leadership

It is sad to watch an aging superstar athlete as his skills fade. The astronomical salary, the adulation of the masses, the “honey” in every city, it is incredibly hard to let go, to become an ordinary citizen; no reporters lined up every day, no 24/7 news coverage, other, younger athletes take your place and no matter your achievements you fade away.

Michael Bloomberg rose to become an extraordinarily rich man, who, against all odds defeated a stumbling democratic party. He was the ultimate mayor/city manager – he owed nothing to the political parties, no favors to be paid off; he managed the city by appointing high quality managers rather than political factotums.

As cities around the country stumbled, some to the edge of bankruptcy, New York City prospered,

With the federal debt at $16 trillion, the fate of the nation’s cities stands at a crossroads. While cities like New York appear to be doing better than ever, a rising tide of poverty and inequality threatens to undermine their progress. Meanwhile, a large group of second-tier cities, from Detroit and St. Louis to Stockton and San Bernardino, are besieged as never before.

For eight years, his first two terms, the mayor’s reputation grew both within the city and across the country and around the globe.

As the athlete whose skills wane but can’t let go the mayor fought for a third term. In spite of two voter referendums and a city charter, with the connivance of the City Council, the mayor ran and was elected to a third term, a disastrous third term.

He jumped on the school (de)reform band wagon, hired Joel Klein, and managed to deal with Randi Weingarten, the teacher union president. Weingarten was clearly on a path to her current job – the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Bloomberg agreed to 43% pay hikes and a number of pension sweeteners while the union bought into a number of ed reform favorites; perhaps Bloomberg calculated a friend in Washington, at the helm of a national union, was worth the hundreds of millions.

The third term woes have not eluded Bloomberg – to use baseball analogies – he can’t stretch a double into a triple or go first to third on that single to right.

He held on to Joel Klein much too long and his firing and the hiring of Cathy Black a catastrophe. Attacks on Michael Mulgrew, the Weingarten successor have strengthened not weakened the union. Rather than union members cowering and fearing the retribution of an all-powerful vengeful mayor union teachers are more united. 1,000 teachers coughed up 50 bucks each to attend Teacher Union Day, the largest crowd ever to celebrate union member achievements.

The mayor’s last-minute about face on the agreed upon teacher evaluation deal gained the ire of the governor, the state Commissioner of Education, everyone except his “friends” at the print media.

In his written testimony before a state legislative committee Bloomberg mentions the “UFT” eight times and he uses the testimony as an opportunity to rant – to distance himself from his own inadequacies, to place blame on others.

Bloomberg was leading the national initiative to reduce gun violence – the Newtown tragedy lead to Cuomo seizing the issue, the mayor has been shoved to the back of the line. The “hero” of Sandy is New Jersey Governor Christie – the “Obama-Christie hug” is the image.

Bill Clinton was unable to pass a health care reform law, his presidency stained by a sex scandal and an impeachment trial, his foundation leads the stumbling Haiti reconstruction efforts, yet he is hailed with adulation – Clinton is the modern day Zeus – Bloomberg asks himself what has Clinton accomplished? Why does the populace love Bill? (Is Bloomberg’s favorite movie, “Kill Bill”?)

Hillary, the private citizen, will gobble up headlines as she decides next steps.

Michael Bloomberg stews – why isn’t he be admired and praised by humanity? Why are his favorability ratings faltering? Who is undercutting his legacy? What performance-enhancing substance can be imbibed to regain his luster?

Bloomberg is the flawed hero – the Alex Rodriquez of politics. Rodriquez has a Hall of Fame career – once the greatest of all baseball superstars, now forever tarnished by lies and performance-enhancing drug use. Bloomberg also stumbles – attacking enemies – reaching for the elusive gold ring – and falling from his seat on the carousel.

When his “contract” expires on December 31, he will join the legions of “stars” that held on too long. I wonder if he longs for a “Damn Yankees” redemption, Faust suddenly emerging and offering another run of greatness in exchange for his soul – oh, sorry – than assumes the mayor has a soul.


5 responses to “Bloomberg as Alex Rodriquez: The Sad, Waning Days of Stardom and Leadership

  1. YJosh Gutterman

    Brilliant! I wish you were writing the editorials for the New York Times!


  2. I agree with your overall assessment and Bloomberg'[s own people warned him that this was the likely outcome of a third term. But his ego would not allow him to listen.

    However, it is Bloomberg’s story that “he owed nothing to the political parties, no favors to be paid off; he managed the city by appointing high quality managers rather than political factotums.” I think the judgement of history will be somewhat different.

    Bloomberg has done much to enrich the big developers. Look at the hundreds of millions given to Ratner for the Barclay’s Arena and development that hasn’t happened yet and will not produce the jobs or affordable housing that was promised in return for that public money. He wanted to do the same thing to the Westside of Manhattan in his first term but that, much wealthier more politically active, community stopped him.

    In all of his dealings with public sector unions it has been “my way of the highway,” and he never embraced collaboration with anyone as a way to find solutions. Klein’s deform of the system was a product of the first two terms and we will spend decades recovering from it (if we can recover at all) regardless of who becomes the next Mayor.

    Collaboration with the UFT might have produced the results Bloomberg said he wanted in improved schools (it did when the UFT worked with the BOE to create the Chancellor’s District, one of the first casualties of the Klein administration) but it would certainly have created a legacy that the next Mayor could build on instead of what we have now, a system that lacks educational leaders and is focused on numbers rather than students.

    Bloomberg’s accomplishments are at the margins; 311, the smoking ban in public places, some good public health policies, but he is not a superstar who is leaving the city better of than he found it. The hole in the next budget due to his failure to set aside money for overdue public sector raises will give the next Mayor a serious problem.


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  4. Carole Silverstein.

    It was a great summary of your Mayor. I can only hope that someone as terrific in telling it as it is can portray the Governor of Florida as well. Keep up your new vocation. We are all enjoying it. Much thanks.


  5. I too, enjoyed the Mayor’s administrative recap. His efforts to reform New York’s school system has made great strides in attempting to dismantel “quality free education.”


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