Mike Bloomberg bestrides this city like a colossus. Mayor of New York since 2002 and the richest man in town, Bloomberg has run New York like a CEO, with no allegiance to any political party. Despite a law that limits mayors to two terms, Bloomberg wangled himself a third one in 2009, with the enthusiastic backing of the city’s three main papers.
Yet in his tenth year as mayor, Bloomberg’s approval rating has hit near-record lows. In the boom years, the mayor-as-tycoon seemed a natural thing. Now that New Yorkers regard billionaires with more distrust than envy, the mayor has far less room to manoeuvre. “Enough is enough,” exclaimed the activist Rev. Al Sharpton, once a strong ally of the mayor but now an increasingly vocal antagonist, at a rally last week: “Even though we live in the Big Apple, working class people can’t get a bite.”
Bloomberg had a jolting reminder of this new reality earlier this year, when he shocked the city by appointing his friend Cathie Black as schools chancellor, a media executive with minimal experience in education. Days into the job Black told a group of parents that the solution to schools overcrowding was “some birth control”, and it got worse from there. Teachers and citizens booed at town hall meetings, the media flayed her and, in less than three months she was gone, with Bloomberg left looking nepotistic.
“It was a classic case of third-term myopia,” says Chris Smith, contributing editor at New York. “He consulted almost no one. He fell in love with his own cleverness. It was a disaster.”
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