Bloomberg: The People's Mayor?

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If being an improvement from the Giuliani era were the only criteria, Michael Bloomberg would have been anointed the People’s Mayor a long time ago.

Take welfare. Rather than continue with the punitive program of the past, Tracie McMillanfound that Bloomberg’s Human Resources chief is softening the city’s approach. What’s more, New York has made a name for itself in Washington by countering the Bush administration’s more severe plans for welfare.

At Battery Park City, Bloomberg finally made good on a decades-old promise to include affordable housing in the development–though, as Alyssa Katz reports, it took an army of organizers to get there. The real prize for the mayor graces our cover: a warm smooch from ACORN’s Bertha Lewis for his modest plan to protect or create 65,000 affordable units.

Nor is Bloomberg’s predilection toward stadiums and giveaways to big business his only strategy for development. The mayor’s also quietly pushed economic revitalization from the bottom up in the boroughs, as Jonathan Bowles explains.

There are many ways in which Bloomberg is no People’s Mayor: consolidating power in the school system so that it operates even further from popular accountability; a love of big tax giveaways to megacorporations of the type tracked by Good Jobs New York; a secretive management style inherited from his private sector days that doesn’t work well in the public sector. But perhaps because his predecessor was so brazenly dismissive of antipoverty work, and so clearly in thrall to big business, we are eager for signs of a mayor who, sometimes in the face of community challenges, sometimes not, does the right thing for “the people.”

Maybe Bloomberg’s approach doesn’t add up to a new New York populism; certainly each success story has a dark strand wound through it. Yet seeing light notes in a dark era reminds us that our work in communities, or laboring quietly for good in seemingly immovable bureaucracies, need not always be in vain.

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