Commentary

Mayor Bloomberg is a billionaire businessman, and as the saying goes, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree — though in this case I’m referring not to his children, but to his policies. This mayor has so much cash that in the first two months of the campaign he spent more than all of the other candidates combined. Did we ever have grounds for thinking he would be on the side of working people?

About 1.8 million New Yorkers have no health insurance — and yet Bloomberg has not supported a City Council bill aimed at requiring some businesses to provide health care to their employees. Twenty-one percent of New Yorkers live below the poverty level — and yet this mayor recently vetoed not one, but two City Council measures that would have made it easier to apply for food stamps. While 25 percent of the people of our city pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent, and affordable housing is being replaced with luxury housing, Bloomberg vetoed a bill that would have given low- and middle-income tenants preference for buying their own buildings when they’re put up for sale.

And let’s talk about public education.

Though test scores rose last year for 3rd graders, they did not rise for 8th graders, and 50 percent of high school students do not graduate in four years with a regular diploma. The state Supreme Court has ruled that our schools are grossly underfunded and should be receiving an additional $5 billion a year. That kind of money would make a huge difference. Among other things, it could help solve the widespread overcrowding that is the root of so many problems.

What has Bloomberg done about this? Nothing.

Did I say nothing? Actually, he has done something. He opposed a City Council effort to retain a tax surcharge on incomes over $500,000, which would have funded class-size reduction. And adding insult to that injury, he bumped off this year’s ballot a referendum that would have mandated smaller class sizes. Now he’s working to prevent it from being on the ballot next year.

The education mayor? Come on. The 1.1 million kids in New York’s school system are majority working-class kids. They are our future. An injury to them is an injury to us all. Bloomberg’s education policies alone give us reason to vote him out.

Or here’s another reason: tens of thousands of city workers — some of them among the lowest paid, all of them performing work that is the lifeblood of the city — have been kept hanging for months and years when it comes to contract negotiations. We may not be surprised that a billionaire businessman would run the city that way, but we sure shouldn’t vote for him.

The horrific impact of Hurricane Katrina has thrown into sharp relief the outrageous gap between rich and poor, and the deadly impact of racism. Equally outrageous is that at least some of the severity of this crisis is due to the priorities of the Bush administration, which has cut funding for everything from levee repair in Louisiana to public housing in New York City, and which has squandered billions of dollars waging war in Iraq while giving away more billions in tax cuts to the richest of the rich. These are the folks Mayor Bloomberg invited into our city for their convention last summer.

So, last but not least: New York City should send a message that we reject the prioritizing of war and profiteering over providing for working people’s families, health and jobs. We want New York to be a place that we can live in, send our kids to school in, retire in. Let’s make Bloomberg a one-term mayor and end Republican rule, at least here in our city.

Elena Mora (emora@cpusa.org) is chair of the Communist Party of New York State.

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