NEW YORK—If you were to believe the hype, of which there’s no shortage, you would think that this city’s Republican-now-turned-independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has the November elections in the bag.
But how many people actually believe the hype is an open question.
It seems possible that Bloomberg himself may not even believe it. According to the AP, Bloomberg has spent more than $8 million on campaign advertisements already – a lot of money on public relations for a mayor that, after eight years in office, virtually everyone knows.
Though hungry for publicity, critics say, he only wants publicity over which he has direct control.
The Working Families Party, which is based in the labor movement, along with the Amsterdam News and El Diario/La Prensa invited Bloomberg and his likely Democratic opponent, current city Comptroller Bill Thompson, to a public debate.
“They just said they didn’t want to think about debates until the fall,” Dan Levitan, speaking for the WFP, told the World. “If it’s not too early to run seven or eight straight weeks of TV ads, then it shouldn’t be too early to have a real debate.”
Many have suggested that Bloomberg avoids debates because he does poorly in them. In 2005, he used a bomb scare as an excuse to avoid debating then-candidate Fernando Ferrer. Each time he actually did debate Ferrer, however, polls showed a decrease in support for Bloomberg.
After months of a one-sided campaign blitz, Bloomberg’s approval ratings are at 59 percent. While this represents a majority opinion of New Yorkers, it doesn’t bode well for the mayor.
The effects of the mayor’s budget cut proposals have not yet been felt, there are number of simmering issues that are angering New Yorkers – including an 18 percent property tax increase, a water rate increase and a troubled school system. Thompson, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, has not begun to campaign in earnest yet.
While Bloomberg is prepared to spend up to $100 million of his own personal wealth in this election, and therefore has, by far, the financial advantage, this has in itself offended many New Yorkers; many see him as trying to buy the city. People, as well as newspaper editorials, have begun grumbling about being overloaded with the mayor’s material, sometimes receiving several pieces in a single day.
The wealth itself is an issue for the mayor. His riches come from Wall Street, and Bloomberg is part of the elite circle of financiers that that helped bring the United States to its knees economically.
Thompson, who is African American, has been able to secure the backing of both the city’s Black and Latino political establishments, paving the way for unity between two huge sections of the city’s population. And labor has yet to weigh in officially.
“Unfortunately, we have a mayor who would like to privatize the city of New York,” City Council member Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) said at May 17 gathering of labor and civil rights activists in Manhattan. ”He’s definitely anti-labor in a pro-labor town, and so we have to remember that when we go to the polls.”
Faye Moore, president of the 18,000 member Social Service Employees Union Local 371, AFSCME DC 37, which represents the city’s social service employees, echoed James’s sentiment, mentioning that Bloomberg planned layoffs of hundreds of members of her local alone, including “130 people at the housing authority, that worked at community centers that gave poor children and children of working parents a place to be and be safe.”
Even just a few of the city’s biggest unions, with their massive election machinery, hundreds of thousands of members and the potential to put thousands of people in the streets, can change the picture dramatically.
“Michael Bloomberg has declared war on poor people, on children, on unions,” Moore said. “And he thinks he’s going to be mayor again.”
Nothing, it seems, is in the bag.