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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bloomberg seeks to end progressive reforms by Louis Flores

Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Goldsmith want to unwind Tammany Hall reforms.
Bloomberg, Tammany Hall, Progressive Politics, Political Reform, Integrity in Government, Public
Service, Thomas Nast, Suzannah B. Troy, muckrakers
At a July 20, 2010 breakfast meeting, Stephen Goldsmith, the new Deputy Mayor of New York City,
was compared to Jane Jacobs for the way he applied ''urban renewal'' to Indianapolis. Now that
he is in New York City, Mr. Goldsmith has joined forces with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to
transform New York City.

In the presence of political reporters Erik Engquist and Michael Scotto, the new deputy
mayor described his political beliefs, which serve to underpin his worldview and approach to

Mr. Goldsmith said that a progressive form of government developed post-Tammany Hall, and Mr.
Goldsmith credited progressive reforms with professionalizing the way that cities work. He said that
we don't hire ''buddies'' anymore. Neither do we award government contracts in ways that would be
questioned, he said.

But now, Mr. Goldsmith said, all the rules that made government free of corruption have worked to make  government more complex. He cited as an example that all these rules create a lack of authority in the city, where government leaders need permission from another level of bureaucrats before efficiency
could be brought to the way the city government could be run. He seemed to say that the believed that
the rule-based system needed to be changed, so that city employees could be ''liberated,'' and that
this would result in civil workers being able to be creative while also being held accountable.
The way that he sees things, Mr. Goldsmith said, public service used to attract people, who were
interested in helping the public. Instead, he said, public service is only about enforcing the

To Mr. Goldsmith, rules may be problematic to the kinds of changes he envisions bringing to New York
City government, but rules have a reason for being : they are needed, because people are apt to have
lapses in integrity. Anytime that politicians have an opportunity to privitise government services,
there is a temptation to award government contracts to their well-connected friends or political

The model of how he privatised government services while he was mayor of Indianapolis would be
difficult to do here, in New York City, because he believes that the progressive rules in New York
City give no discretion to the city's workers.

According to Wikipedia, '' Keeping corruption out of politics was a main goal of the progressive
, with many Progressives trying to expose and undercut political machines and bosses. ''
To be fair to Mr. Goldsmith, his opinions about reforming the rules that govern city employees extend
to ''unlocking'' the potential of existing city workforce. He said he believes that progressive era
rules were set because one could not trust the discretion (or judgment) of government employees. But
once you begin to give higher level government employees discretion, one very quickly creates a
situation, where political leaders begin to misuse that discretion. Political bosses are often
associated with dishonesty, self-dealing, conflicts of interest, profiteering from government, and
other forms of corruption.

Take, for example, the way that Mayor Bloomberg came to win a third term as mayor.
Before the end of his second, and what should have been his last, term, Mayor Bloomberg advocated for
an extension of term limits, which would have resulted in the possibility that could have campaigned
for a third term as mayor. With help from the City Council and a secret deal with Ronald Lauder, Mayor Bloomberg won the change in term limits by denying voters a referendum on the matter. What they mayor did was rely on the discretion of the City Council to change the law governing term limits. Last year, Mayor Bloomberg won a third term after having reported that he had spent approximately $109 million only to win by an unexpectedly slim margin of less than 5 per cent.

To get the kind of governance structure that the mayor wants, the CityPragmatist blog has reported
that there is a current movement by the 2010 Charter Revision Commission to increase the mayor's discretion over city agency reports. The increase of the mayor's discretion would come at the cost of City Council's ability to review and “extend or enhance” any city agency report.

Research and history published on Wikipedia also indicated that the reforms of the progressive era
brought more transparency to government. ''Progressives moved to enable the citizenry to rule more
directly and circumvent political bosses; California, Wisconsin, and Oregon took the lead. California
governor Hiram Johnson established the initiative, referendum, and recall,
viewing them as good influences for citizen participation ....''

What were the motives of City Council members,
who supported Mayor Bloomberg's extension of
term limits ?

Artist and social media commentator Suzannah B. Troy was also present to witness Mr.
Goldsmith's speech at his July 20, 2010 breakfast meeting. She has described the vote by City Council
to allow an extension of term limits a conflict of interest, because the same extension of terms
limits allowed many council members to run for, and win, a term, including Council Speaker
Christine Quinn.

Going back to the history about past political corruption in New York City, the the term ''Tammany Hall'' is "used to refer to a corrupt system of buying or
controlling votes."
And respected political reporter Gabe Pressman has described how the influence of money can corrupt politics.
"Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg of his ideal of a government of the people, by the
people and for the people. He didn’t mean government of the fat cats and by the fat cats. With all due
respect to the feline family -- and I happen to love cats -- Lincoln was an apostle of democracy in a
purer sense. ¶ The machinations of millionaires and billionaires are foreign to what he believed. The
lack of strict laws governing campaign expenditures continues to be a disgrace to our


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