Gosh, who on the other side of the Hudson does that remind me of?Mayor Bloomberg is a busy man. When he leaves City Hall, he’s often in a rush and rarely stops to chat to the ever-present protesters on the City Hall steps.But Bloomberg broke with his usual practice today when education activist Leonie Haimson – the director of Class Size Matters and a frequent flyer on the City Hall steps – hurled a protest slogan at Hizzoner as he headed out for a press conference in the Bronx.“Don’t balance the budget on the backs of our children!” Haimson shouted.Instead of continuing toward his waiting car, the mayor stopped, turned and went over to talk to Haimson, who was standing with a few other activists after a rally of parents, union leaders and elected officials opposed to education budget cuts.Here’s how Haimson described what happened next:“He comes running over to me and starts lecturing us about how the federal government has cut them ‘x’ number of dollars and the state has now cut them ‘x’ amount of dollars and what do you expect me to do? So we said, first of all, ‘there is going to be a $3 billion budget surplus this year and rather than roll it over, you need to spend it on what’s important, which is our kids.’ And then he tried to say ‘we don’t have a surplus.’ And I said ‘yes, you do have a surplus’ and he said, ‘look, we rolled over last year’s surplus and we wouldn’t be able to balance the budget this year unless we rolled that over so we need to roll it over for next year’ and I said ‘that’s not good policy. You need to spend it now. Our kids are suffering and if you need to raise taxes on the city level for millionaires, that’s what you should be doing.’ He said ‘oh, talk to the state legislature.’ I said, ‘yeah, but you have to go and ask the state legislature to do that.’ He said ‘I’ve been up to Albany.’ I said ‘not to do that. You never asked them if this city could raise taxes on millionaires. In fact, you’ve been opposed to that.”Haimson says she’s protested on the City Hall steps probably 100 times in her life. Today’s exchange with Bloomberg was the second time she succeeded in getting the mayor to stop and talk – the last time was shortly after Bloomberg took office in 2002.“Usually, he keeps walking,” Haimson said. “I was surprised that he came over this time.”But she doesn’t consider this a victory for her cause.“I don’t think he was listening. I don’t think he listens to New York City residents. I think he wants to lecture us all the time. And tell us that he knows better. He knows what’s better for our kids. He knows what’s better for the city and I can tell you that New Yorkers are not taking it any more. His popularity is at an eight-year low and it’s going down the toilet, and he better start listening to New Yorkers, or else this man is going to leave a very sad legacy for this city.”
All the more reason to raise taxes on the people who have all the money, you tool.UPDATE: Marc LaVorgna of the Bloomberg press shop sent over the following response."We appreciate her passion, but we wish she would extend that passion to learning the basic facts as well. As the Mayor tried to explain to her, EVERY dollar of extra money we saved this year is being spent in next year's budget, and even with those dollars being fully spent, we are forced to have layoffs next year due to State budget cuts."The City Comptroller, the Independent Budget Office and the State Financial Control board all agree -- we don't have extra money and that we now in fact have a deficit, and need additional savings on top of the cuts already announced."
NJ, there is a lesson to be learned here from Leonie: she has been relentless. You have to keep confronting these people over and over and over again, because that's how you eventually hold them accountable. They can't back away from their disasters when you force them to take authorship of their awful policies.
Bloomberg is reaping the twisted weeds he has sown over the past few years in a harvest of withered approval ratings (how's that for a tortured metaphor?). People like Leonie have been setting this up for a long time.
We have to do the same with Christie. He is doomed to fail because his plans are ridiculous or corrupt or both. We need to make sure he owns that failure so we can show him the door as quickly as possible.
So, confront him often. Too bad he's such a wimp he lives in a bubble of favorable media and staged town halls. It's tough to pierce, but it must be done.