Yesterday, New York elected a new mayor by a landslide.
The people of New York also elected a new public advocate, a first-ever black woman winning a citywide office.
After twelve years of an anti-poor, anti-middle-class, pro-one-percent, repressive, arrogant, billionaire mayor who bought his last four years bending the law and bribing lawmakers, New York finally said: good riddance, Bloomberg. They said, adios.
New York Times, in an election-night report, reported that when Bloomberg went to cast his own vote, the poll worker asked him, what’s your first name, sir? Maybe, it was true, maybe, it wasn’t. But it is definitely true if you use it as a metaphor. Because Bloomberg did not get to know the real, ordinary, working men, women and families of New York City. He worked with his small group of one percent, and made and changed policies that put more money in the rich’s pocket, and drove the poor and middle class out of the city.
He and his police commissioner policed the ordinary and poor New Yorkers by using their racist stop-and-frisk-those-who-don’t-look-like-me policy, in the name of keeping the city safe. The city was safe not because of the racist policy, but because New Yorkers do not like violence, and have rejected violent crimes long ago. New York City was one of the safest cities of the world even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Even with the many hate crimes committed against the innocent Muslim population of the city, a vast majority of New Yorkers decided hate and bigotry and violence were things of the past.
I’ve lived in New York for many years. And I’ve lived in Brooklyn and worked against post-9/11 hate crimes on immigrants as a grassroots community organizer. I know. I am proud of the ordinary New Yorkers.
Good riddance to Bloomberg because as the newly elected mayor de Blasio said, he has made it a tale of two cities, truly, with pronounced, escalated difference between the haves and havenots. Bloomberg has violently repressed the peaceful protests at Occupy Wall Street. His police has forcibly kicked them out, beat them up mercilessly, sprayed pepper spray on young woman protesters, and unleashed dogs against the young and old alike. Bloomberg’s administration put thousands of nonviolent protesters — who had guts to challenge Wall Street and their trillion-dollar, historic, corporate crimes — in lockups without charges. I know. New York Civil Liberties Union worked hard to free them from unlawful detention.
Bloomberg and his NYPD were responsible for numerous police brutality cases, perhaps one of the highest numbers in the history of the city. We can cite case after case after case. Horrible, unconscionable attacks on poor, young people of color. He also came down heavily on labor strikes, and called union members thugs.
Bloomberg and education czar who now works for far right-wing Rupert Murdoch’s media empire divided up the city on education front: one for the few elite and privileged who can now go to city-funded charter schools and of course private schools and the vast majority of young people who end up in poor, underfunded public schools. Basically, Bloomberg, even though he changed parties from Democratic to Republican to independent just to win elections and bypass campaign contribution laws (so that he can spend billions of his own money to buy elections and lawmakers), he always followed the Reagan-era trickle-down policies where education, health, jobs and other such critical aspects of society trickle down from the top of the economic pyramid, and the poor and middle class scramble for the crumbs thrown at them.
Bloomberg did not do anything to improve the city’s public infrastructure, one that was exemplary not too long ago. Not only the city public schools, but public parks, public roads, public libraries, etc., are all falling apart. Bloomberg did not do anything to make New York City environment-friendly by maximizing effort to build green streets. Or, what he has done is far, far from what he could have done in twelve years.
Bloomberg did not do anything to foster cultural diversity, interracial, inter-religious understanding and tolerance. He won his first elections in the aftermath of the September Eleven tragedies. Yet, he did not do anything significant so that there is an increased, improved climate of peace in the city. I have always wondered, God forbid, what if there is another 9/11? Who is going to protect New York’s innocent poor and minorities?
I hope what I wrote above is not just a repudiation of Bloomberg’s elitist, out-of-touch-with-reality-for-ordinary-people, repressive twelve years. I hope you read it, and I do hope someone from the new mayor Bill de Blasio’s team reads it, to know what we lost in these twelve years, so that they can work to make it all up.
I know the newly elected mayor has always talked about peace, diversity and tolerance. His mixed-race family gives me hope. I have seen him walking down the streets of New York with us, for miles, when we all came out in the bitter February cold of 2003 to protest against an imminent, barbaric genocide in Iraq. I have seen him joining us on our anti-Ashcroft Wall Street demonstrations and rallies. I know he is different. I know he is with us the 99 percent.
My only fear is that with power, he may become another Obama. I pray to God he and his team learn a lesson from Obama’s transformation from pro-99% to pro-1%. If Bill de Blasio wants to be an agent of change that he promised, he better find a team of coworkers who would not be Rahm Emanuels or Larry Summers or Tom Geithners or Eric Holders or Chuck Schumers. He better find people from labor unions and environmental groups and women’s organizations and civil rights and liberties activists and proven, student-friendly teachers.
Then, he can really be the agent of change that he promised to be.
Let us know if we can help you, Bill.
Still hoping and dreaming for a better tomorrow,
Brooklyn, New York