NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 27: A man uses a snowblower to clear snow from the sidewalk on West 34th Street following a major blizzard on December 27, 2010 in New York City. A massive snowstorm crippled much of the Northeastern United States leaving up to a foot of snow for New York City and New England and left millions of holiday travelers stuck at airports and train stations around the eastern seaboard. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
There was a missing person when the New York City Council conducted its hearing on the city’s failures in the December blizzard. That missing person was Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
If it was the mayor’s intention to deflect the blame from himself to some of his key subordinates, he didn’t succeed. Everything that transpired at the hearing cried out for his presence.
The Mayor had apologized previously [in a perfunctory way] for the city’s performance in the blizzard --but he refused to face the music when the City Council, meeting its responsibility to oversee the actions of the executive branch of government, convened to closely question the performance of the city administration.
In the five-hour hearing, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith admitted there were “a lot of mistakes made” during the storm. He announced a 15-point plan for the future. He admitted the city should have declared a state of emergency, which would have given officials authority to clear parked cars from streets.
Goldsmith, the former Mayor of Indianapolis, who joined the administration here last year, admitted the city should have declared a state of emergency. Why didn’t that happen? Because two lower level officials,
the sanitation and transportation commissioners, decided it was not necessary. Both Goldsmith and Mayor Bloomberg were out of town but each has refused to reveal where he was on this holiday weekend.
The mayor has bristled over reporters questioning his whereabouts on a weekend. He insists he’s entitled to his own private life the same as anyone else. But he isn’t. He spent many millions to get and keep this job and it requires him to be available every day in the year and not to hide his whereabouts from the people who elected him.
A Times reporter, Michael Barbaro, unraveled the mystery of the Mayor’s whereabouts during the blizzard. He was at his vacation home in Bermuda. Hardly surprising. He flies down there frequently. But Bloomberg treats that information as a state secret.
Susan Lerner of Common Cause told me she applauded the mayor’s aides for admitting that City Hall made mistakes. But she said it was “outrageous that it wasn’t clear who was in charge. Here we have a world-class billionaire managing the city and obviously he wasn’t informed about what was going on.”
Goldsmith took responsibility for not keeping the mayor informed about progress in snow removal.
But the mayor, who at first advised New Yorkers not to get too anxious about the storm, to get on with their lives and even take in a Broadway show, obviously had it wrong. To his credit, he does have people working for him who are loyal. His commissioners fell on their swords obediently at the Council hearing.
Yet there was one man missing and he should have been there.