Chutzpah at City Hall

Mayor Bloomberg is acting out again.

Mayor Bloomberg is acting out again.

This time, in defiance of the City Council, the mayor says he has no plans to send out $400 rebate checks to homeowners.

There's a time-honored New York word that well characterizes his action or, rather, inaction. That word is chutzpah.

He is well endowed with that trait but, when it comes to sensitivity or compassion for fellow New Yorkers, he sometimes acts like he doesn't care.

Thus, Mayor Bloomberg tells City Hall reporters that the rebates were “up in the air.” When reporters tried to nail down the mayor on what he meant, he replied: “I just answered your question. You just don't want the answer.”

Thousands of homeowners, who hoped to use that rebate for buying gifts or paying bills, would like the answer. And they are looking for positive words, not sarcasm.

One councilman, Lewis Fidler of Brooklyn, said: “It's the height of arrogance and insensitivity.”

He said Bloomberg had a “let them eat cake” attitude toward homeowners. Those words were first uttered by a French queen, Marie Antoinette, when she was told that the French people had no bread to eat.  She was ultimately guillotined amid the hysteria of the French Revolution.

Mayor Bloomberg has some strange ways.

While he has contributed many millions of dollars to charity, he often seems profoundly insensitive to the people who elected him. He has argued that, in view of the city's critical financial condition, City Hall can't afford to send out the money. But it's not what he says but the way he says it that mystifies some politicians.

Thus, asked about New Yorkers complaining about crowded subway trains, Bloomberg urged them to stop “griping,” and advised: “So you stand next to people. Get real. This is New York.”  And, as the Times noted, after revealing that the city was trying to turn the thermostats down in public buildings to save money, he said: “Wear a sweater if you're chilly.”

A civil rights lawyer, Richard Emery, said: “The pattern of Bloomberg arrogance is reaching frightening proportions.”

A mayoral spokesman denied that the mayor didn't want to send the rebates, saying: “Nobody wants to send money more than he does. The question is how are we going to pay for them, when we already proposed eliminating a Police Academy class and reducing hours overnight at certain firehouses.”

In the term limits controversy, the mayor reversed his own position so he could run next year for a third term. He is obviously ready to bend his opinions to suit his own ambitions.

A day after his scathing remarks, the mayor seemed to soften his tone when he said, "There's nobody who would like to send a check to every homeowner in this city more than me."

He sounded more reasonable, but that's not totally convincing.

If he hopes to get elected to a third term, he might remember Lord Acton's admonition: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

No one is accusing the mayor of financial corruption. But, if one of the qualities an ideal mayor needs is compassion -- an ability to empathize with his constituents -- Bloomberg may not pass the test. He has corrupted the ideal.

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