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Checks and Balances -- or Just Checks?
February 5th, 2009

Charles de Gaulle famously asked how anyone could govern a nation with 246 varieties of cheese. New Yorkers may not produce much cheese, but speaking 40 languages and eating more than 100 different ethnic cuisines we have long considered ourselves to be similarly argumentative.

Until recently.

In the last six years, public protest in the city has faded and full throated critics of city policies are hard to find. Is it because everything here has become wonderful — that New York is the best of all possible cities?

Errol Louis thinks not.
Writing in today’s Daily News, the columnist says, “[Mayor Michael] Bloomberg’s brand of checkbook politics is rewriting the rules,” silencing many who one would expect to speak out and question city efforts.

Louis is disturbed that Andrea Batista Schlesinger of the Drum Major Institute has gone to work for Bloomberg; “that high-ranking Bloomberg officials made phone calls to nonprofit recipients of city funds during the height of the battle over term limits … with an unspoken financial threat hanging in the background”; that City Council caved on extending term limits and “cannot be expected to mount credible, principled opposition to Bloomberg on any matter of consequence”; and that ministers and civil rights groups have been “wooed with offers of Bloomberg charitable donations.”

From the mayor’s point of view, this has all been a rousing success. But Louis wonders what it means for the city. “Our system assumes City Hall will be analyzed, challenged and checked by robust political competition, fearlessly independent civic advocacy groups and a free press,” Louis said. But today “checks and balances, the pride and genius of American political culture, are out of whack in New York.”

By on February 5, 2009, 2:01 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Electoral Politics | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Checks and Balances -- or Just Checks?”

  1. Administrator Says:
    February 6th, 2009 at 10:28 am

    DMI board member Tom Watson wrote a pretty critical response to Errol Louis’s column on his own blog.

    It is awfully cynical to say that Andrea Batista Schlesinger is obviously just in it for the money, which Lewis does seem to imply, but is it an equally cynical take on politics and the prospects for progress on a middle class agenda to just sign on to what you know is going to be the winning team?

    Still an open question in my mind, though I have too much respect for DMI and Schlesinger to think that she didn’t give a great deal of consideration to the impact her work is likely to have on Bloomberg’s agenda.

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