Being mayor is sort of a tricky job. People want government to stay out of their way so that they can conduct business unimpeded by regulations. Then, when an emergency hits, they are expected to marshal all of the forces at their disposal to eliminate or, at least, to mitigate the problem. This week, mayors of two different cities exemplify how different responses may affect long-term destinies.
As the Mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg has watched his faint presidential prospects drift away in this week’s snowstorm. Bloomberg, as we all know, is the owner of a vast media entertainment and financial empire. As such, those in the media world who seek his approval have referred to him as Mayor Mike and avidly and eagerly supported his political ambitions. However, this week may have shattered his dim hopes.
Bloomberg advised the people of NYC to keep their cars off of the streets, take public transportation, and permit snowplows and emergency crews to clear the roads as quickly as possible. However, the city was ill-prepared to deal with an emergency like this; buses have crashed and blocked streets, there are videos of tow trucks towing snow plow equipment out of drifts, and he apparently decided to concentrate most of snow removal on Manhattan, allowing the rest of the city to weather the storm alone. As criticism from the public mounted, he responded petulantly that ‘The world has not come to an end.’
Not far away, the Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, has seen his fortunes go in the opposite direction. He has encouraged residents to use different social media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, for people to notify city departments of problems; sometimes, he has gotten involved himself. The people contacted him, and he responded by personally sending crews to different areas of the city and by doing things like shoveling snow himself to clear trapped cars. When a person told him that she couldn’t get out of her home to buy diapers, he showed up an hour later with the diapers.
Booker has shown himself, at least in this case, to be the prototype of a modern politician, using 21st century communications and a hands-on policy to show the residents that he is available and willing to help them. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him eventually seek either a statewide office, or migrate to DC. Bloomberg, on the other hand, might have to spend another $100 million or so just to rejuvenate his reputation after this debacle.