2004-12-09 / View From the Middle

Mayor Turns Out Not To Be A Scrooge Anymore

I can’t say I don’t think he’s an enigma, this mayor of ours. Nor would I deny that Michael Bloomberg, billionaire and elected leader of the greatest city in the world isn’t a puzzle to many, even though he’s now been around for awhile and has indeed made his mark on eight million people....and then some.

I used to despise the guy, he with the arrogance that comes with having a lot of money and owning a virtual empire that — whaddya know? — tells people how to handle their money. One of the main reasons for my original dislike was an expression he used when someone not acquainted to his style of coping with problems, and having trouble with them, would confront him.

“How will I do this?” the confused or disillusioned person would ask, essentially stating that he or she was not used to a certain mode of life. The answer from Bloomberg has become a classic: “You’ll have to learn to live with it.”

I think now, however, that I haven’t heard Michael Bloomberg use that expression in a long while. Has he become mellower? Or has he just learned another way to handle people — a gentler, better-for-public-relations way?

What sparks this feeling lately is a series of apparent good deeds — or at least deeds that bring him to the level of the common, not billionaire-type person. We know he’s going to run for office again next year and, of course, that becomes, perhaps, a basis of reason for his late good nature. But, now that he’s been in office for three years, he seems to have a handle on some of the subtleties of it, certainly much better than at first (That public relations thing is important after all!).

A case in point is his recent visit to the nearby Christian Cultural Center, where, yes, he spoke of some of the good points of his record as mayor, but where he wasn’t expected to appear at all. There was no fanfare, no pre-announcement that he’d be there. He just was. And the congregants liked him, according to reports, allowing him to expound on his personal values. Sure it was campaign-ish, but, hey, I’m not offended, as long as he keeps on the right track. The offended ones would be those who might be in contention for the mayoral seat in the next election, such as Congressman Anthony Weiner and City Council President Gifford Miller and...who knows who else?

Along the public relations trail, Bloomberg recently did an interview with KISS-FM where he had the audience and interviewers laughing as he gave answers to relatively personal questions, but all with a keen sense of humor, allowing the public to

see and hear his more affable side.

Another facet that has won me over is, frankly, his altruistic efforts around town, such as the recent one on behalf of the reopening of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Hey, the guy’s a billionaire. He doesn’t skirt the subject (his salary as mayor is $1 a year), but he doesn’t flaunt it either. He has been known to give literally millions to many arts-related and other causes.

When the Dance Theatre of Harlem had to close a couple of months ago (after having been in operation for 35 years) because they ran out of money, they sent out a plea for funding and were astounded at the response, which came to about $1.6 million, allowing them to reopen last weekend. Without fanfare, a donation of $500,000 came from a contributor who wished to remain “anonymous.” Credible sources eventually traced it to, you guessed it, Michael Bloomberg.

I like that and I can certainly learn to live with it.

View From

The Middle

By Charles Rogers

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