According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approval rating is at its lowest level in eight years. Only 39 percent of New York City residents believe the mayor’s performance is satisfactory, compared with 51 percent who do not. The mayor’s lowest approval rating prior to that came in July 2003, at a time when he raised property taxes and introduced a smoking ban.
While it was fair to blame unpopular decisions for the poor approval ratings back then, last month’s poll numbers are motivated by a confluence of bad decisions, miscalculations and poor management. We should keep in mind that, for starters, this is the mayor’s third term in a city where our NBA team gets rid of its head coach every couple of years or so. New Yorkers may simply be bored of their billionaire leader and hungry for change.
About that third-term business: In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg put a bill to the City Council that would extend mayoral term limits. The bill passed with a 28-22 vote, with one member abstaining. It now appears that many New Yorkers are resentful of the mayor’s self-serving exploitation of the Council. Or the mayor may just be suffering from a case of the third-term doldrums, as the New York Daily News hinted as early as January.
Then came the blizzard. During the Christmas weekend in 2010, the city was covered with a record volume of snow. Buses, emergency vehicles and sanitation trucks were buried under mountains of the stuff, as was most of the city. Residents of the outer boroughs, especially, complained about the Sanitation Department’s slow response, or lack thereof. Local news channels interviewed elderly and sick New Yorkers who were rendered homebound because of blankets of snow covering their streets.
The mayor’s initial response was dismissive, saying in essence that he’s doing the best he can. He later apologized and promised that every street would be plowed at least once. The mayor went so far as to visit a number of locations in the outer boroughs hit hardest by the Department of Sanitation’s inefficiency.
The Huffington Post pointed out that there is evidence in the latest Quinnipiac poll that outer borough residents are less happy with the mayor than are residents of Manhattan. Seventy percent of respondents believe the mayor favors Manhattan over other boroughs. While 51 percent of respondents in Manhattan gave the mayor the thumbs-up, only 27 percent of Staten Islanders like the mayor.
Mayor Bloomberg’s most baffling decision came on Nov. 11, when he announced the appointment of former magazine publisher Cathie Black to the position of schools chancellor. She has no previous experience as a public school educator or administrator. But Black, the mayor argued, has plenty of business experience that would be helpful in running the city’s schools.
Black’s tenure was short-lived. On April 7, the New York Post reported that Cathie Black had resigned as schools chancellor after only 96 days on the job. Her abrupt exit most likely came as no surprise to educators and parents in the New York City school system. Shortly after the mayor announced her appointment, parents vowed to challenge her credentials.
Black’s short tenure as chancellor was marked by a confrontational attitude and lack of rapport with parents. During a town hall meeting with parents in Manhattan, Black jokingly suggested birth control as a solution to school overcrowding. At a meeting with parents in Brooklyn, Black was roundly booed. Her response was to mock and scold the parents . Weeks before her resignation, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing that Black’s approval rating stood at a meager 17 percent.
It is, of course, difficult to deconstruct poll numbers. There’s no way to tell whether Mayor Bloomberg’s low ratings stem from his administration’s abysmal response to this winter’s snow storms or from the Cathie Black appointment, or from both. New Yorkers may have just gotten tired to seeing the same old face at City Hall press conferences. One thing is clear: Michael Bloomberg is probably wishing he’d never dug in for a third term.
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