Bloomberg Blinks

Few Mayors have been confronted with the kinds of challenges that faced the newly elected Michael Bloomberg in January 2002. The city still was in shock after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The economy already was sagging before 9/11; fiscal affairs would only worsen in the months that followed.

It was time for bold actions, a time when the common good required tough decisions from a man who had never held elective office before. Mr. Bloomberg made those tough decisions. One of them was the regrettable but necessary 18.5 percent increase in property taxes. Needless to say, the tax hike didn’t make many friends for the Mayor, but it was the right thing to do. There was every reason to believe that voters would come to see it the Mayor’s way by next year, when Mr. Bloomberg is up for re-election.

But the Mayor has turned tail and fled. He isn’t going to fight the good fight. Instead, he has announced with much fanfare that he is going to

offer property-tax rebates leading into next year’s election. Homeowners will be getting $400 checks in the mail. Hooray!

What an unfortunate turn of events. The Mayor’s move is completely transparent-like many a workaday politician, Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy votes. And the tab will be expensive. The city will lose $250 million in needed revenues as a result of the Mayor’s giveaway. The city needs money for cops, schools, clean streets and to pay down its debt. How will the Mayor make up for that loss?

In exchange for a shot of popular good will, Mr. Bloomberg has damaged his own arguments for increased aid from Washington and Albany. The city is not a popular place in either capital, and New York’s enemies will say-with some justification-that if the Mayor is giving away $250 million, why should they grant his requests for more aid?

It would seem that Mr. Bloomberg has decided to follow the lead of George W. Bush, whose reckless fiscal policies are responsible for huge deficits. That’s not the Michael Bloomberg who ran for office in 2001. The Mayor should reassert himself. He should make sure that this bad deal goes down as an aberration, rather than the beginning of a dangerous pattern of pandering.

‘What Am I Supposed to Know About Taxes?’-The Reverend Al Sharpton

Having spent his entire career as a charlatan, with a history of unpaid taxes, questionable finances and a penchant for encouraging anti-Semitism, one might have thought Al Sharpton would have cleaned up his act in his current bid for President-at least for the sake of public appearance. But as The New York Times reported recently on its front page, Mr. Sharpton’s campaign finances are-yet again-evidence of a slick

operator who thinks he is above the law, a tax evader who plays the race card whenever anyone dares call attention to his greedy narcissism.

The Times reports that Mr. Sharpton’s recent campaign report is filled with “potential violations,” some of which may be illegal, such as not reporting the use of free cars. And while most candidates choose to stay in budget hotels, Mr. Sharpton’s campaign has spent thousands of dollars so he can sleep in luxury: over $7,000 for three days at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles; over $3,000 for one night for himself and a few aides at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. The Times also notes that Mr. Sharpton’s campaign is paying thousands of dollars in airfare and hotels so that his personal filmmaker, Eddie Harris, can document his every move. Mr. Sharpton is a smooth talker who has mastered the one-liner, but his appetite for luxury hotels and limousines is not matched by a capacity to pay bills. Needless to say, the Federal Election Commission finds all of this quite interesting.

Aside from the obvious hubris, Mr. Sharpton’s choice of hotels also indicates plain old stupidity: His campaign is struggling to raise money and has yet to qualify for federal matching funds. To blow thousands of dollars on fancy hotel rooms is not the act of a man who takes his own

candidacy seriously, but rather the behavior of a man who’s using a fake campaign to get publicity and soak up perks.

Again, no one should be surprised. Mr. Sharpton is currently being audited by the I.R.S.-that auditor will surely deserve a medal-and the history of his National Action Network is a case study in chicanery. The network owes money in unpaid debts all over town-$30,000 to 1-800-Limo-Center, $16,000 for a conference at the Millennium Hotel, $15,000 to New York State for unpaid unemployment insurance. Mr. Sharpton’s entertainment-promotion company, Raw Talent Inc., was disbanded in 2002 for not paying taxes for a nine-year period. Of course, having himself been indicted for tax fraud, Mr. Sharpton can’t be expected to hold his companies to a higher standard. And wasn’t it just the damnedest thing when some of his financial records were destroyed in that fire a while back?

But on the campaign trail, Mr. Sharpton-who has actually compared himself to Nelson Mandela-has cowed the politically correct journalist pack. Why has no one asked him to repudiate the hate-filled messages of Louis Farrakhan? Why has he not been asked why he’s never distanced himself from the late Khalid Muhammad, who called Jewish people “the bloodsuckers of the black community”?

Fortunately, despite his racial grandstanding, Mr. Sharpton does not speak for black America. Congressman Charles Rangel has endorsed Wesley Clark; City Councilman Bill Perkins has endorsed Howard Dean, as have other prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus like Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. Only in his own mind does Al Sharpton stand for something.

The Best Place to Retire

New York has always been regarded as the best place to work in the world. But when the time comes to retire, the conventional wisdom has said to head south, to warmer climes and greener fairways. But the secret is getting out: New York is a terrific place to retire. As Janet Hays writes in her book, Retire in New York City-Even If You’re Not Rich , the city is almost tailor-made for the retiree.

No mindless condo life in Boca or Pinehurst for us, the senses dulled by air-conditioning and dinner theater. In New York, a retiree can actually live a full, intellectually stimulating life. Museums, concerts, Broadway-all discounted for those over 65!-not to mention restaurants where you can eat dinner later than 5 p.m. And of course you don’t need a car, elevators obviate the need for stairs, grocery stores deliver, and the world’s best doctors are just a taxi ride away. Most importantly, you’re surrounded by friends and former colleagues, smart people who wouldn’t dream of allowing their golden years to become one long golf game.

For those who want to fade away, Florida is swell. For those who find nothing as relaxing as a good fight over the tomatoes at Fairway, New York will allow you to grow old gracefully.