Bloomberg Explains Axing Commissioners, Raising Taxes and Being Polite to Bill Thompson

At a Crain’s breakfast at the Sheraton this morning, Michael Bloomberg expanded on his comments about wanting to change commissioners in his third term.

“[I]t’s very difficult to walk in, look a commissioner in the eye and say, ‘You know, you have done great things, you’ve worked hard, you’ve done everything we’ve asked you. But it’s time to go.’ But that is what you have to do,” said Bloomberg. “That’s what management is all about.”

“If we were to replace 15 out of 40, you know, that’s not an unreasonable amount of turnover after eight years,” Bloomberg said.

The only commissioner he mentioned by name was John Mattingly, at the Administration for Children Services, whom the mayor said was doing well, despite the enormous challenges.

On the issue of taxes, Bloomberg was asked about why he hit his opponent, Bill Thompson, for flip-flopping on wanting a millionaire’s tax during an earlier speech Crain’s hosted, when Bloomberg himself did something similar.

“You know, it’s almost eight years to the day that you came to this forum and promised not to raise taxes in the aftermath of September 11th, and then pushed through the largest real estate property tax in the history of the city,” said Crain’s editor Greg David. “And in addition, you raised the real estate tax [and] the sales tax. I mean, it sounds like the pot is calling the kettle black here.”

“No, I don’t think so,” replied Bloomberg. “Nobody can ever promise for sure that they can’t raise taxes.” Bloomberg went to say that in his “heart of hearts” he believes the city can get through the next fiscal year without raising taxes.

Later, Bloomberg walked away from the praise he had heaped onto his Democratic rival during a speech a 2007 speech at Tufts, when the mayor said Thompson—a Tufts alum—may go down as one of the best comptroller’s in the city’s history.

During the campaign, Bloomberg has accused Thompson of steering pension fund money to people that contributed to his campaigns, resulting in a pension fund that underperformed expectations.

At the Crain’s event this morning, Bloomberg said the praise he gave Thompson during that Tufts speech was pro forma.

“I don’t apologize for being polite,” Bloomberg told the audience at Crain’s, to some laughter. Then, he explained the remarks at Tufts was “a commencement speech. What do you expect me to say?”