Mayor Bloomberg has a vision and the money to enact it. Or our Neo-Liberal distopian future awaits, an essay by Almost Marx

Michael Barbaro reports in the December 14, 2013 edition of the New York Times, in a story titled Bloomberg Focuses on Rest (as in Rest of the World), on the future plans of Mayor Bloomberg. Call Mr. Barbero’s essay a public relations piece, a parting gift from the Times to Mayor. The opening sentence is instructive:

Michael R. Bloomberg, determined to parlay his government experience and vast fortune into a kind of global mayoralty, is creating a high-powered consulting group to help him reshape cities around the world long after he leaves office.

The Mayor has the money and the vision to alter urban municipalities into what?

For Mr. Bloomberg, the project is the first concrete phase of a post-mayoral life that aides said would remain intensely focused on cities, long viewed by him as laboratories for large-scale experiments in public health, economic development and environmental sustainability.Above all, the new endeavor reflects a profound confidence — never in short supply with this mayor — that it would behoove dozens of municipalities to replicate the ideas that defined his tenure: turning busy roads into pedestrian plazas, posting calorie counts in fast-food chains, creating a customer-service hotline for citizens.

The Mayor has what one might call a utopian conception for the future of urban municipalities, and the interventions his group will make:

The organization, to be called Bloomberg Associates, will act as an urban SWAT team, deployed at the invitation of local governments to solve knotty, long-term challenges, like turning a blighted waterfront into a gleaming public space, or building subway-friendly residential neighborhoods.In a twist on the traditional business model of consulting, clients will not be charged.

‘Urban SWAT team’ has the utterly negative connotation of brute force, of unchecked police power, the last resort in fighting violent crime and criminals. Should we make a connection between this founding attitude of the Mayor’s post mayoral plans , unmentioned in Mr.Barbaro’s reporting, but glaring failure in the tactic known as ‘Stop and Frisk’? One need only consult a story in BloombergBusiness of May 21, 2013 titled NYPD’S Low Arrest Rate From Stop-and-Frisk Troubles U.S. Judge:

A federal judge told a lawyer for New York City she was troubled by the number of stops police made that failed to result in arrests, summonses or seizure of illegal weapons.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan yesterday asked the lawyer about data showing that 90 percent of people stopped and questioned or frisked by city police aren’t found to have done anything illegal.

“What troubles me is the fact that the suspicion seems to be wrong 90 percent of the time,” Scheindlin said during the city’s closing argument at a trial challenging the so-called stop-and-frisk policy. “That’s a high error rate.”

Judge Shira Scheindlin has since been removed from the case by a three judge panel. But here is a New York Times story that offers some insight: Federal Panel Softens Tone on Judge It Removed From Stop-and-Frisk Case by Benjamin Weiser and Joseph Goldstein of November 13,2013. I quote at length because the issue is important as it reflects the power of Judge Scheindlin’s finding to legitimately call into legal question the illegality of Stop and Frisk. And of the power of Mayor Bloomberg and his judicial allies to influence legal opinion:

A federal appeals panel in Manhattan that had abruptly removed Judge Shira A. Scheindlin from New York City’s high-profile stop-and-frisk litigation and questioned her conduct in the case issued a lengthy explanation on Wednesday, saying it had made “no findings of misconduct, actual bias or actual partiality” by the judge.

The three-judge panel’s Oct. 31 order has been the subject of pointed debate among judges, lawyers and others, and the statement on Wednesday appeared to be an effort to soften the tone of the original ruling, if not its import. The new opinion was another turn in the stop-and-frisk litigation, in which Judge Scheindlin issued a landmark decision in August imposing sweeping changes on the Police Department, including the appointment of a monitor.

That decision and the remedies the judge ordered were stayed by the panel’s Oct. 31 decision, and the new ruling, by the same panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, does not lift that stay. That means Judge Scheindlin’s rulings remain blocked unless, for example, the city’s appeal is withdrawn, a step Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has promised to take after he is sworn in on Jan. 1.

But in the opinion issued late Wednesday, the three-judge panel seemed eager to explain its terse Oct. 31 order, in which it bluntly declared that Judge Scheindlin “ran afoul” of the judicial code of conduct by appearing to steer the stop-and-frisk litigation to her docket in 2007 and by giving press interviews while the case was pending. The judge’s actions had compromised “the appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation,” the panel had said.

The tone of the new opinion is completely different. It describes Judge Scheindlin as “a long-serving and distinguished jurist.” It notes that the earlier order had referred to the judicial code of conduct. “We now clarify that we did not intend to imply in our previous order that Judge Scheindlin engaged in misconduct,” the panel said.

The panel did not back away from its earlier conclusion that certain actions by the judge related to how the stop-and-frisk lawsuit ended up before her would lead “a reasonable observer” to “conclude that the appearance of impartiality had been compromised.” Those actions, combined with her press statements, the panel said, could lead such an observer to “question the impartiality of the judge.”

But the panel, made up of Judges John M. Walker Jr., José A. Cabranes and Barrington D. Parker Jr., reiterated, “We do not find that there was any judicial misconduct or violation of any ethical duty.”

Michael A. Cardozo, the corporation counsel and the city’s top lawyer, said in a statement Wednesday, “The Court’s ruling removing Judge Scheindlin from the case was correct.”

Burt Neuborne, a law professor at New York University who has sought to represent Judge Scheindlin before the appeals court, said of the new order: “Her reputation is vindicated. They spoke to her as a colleague and not as a disciplinarian.”

In a separate development, the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, is expected to release a report Thursday examining 150,000 arrests that the New York Police Department made that began as stop-and-frisk encounters between 2009 and 2012.

The report is one of the first to examine in detail how arrests connected with police stops fare in the courts. About 6 percent of such stops by the police result in an arrest, and of those cases, only about half ended with a person being found guilty in court, the report found.

Most of the convictions were for drug cases or minor quality-of-life violations and misdemeanors, the report says, while about 8 percent were for violent crimes or weapons possession.

The Police Department has defended stop-and-frisk tactics as critical to its efforts to remove guns from the street.

The report, which was provided to The New York Times, said that its findings deserved “consideration in the broader discussion of the efficacy of stop and frisk as a law enforcement tool.”

One finding relates to the difference in conviction rates for black and white New Yorkers charged with marijuana possession. Blacks who are charged with marijuana possession are far more likely to be found guilty in court than whites, according to the study.

Mayor Bloomberg reputations as a ‘successful’ mayor is in the safe hands of The New York Times and Mr. Michael Barbaro. But here is a quote that deserves emphasis:

Burt Neuborne, a law professor at New York University who has sought to represent Judge Scheindlin before the appeals court, said of the new order: “Her reputation is vindicated. They spoke to her as a colleague and not as a disciplinarian.”

Mayor Bloomberg has been a failure in addressing the pressing issues of crime, race and the heavy handed treatment of Occupy Wall Street. He is in sum an authoritarian except in the pages of The Paper of Record. The idea that Mayor Bloomberg has something to teach other cities, except by the example of failure, is political fiction.

Almost Marx

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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