Point of View: Position Papers

Bloomberg Gets a “C”–For “Clueless” On Civil Rights
February 24, 2003

The New York Civil Rights Coalition has issued a report highly critical of Mayor Bloomberg?s record to date on race relations and civil rights. The New York Civil Rights Coalition charges that Mayor Bloomberg has squandered the modest vote of confidence? he received from minority voters because his policies in the field of race relations and civil rights have not been visionary or compassionate. Using such harsh words as ?high handed, “arrogant,? ?snobbish,? and ?clueless,? the report depicts Mayor Bloomberg as so enamored with himself and ostentatious with his wealth that he displays ?utter contempt for the poor.?

The civil rights group?s evaluative report, written by its executive director Michael Meyers, is in six sections??Bloomberg and Racial Demagogues;? ?Bloomberg Doesn?t Brook Dissenting Voices in Government;? ?Police Misconduct and Spying on Citizens;? ?Bloomberg Shows Contempt for the Poor;? ?The Mayor?s Questionable Appointments;? and ?The City?s Rudderless and Invisible Human Rights Commission.? The report is unsparing in its criticism of Bloomberg, his staff and advisers, and of public officials and civic groups that have been silent in the face of what it describes as Mayor Bloomberg?s mean-spiritedness towards his critics and Bloomberg?s ?callousness? towards the poor and powerless.

Here follows some excerpts from the New York Civil Rights Coalition?s report:

* ?Mayor Bloomberg surrounds himself with a rainbow of advisors and sycophants, they who either work for the city on pain of dismissal at his whim or are charity blokes who, like poverty pimps of the 1960?s, enjoy the treasures and trappings of the Mayor?s enormous personal wealth. No ethics panels have challenged the use of his fortune…[to] wine and dine decision makers for the public interest. Rather, this crass and conspicuous use of his wealth is celebrated by the media or overlooked by good government groups??

* ?…Mayor Bloomberg?displays utter disdain for dissenters in government?threatening to fire any government employees? as lowly as janitors ?who leak information to the media??

* ??So contemptuous of open discourse in government is this mayor that at the ?ceremony at which he introduced his choices for the Panel on Education (the replacement for the New York City Board of Education) he warned each appointee that they had better not speak to the media, and only to the Schools Chancellor? about their advice.

* The civil rights group?s report blasts the hiring of the executive director of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (a mayoral agency) at a time the incumbent was acting director of CCRB and the subject of a whistleblower?s accusation that investigations on her watch were ?biased? in favor of cops. The CCRB board?s mayoral and police commissioner appointees ?lined up? against the City Council?s appointees to hire her anyway, someone who ?had no public reputation as a fierce fighter of police misconduct or as a person who engages the communities of color about the problems associated with police-community tensions.? Indeed, continues the report, the CCRB executive director?s style ?mirrors in distinct ways the obtuseness and arrogance of the Mayor?s?who himself has come under criticism for his invisibility in certain communities.?

* ?Shockingly, the Bloomberg Administration has gone to court seeking to overturn limited civil rights protections? for civilians against police spying on their lawful political activities.? NYPD wants ?more leeway to spy on civil rights and religious groups, and on dissidents?to record their images and words, listen in on their strategy, and to, yes, compile dossiers, if not an enemy?s list of the activists who?ve broken no laws.?

* Civil rights leaders in the city are blamed as well for acquiescing to the Bloomberg rope-a-dope on civil rights and police accountability. ??It appears that the civil rights establishment in this city has all but given up on persuading the public officials that an independent prosecutor?s office, well-resourced, and competently staffed, is the best means of assuring credible probes of police conduct??

* Mayor Bloomberg is also criticized for his refusal to be briefed by several members of Mayor Giuliani?s Task Force on Police-Community Relations, and for ?empowering racial demagogues,? through meeting with the likes of Al Sharpton.?

* The report describes the city?s human rights commission as ?rudderless and invisible,? and suggests that Bloomberg?s appointments have had the feel of cronyism and nepotism. The harshest criticism of Bloomberg is aimed at his attitude toward the poor and powerless, such as the policy of removal of the homeless who are eyesores to the rich and snooty. ?[His] official threats to place the children of [families evicted from shelters] into foster care is not a program of compassion, ?it amounts to a declaration of war on the poor rather than a declaration of war on poverty.?

* The report says it is Bloomberg?s right to forsake Gracie Mansion ?for?the ? comforts of his Upper East Side townhouse,? but the mayor ?has exhibited nothing less than brazen contempt for New Yorkers of limited income? [They who can?t afford cable TV he tells] to read a book.? New Yorkers resent such arrogance; they ?do not like?a man who lords his wealth and high position over them, as if to say that his wealth is his entitlement and his?position accords him the right to be a snob. New Yorkers who deserve ?their civil rights and human dignity in the worst of economic times are not to be sneered at, even if they want the simplest of wishes, like having a roof over their heads, and being able to afford cable TV.?

* Decrying the city?s denial of a parade permit to anti-war protestors, Michael Meyers says, ?We thought we?d never see the day in the city that claims to be the world?s capital where city officials would deny political protestors their fundamental right to a parade permit, in the guise of the police?s inability to protect a lawful assembly and simultaneously safeguard the United Nations from a feared terror attack. This is especially curious in the wake of Mayor Bloomberg?s having recruited to New York City, with the assurance of adequate security, the G.O.P. National Convention, and the city?s apparent and abiding hospitality to cultural and ethnic parades, that are quite sizeable.?

Note: The report on Mayor Bloomberg?s ?’C? for clueless? record on civil rights is available upon request of the New York Civil Rights Coalition or can be read on the Coalition?s website, www.nycivilrights.org. For further information or comment, contact Michael Meyers, at 212-563-5636.