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The Empire

With the livery legislation, as with all else, the state rules

In the wake of the Queen Elizabeth II-sized political drama of this week’s “taxis for all” bill signing, the blog grist mills have been working overtime talking about the Bloomberg versus Cuomo battle that happened behind closed doors.

The Daily News’ Ken Lovett has the pièce de résistance on the whole thing out in today’s paper. You can read the article here.

But then Ken posted a blog piece with the tantalizing, if somewhat scandalized, quote-cum-headline: Team Cuomo: "City Is A Creature Of The State"

While it might sound like a monstrous statement of unparalleled power and authority—second only to the governor’s “I am the government” comment—the reality is, well, the state actually has unparalleled power and authority over the city. At least that’s what I remembered from my days as a naïf reporter enrolled in Doug Muzzio’s class at the CUNY j-school.

I called him up to double check. Yup. I was right.

“In the American political system, cities are creatures of the state. It’s known as Dillon's Rule,” Muzzio said.

In truth, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city didn’t have control over the livery cab legislative battle. Sure, Bloomberg had proxies for the issue who carried the Mayor’s water through the state legislature. But Governor Andrew Cuomo was truly always in complete control over the situation. The Mayor didn’t have any power to give up.

“Mike Bloomberg may be the $16 billion gorilla but the bottom line is that, in state politics, Andrew Cuomo is the 800 pound gorilla, and that counts more,” said Muzzio.

Of course, nothing going on between Bloomberg and Cuomo is anything new, Muzzio pointed out by referring me to Mayor Fernando Wood’s call for the city’s secession from the state. Yeah, that was back in 1861.

“This is perennial,” Muzzio said. “With both Cuomo and Bloomberg, you’ve got two guys who’ve got extensive personal and political egos clashing. But in these kinds of clashes, the Governor wins.”

Not that the Mayor seems to take notice. From congestion pricing to first-in-last-out--and now the livery cab bill—Mayor Mike seems to be a glutton for political punishment.

“Part of the problem with the Bloomberg administration, and they often don’t get what they want, is because they don’t get Albany,” Muzzio said. “In the whole budget deal last year, you had the Mayor’s people pissing on the Governor’s people and vice versa, but come on: Why are you going to piss off the Governor?

“There’s a learning curve but it ain’t very steep. And sometimes it dips down.”