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Commentary: Bloomberg IS a Republican!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

In this year of the Bloomberg advertising blitz, almost all of the mayor’s campaign commercials revolve around one central idea: that he is an apolitical guy doing a good practical job. But WNYC’s Brian Lehrer says it’s not really that simple.

BRIAN LEHRER: The old cliché about running city government is that there is no Democratic or Republican way to take out the garbage. But it’s not true. Just ask supporters of recycling or trash-burning incinerators, and check their party affiliations.

In this year’s mayoral race, sanitation is not an issue but there are some real substantive differences between the views of the Democrat and the Republican that deserve to be discussed, but are being mostly ignored. Here are five issues on which Mike Bloomberg and Freddy Ferrer disagree, and if you didn’t already know who the Democrat and Republican were, you could certainly tell:

1. Ferrer supports the new law to require decent health care coverage for workers at large grocery stores. The mayor vetoed the bill. City Council overrode him 40-2. The law is aimed at keeping out stores like Wal-Mart that hire lots of low-wage workers but provide less health coverage than other employers. The Mayor thinks it’s illegal for the city to regulate health benefits and that the marketplace should decide if Wal-Mart moves in.

2. Ferrer supported the new lead paint law, also vetoed by the mayor and enacted by a City Council ovverride. In that case, the mayor thinks the law costs too much money for too little extra protection for children’s health. Ferrer and the Council believe the science is on their side and that the mayor is being too soft on the landlords.

3. Ferrer wants more taxes on the rich – a stock transfer tax to fund education and a vacant residential land tax to fund affordable housing. Mayor Bloomberg rejects those taxes as trickle-down job-killers and inflation starters. But his property tax hike gave a direct hit to middle class homeowners.

4. Ferrer seems more inclined to help the city’s home health aides, who often work below the poverty line and get no health benefits of their own in the current privatized system. Mayor Bloomberg made a big show of turning down the aides request to be hired directly by the city. It’s one reason Ferrer got the endorsement of the health care workers union, 1199.

And 5. Ferrer supports mandatory inclusionary zoning. The mayor does not. Mandatory inclusionary zoning would require developers of expensive housing to make a certain percentage affordable. The mayor would rather negotiate with developers case by case.

Five issues, one pattern: Classically, the Republican, Mayor Bloomberg believes in less regulation on business to help the working class. The Democrat, Ferrer, believes in more. Decide for yourself which approach you prefer. But don’t tell me this race has no issues, or no parties.

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