Not worst candidates ever
It may seem the most depressing mayoral race in history, but it could be worse. Think about it:
Democrats must choose between a City Council speaker with no executive experience, a guy obsessed with income inequality rather than growth and two old-time city pols who think it’s their turn to be mayor.
Republicans can pick an unknown billionaire or a veteran of city politics who is uncertain about what he’d do as mayor, except not let the city return to pre-Giuliani chaos.
That could be this year — with Christine Quinn in the role of speaker, public advocate Bill de Blasio as the inequality monger, and former comptroller Bill Thompson and comptroller John Liu as the run-of-the-mill city pols.
On the GOP side, we’ve got supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis and former Giuliani official Joe Lhota.
But this was also the roster the last time we had an election with no incumbent mayor running.
In 2001, we had Peter Vallone as speaker, Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer as the merchant of inequality, and Mark Green and Alan Hevesi as the guys next in line.
As a bonus, John Liu has seen two former fund-raisers convicted of campaign-finance violations, while Hevesi later went to prison over a kickback scheme he orchestrated as state comptroller.
The Republicans had Bloomberg, who didn’t say much about what he’d do in office, and CUNY Chairman Herman Badillo, who was boring.
OK, there’s no 2001 equivalent to “tweetie perve” Anthony Weiner — but the technology for sending nude self-portraits didn’t exist back then.
But there’s a bigger difference between then and now — and a good one.
Twelve years ago this summer, the Democratic candidates had trouble distinguishing themselves because they were competing with each other about how much taxpayer money they’d spend — and how much they would lavish on the public-sector unions.
It’s not because the economy was great. Even before 9/11, it was clear that “the next mayor [will] have to deal with . . . potentially huge budget gaps,” wrote the Manhattan Institute’s E.J. McMahon back then on candidates’ spending proposals.
Take Green and Ferrer, who made the runoff election. Ferrer wanted to add $1.98 billion — $2.6 billion in today’s dollars — to the annual budget, for an 8 percent hike. He’d have paid for some of it with a tax hike on the rich.
His biggest plan? A 30 percent hike in teacher salaries, and raises for police, too.
This year, almost nobody is talking about increasing spending or taxes.
Think: What are the candidates’ big plans? This crew has trouble distinguishing themselves because they don’t have any.
Quinn’s education plan is to “identify our most effective schools and take their best practices systemwide” — hardly a budget buster. On transit, she notes that “subways cost roughly $1 billion per mile to construct, while” dedicated bus lanes “cost just $1 million a mile.”
Weiner’s biggest proposal? To make public workers pay health-care premiums.
The only outlier is de Blasio — who has a Ferrer-style plan to hike taxes on the rich and spend the $500 million on universal pre-K. But he doesn’t get wild applause for it.
And nobody — not even de Blasio — is promising a public-worker wage hike. (At least, not publicly.)
Why the change?
The bad news is, we’ve already done the bad things candidates proposed 12 years ago. Bloomberg hiked teacher salaries by nearly 50 percent, more than Ferrer proposed.
But it’s also just reality. Today’s candidates can see the city faces a $2 billion budget gap next year, and similar gaps after that.
They can see, too, that public-employee costs are still skyrocketing — meaning even less money for wage hikes or anything else. Public pensions, plus health and other “fringe” benefits, will cost $17.2 billion this year — and $19.7 billion three years from now.
As the current mayor said last week: “One of the major reasons Detroit could not stop its downward spiral was that . . . costs for pensions and health care . . . crowded out its ability to invest in the things that make a city an attractive place.”
This is the no-frills — or no-new-frills — election. The candidates have no grand plans — because the only realistic grand plan would be to cut these costs, not propose new programs that would push them up further. And nobody’s brave enough to propose that.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/mayor_race_deja_vu_3ND8V3rWJvt0k2tRVYq86H