NEW YORK (Reuters) – Supporters say New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who appears set to win a third term this week, gets credit for saving the city from the worst of the financial recession but his critics say he did not do enough.
The billionaire Bloomberg worked to have city law changed so he could run again and holds a double-digit lead over Democratic City Comptroller Bill Thompson, in polls leading to today’s election. Bloomberg argues that his financial skills and experience are invaluable for guiding the city through hard economic times.
Critics claim his Wall Street experience should make him responsible for the city’s fiscal woes as well.
“If he had such experience in the finance sector, it’s too bad that he didn’t bring that to bear a little earlier in the economic crisis that then came down on everybody’s head,” said James Parrott, chief economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group.
The praise for Bloomberg has focused on fiscal prudence, including saving nearly $8 billion during more flush economic times, overseeing steady reductions in crime and taking over the much-criticized public school system. Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said New Yorkers can thank Bloomberg’s “budget leadership.”
“The city is facing a $5 billion budget deficit next year and we aren’t out of the woods yet, which is why the mayor’s leadership is necessary,” he said. “Because of the mayor’s decision to save in good times in order to prepare for bad times, the city’s finances are in far better shape than those of the state or federal governments.”
Bloomberg was a long-time Democrat who became a Republican in order to run for mayor in 2001 and dropped his party affiliation after being re-elected in 2005. Last year he pushed a bill through the City Council that amended a law and allowed him to seek a third term. In doing so, Bloomberg cited his financial experience, saying, “We may well be on the verge of a meltdown and it’s up to us to rise to the occasion.”