Yesterday afternoon, a snow storm hit New York City. As NYC storms go, it wasn’t extraordinary – maybe half a foot of snow – but it turned out disastrous for millions of New Yorkers. The post-mortem reports blame faulty forecasts (instead of an inch of wintry mix, the city got 5-6 inches of snow) and the incorrect actions that ensued (the Sanitation Department deployed salt spreaders instead of plows). Obviously, someone dropped the ball. And, as surely as the sun rises in the morning, many someones are looking to (delicately) deflect blame.

Nobody’s perfect, even politicians (something that those who look for government to solve every problem routinely forget), and there will always be situations and matters that cannot be fully addressed, but it’s much easier to accept a failure despite genuine effort and concern than a failure born of distraction.

Bill De Blasio, not quite a year into his second term as New York’s mayor, has made his ambitions quite clear. He envisions himself as a national-level progressive icon, and spends quite a bit of time flying around the country building his brand and upping his visibility. One might think that doing a good job as Mayor of the biggest and most famous city in the nation would be a good resume builder, but it’s often the case that people want to win a job more than they want to do a job, and it appears that this is the case for New York’s current mayor.

In this, he’s not alone, or even particularly unusual. It takes great ambition and effort to achieve political success (as well as a whole lot of, well, politics), so we shouldn’t be surprised that this ambition remains the driving force after victory has been achieved.

A steady stream of failures have dogged De Blasio, including a growing homeless crisis, a burgeoning mess in government housing projects, a string of ethics issues, a litany of failed initiatives, messes in vehicular traffic and public transportation, on-going feuds with charter school advocates, continued inadequacies in the school system (along with some wacko ideas regarding the city’s elite schools)… I could write volumes.

It should therefore be no surprise that the city mismanaged yesterday’s storm. As they say, the fish rots from the head, and the tone of a hierarchical management structure is set by the person at the top. When future ambitions take precedence over doing the job someone was hired for, the response to exceptional situations is less likely to be full-throated.

Progressive big-government has turned its primary focus to social engineering goals such as wealth redistribution, greater involvement in the private sector, quasi-nationalizing of health care, and so forth. In doing so, it has forgotten that one of the core functions of government in its current form, especially at the state and local level, is the providing of certain basic services and public goods. These include managing snow storms so that people can get home at the end of their work days.

New York’s previous mayor, Mike Bloomberg, famously caught hell for flying off to Bermuda ahead of a major Christmas storm that was mismanaged back in 2010. While a rational person might think that this was a lesson for the ages, the unfortunate truth is that Bloomberg’s reputation didn’t really suffer in the long run from that debacle, and some think he’s got a shot at defeating Trump for the Presidency in 2020, should he elect to run. To his credit, Bloomberg did put a lot of focus on the mayor’s job when he was in office. De Blasio, on the other hand, is treating the job as an inconvenient but necessary stepping stone for his higher ambitions, rather than as an obligation to the voters who elected him. He’s ignoring or subordinating his core mission: the smooth functioning of a city of 8.6 million, the effective management of 294,000 full-time public employees, the stewardship of an $89B budget and, relevantly, the easy and effective movement of millions of commuters.

Ambition over mission, with predictable results. Lets remember this when we are next asked to give more power to politicians.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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