Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bloomberg Blizzard Disaster Result Of Privatization, Cost-Cutting Policies

Juan Gonzalez says the Bloomberg Blizzard disaster of 2010 was a DIRECT result of Bloomberg's privatization policies:

City Hall's bungled response to the Blizzard of 2010 started at the top.

Any probe of what went wrong must first examine the key decisions Mayor Bloomberg and his new deputy mayor for operations, Stephen Goldsmith, made in the weeks and hours leading up to Sunday.

After all, our police, sanitation, fire and EMS workers have always performed admirably in previous storms.

And no one supervises snow removal better than Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, a guy who actually rose through the ranks of his department.

So what was different this time?

Poor management, plain and simple.

It starts with Goldsmith, the hotshot former mayor of Indianapolis who made a name for himself as a "reinventor" of government. His big secret was laying off gobs of city workers and privatizing every service he could.

Bloomberg named Goldsmith his top deputy in April and has handed him enormous power to do the same thing here.

The blizzard was the new deputy's first big test - and he flunked.

To begin with, Goldsmith and Bloomberg refused to declare a snow emergency, even after they learned a blizzard was on the way.

"I started getting text messages from ambulance drivers at 3 a.m. Monday that they were stuck in the snow," said Pat Bahnken, president of the EMS workers' union. "I urged the Fire Department to declare a snow emergency, but they were told City Hall said 'no.'"

Back in 1996, a similar monster storm struck our city. It dumped 20 inches, closed airports, and left drifts 20-feet high.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani not only declared a snow emergency and ordered all nonessential vehicles off the road, he took 3,300 city buses out of service so they wouldn't block sanitation trucks and rescue vehicles.

Giuliani also asked then-Gov. George Pataki for help. Pataki dispatched 400 national guardsmen with 100 Humvees that were used as ambulances to transport medical supplies and health workers.

If Bloomberg and Goldsmith had done the same, we wouldn't have had hundreds of stuck buses and ambulances blocking main arteries.

"Under Rudy, every snowstorm was considered a big deal," one former Giuliani official said. "All commissioners and top staffers were expected to be at the command center and we all worked hard together."

This time, Goldsmith was out of town and didn't even show up at the command center until Monday. A City Hall spokesman wouldn't say where he was.

"He was in regular email and phone contact with Doherty and "[Office of Emergency Management Director Joseph] Bruno," mayoral spokesman Jason Post said.

The Sanitation Department has been Goldsmith's special target since he arrived in town.

"He micromanages everything in this department," is how one official put it.

Goldsmith is determined to cut the number of sanitation workers and use more private contractors for snow removal - something Doherty has resisted.

The staff reductions and the deputy mayor's scheduled demotion of 100 sanitation supervisors in January - putting them back in sanitation trucks and cutting the pay of many of them - has led to growing tension and made Goldsmith a hated figure in the department.

Those supervisors normally check that city trucks and private contractors do their routes properly. In some cases, some angry workers appear to have slowed down their work during the storm.

City Hall appeared yesterday to recognize the problem and may be backtracking on some of those demotions, several sources say.

So if you want to know what went wrong, start at the top.

There you go - the cost-cutting/privatization policies that Bloomberg promotes as the solution for all that ills the country laid the groundwork for the disastrous response to the storm - fewer workers on the streets due to layoffs, fewer supervisors to supervise the workers on the streets, more untrained workers manning the snow plows (and plowing into parked cars, stalled buses and other snow plows.)

Heckuva job, Bloomberg!

And this Stephen Goldsmith character - well, his hiring is DIRECTLY related to the mayor's never-ending flirtations with running for president.

Goldsmith - the former Republican mayor of Indianapolis who made his bones laying off municipal workers and replacing them with outside private contractors - was brought into the Bloomberg administration for the third term in order to give Bloomberg some juice with Republicans outside of New York who might look suspiciously at Bloomberg when he ran for president in 2012.

He was also brought in to cut costs in city government, especially those costs related to labor.

This glowing Adam Lisberg profile of Goldsmith that ran in the Daily News in May of 2010 details Goldsmith's cost-cutting abilities:

Stephen Goldsmith joins the administration full-time Tuesday as deputy mayor for operations, after a month in which he toured city agencies and met with commissioners while winding up his work as a Harvard professor of government.

He has brought energy, experience and plenty of questions, according to several administration officials who met with him over the last month - and all came away impressed.

"He had something smart to say about every division," one official said. "He either challenged us to see something anew, or asked a really intelligent question or just made a really on-point observation."

That's a pleasant surprise for people inside and outside City Hall who assumed Bloomberg would quietly cruise through his third term - and who thought nobody could run the city as well as Goldsmith's predecessor, Ed Skyler.

Goldsmith made his name as an innovator as Indianapolis' mayor from 1992 to 1999, most famously by hiring private companies to pick up trash and treat sewage instead of using city workers.

Now he's going to run New York's police, fire, transportation, sanitation, buildings and environmental protection departments - among other agencies.

Goldsmith's emphasis in Indiana on using technology to cut costs and eliminate bureaucracy is music to Bloomberg's ears.

It's also a wakeup call to anyone in government who expected to coast through the next four years.

So Goldsmith's "innovative ideas" for privatization and cost-cutting are being applied to every city agency. What exactly did he do to the sanitation department?

Here is the NY Daily News from November 10, 2010 on Goldsmith's cost-cutting strategies for the sanitation department:

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services is one of those municipal agencies with a low profile but a massive portfolio.

It handles purchasing for city agencies, oversees leasing and sales of city-owned property and administers Civil Service exams.

And that's why city workers should pay close attention to what Mayor Bloomberg said this week when he appointed Edna Wells Handy as the new commissioner of DCAS.

He talked about the "simplicity initiative" that Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith is overseeing to make "key city operations more efficient and more effective."

"My charge to Commissioner Handy is very straightforward - search for new ways to do more with less," Bloomberg said. "Don't be afraid to take risks and seize opportunities to take innovative new approaches."

One of those new approaches being touted by City Hall involves a plan to demote 100 sanitation supervisors as a way to fill the depleted ranks of sanitation workers.

That plan, which could kick in by the end of the year, has hit a glitch. Turns out the more senior of the demoted sanitation supervisors stand to lose that seniority, bumping them to the bottom of the department roster.

That means employees who spent several years as a sanitation worker and then became supervisors will find themselves lower on the totem pole than newly hired sanitation workers.

Bloomberg defended the plan, saying it will prevent layoffs in the department.

"The sanitation effort is being executed and will accomplish this win for the taxpayers without having anybody lose their job," Goldsmith said during a City Hall press conference with Bloomberg and Handy. "We're examining where this model may work elsewhere."

Goldsmith dismissed published reports saying city officials were thinking of trying the same demotion strategy with police sergeants.

"We're interested in expanding it," Goldsmith said, adding there is "no specific place" they are targeting at the current time.

Bloomberg and Goldsmith have said they want to push the boundaries of what can be done to change the city's workforce under current Civil Service and contract guidelines.

This demotion strategy devised by Bloomberg and Goldsmith was a key cause of the disastrous response to the Bloomberg Blizzard of 2012.

Now if you think Goldsmith is done cost-cutting in his job as deputy mayor, you'd be wrong.

Bloomberg bragged earlier this year that Goldsmith had found $500 million in savings already as deputy mayor and was going to find even more ways to reduce city expenditures and Goldsmith said of his cost-cutting efforts:

"The quality of customer service can go up at the same time we save taxpayer dollars."

Gee - the quality of service at the sanitation department really went up after that cost-cutting demotion strategy of yours, Mr. Goldsmith.

Oh, wait - it didn't.

Your strategy actually led to the deaths of people during the storm, including a new-born baby.

There needs to be an investigation into Goldsmith's cost-cutting actions at EVERY city agency.

The cost-cutting ideas he had for the sanitation department have turned out to be a disaster.

How much do you want to make a bet that the cost-cutting ideas this Republican conservative from Indianapolis has had for other agencies have also been disastrous?

Next, Goldsmith needs to explain WHERE HE WAS DURING THE STORM.

While the cost-cutting policies he put in place were bringing the city to its knees, Goldsmith was nowhere to be found.

Perhaps he was off at Disneyworld with Chris Christie?

Maybe he was hiking the old Appalachian Trail with Mark Sanford?

Dunno exactly, but Goldsmith needs to explain.

Next, Goldsmith needs to be fired, but before that happens, he needs to explain to all of the New Yorkers who lost loved ones as a result of his cost-cutting policies why saving city money is more important than making sure essential emergency services are funded.

Lastly, people ought to sue Goldsmith personally for negligence. Throw Bloomberg into the suit too, but destroying Goldsmith financially ought to be the goal.

Until cost-cutting technocrats who care little for humans like Bloomberg and Goldsmith are made to pay personally for the disasters they bring, these things are going to continue.

The Mayor of Accountability and his cost-cutting deputy mayor from Indianapolis will try and hang this disaster on city workers and perhaps sanitation department chief Doherty.

But the blame and responsibility lies DIRECTLY with Bloomberg and Goldsmith.

Time to hold these two accountable.


  1. "In some cases, some angry workers appear to have slowed down their work during the storm."

    Inexcusable (and judging from the ferocious reaction to the Post article, Gonzalez is soft-pedaling and underestimating the extent of the slow down).

  2. The workers of course are to blame right out of Wolfsons playbook. The question now is how much investigation will take place. Remember the firemen killed in the Deutsche Bank travesty. Who in a position of power will take on this mayor? I agree with your post, Bloomberg and his administrators are responsible for this disaster.

  3. Cost-cutting so young workers worked through this storm on trial and error snow-plowing.

    The blame falls squarely on Bloomberg and Goldsmith.

    May Bloomberg be questioned and challenged on every future decision and cost-cutting measure that ensues.

    I've trusted him little in the past and now that is gone.

  4. This is not poor management: this IS 21st century management of public services, whereby "customers," not citizen, are the recipients of services according to their perceived social status and value. This is as true for the public schools as for snow removal. It's all about the redistribution of resources upward, the diminishing of services for the many, and their eventual privatization and balkanization.

    This narrative focuses on "customers," eliding both people's ability to pay for services, and the reality that in many markets, certain people are not even desired as customers. Try shopping in the mayor's neighborhood and see how valued you are and the level of service you receive.

    Bloomberg has openly stated that NYC is a "luxury product" (nothing new here, it goes back at least as far back as the Koch administration, although no one can express it with the same whiny, petulant tone as Mr. B) and that absent the ability to pay, no one has a right to the city. This is happening in cities worldwide, as they are re-colonized by the global bourgeousie, and the poor and minorities are pushed into the new suburban ghettoes and bantustans.

  5. Murdoch and other Bloomberg allies are pushing the union slowdown angle so that Bloomberg himself doesn't have to. He can look like he is taking the high road. But make no mistake, they will look to hang this on the union whether the slowdown rumors are true or not. And of course establishment shills will be happy to spread the rumors and do Bloomberg's work for him.

    Remember, nothing is EVER Bloomberg's fault.

    It is ALWAYS unionized workers who are at fault.

    If only we could fire all the unionized workers and hire only private contractors making minimum wage, everything would be beautiful.

  6. Hilarious. I personally witnessed slow-down tactics on multiple occasions involving different trucks in different parts of my neighborhood. My call to my city councilman's office was met with a resigned "yes, we've gotten lots of calls about [weirdness with plows] and the councilman will be looking into it." A quick perusal of the comments section following articles about snow removal reveals that many people in all five boroughs saw the same thing.

    It was a multi-part failure -- the mayor's office / OEM's not planning for the worst-case scenario, the idiotic private citizens who ignored constant pleas to stay off the road/not tie up 911 lines, and a to-be-determined number of sanitation workers who were intentionally derelict in their duties at a time when the city needed them most.

    That's the reality. Of course you'll ignore the facts that don't dovetail with your agenda.

  7. Mr. Fiorello again hits the nail...this is the New Amerika...the fascist oligarchy...the two or three tiered New Feudalism that has descended upon us by The Ruling Class of thieving bankstas, prostitute pols, and the rest. American big business is reaping the highest profitability in history ! In the "good" business schools here, "maximum profit" is taught. The bankstas are having the time of their lives as they loot the coffers of the working man here. ergo, we have ppieces of scum like Bloomberg circumventing the democratic process here. All the while the working class is in a Depression. It's the disparity between maximum profit aided by technology, and the debasement of labor worldwide. Those that don't earn on a grand scale will be marginalized and driven out. Get used to it...I want to see Mayor Scumberg try and screw the NYPD seargeants as well....he doesn't have the balls to do it...

  8. Goldsmith was in either Florida, the Carribean, or skiing in out west. Let's see if our "Press" presses him on his whereabouts....Don't count on it....Goldsmith...just another elite sucking the blood out of the working man while he lives the good life...COUNT on that one...he didn't want to put a crimp on his elitist holiday...champagne...the slopes in a little chateau at the top of the hill....fine French get the picture...

  9. Don't you know, anon? This was a coordinated slowdown by the villainous sanitation workers union - Dan Halloran says so, the Murdoch Post says so, so it must be so.

  10. If people have died due to this slow down there must be a criminal investigation. If so, Mr Haolloran had better produce names of the so called anonymous sanitation personnel who decided to come to him of all people to spill the beans. My guess. NO WAY more cover up from Bloomberg and cronies and of course slashed all over the Bloomberg News=NY Post.

  11. When I opened the NY Daily news link, I thought I am seeing Jamie Dimon, JP Morgue Bank. The Deputy mayor looks like Dimon's brother or something.