Sunday, July 29, 2018

Another Liberal Mugged by Reality

You might not find this the most compelling hot-button story of the day. It’s about executive management. In particular, it’s about two different managers, one a business executive, the other a leftist rabble rouser. They both held or hold the same job: mayor of New York City.

The story was told by a woman who gave up a lucrative law practice to join the Bloomberg administration. She put on her do-good shoes and went to work for the city. But then, Bloomberg was replaced by Bill de Blasio and the woman in question began to discover what happened when an inexperienced ideological zealot took over the city government.

Being a good leftist herself, she had voted for de Blasio. Eventually, she lost her job. As the only saying goes: she was mugged by reality. Not the reality of city life, but the reality of what really happens when you work for a leftist zealot who does not know or care about how to manage a city government, or any organization, for that matter.

The woman describes what it was like working for Mayor Bloomberg. She found that he was not idea-driven but results oriented. He actively solicited everyone’s opinion and made all employees feel that they belonged to a team, and that they could contribute to an ongoing discussion.

She tells this part of her story thusly:

His business background meant Bloomberg ran the city like a big corporation. Initially, I had negative assumptions given that he was a billionaire.

I was concerned that he was out of touch, but even so, I voted for him before I took the job. And my worries were quickly dismissed when I saw the results-oriented approach with which he ran New York City.

Under his commissioners, employees were encouraged to contribute to discussions on some of the biggest social issues that we faced as a city: homelessness, aging and education being among the most important. Everyone’s opinions were valued.

We had regular meetings and performance reviews, and as lawyers we were encouraged to partner with other city workers to visit facilities such as homeless shelters to make sure they were in compliance with the law. Back then, we lawyers were considered very vital partners and worked in tandem with social workers and others in the field.

I loved coming to work every day under Bloomberg. I loved the constructive discussions about how to fix the most urgent social problems — meetings that involved workers at the highest levels of government with the civil servants and case workers at the lowest. All opinions were valued. And I loved being out in the city and seeing how programs worked or didn’t work.

It’s that old American pragmatism… about what works. But also about participation and accomplishment. But, then the halcyon Bloomberg days ended when Bill de Blasio took over in 2014. The change was swift and painful:

When Bill de Blasio became mayor of New York in 2014, things changed drastically. I started to hear rumblings early on. My former colleagues who were dedicated public servants were concerned by a large-scale rollback of Bloomberg’s strategic initiatives. These seemed to be based on partisan politics and black-and-white thinking as opposed to critical analysis. It was very disappointing for me since I had also voted for de Blasio.

Although I was still working in the same social-services agency where I had remained at the end of Bloomberg’s term, my job changed radically. I had no contact with the new commissioner who appeared to be disengaged from substantive discussions about social-services programs for an extremely vulnerable population. In fact, she was much more preoccupied with renovating her office — I heard her new desk alone cost thousands of dollars. She even requested that a private bathroom be built for her. She had the attitude of an oligarch and was disturbed that she had to vet invitations to galas through legal and City Hall. She wanted carte blanche to attend expensive events.

She also refused to meet with the lawyers in her department and she kept the door to her office closed and didn’t know the names of the people who worked in her agency.

Under my commissioner, there were no benchmarks, no goals and she did not hold regular meetings with her general counsel. Under her tenure, the legal unit was gutted. And there were no consequences for failing to meet performance goals because there were no performance goals.

It’s a portrait of incompetent management. A commissioner-- in New York City government, commissioners are like cabinet secretaries-- hid from her staff. She, like other commissioners, had not idea of what could and could not be done, because they had not been hired for competence and experience. They had been hired to fill diversity quotas and for holding the correct political opinions. It’s a portrait of complete incompetence.

She next compares and contrasts the Bloomberg and de Blasio approaches to homelessness. In the end, she explains, the Bloomberg administration, with less funding, dealt with the problem more effectively. The de Blasio administration must have had the right feelings, but it could not put them into practice:

Under the Bloomberg administration, there was a concerted effort to deal with the homeless problem. The administration answered reports of homeless people — many of them with severe psychological problems — on the subways and on the streets by immediately dispatching city workers to take them to a network of shelters where they could be cared for. There were also a lot of long-term incentives to help get people off the streets. Bloomberg spent a great deal of time during his first term in office aggressively seeking federal funds to increase the number of shelters in all five boroughs.

By the time Bloomberg left office in December 2013, there were about 51,000 homeless people in New York. Under de Blasio, the homeless population has ballooned to 59,638.

Today, I can’t go into the subway without seeing mentally unstable homeless people. I also feel that the demographic of the New York subway is changing rapidly as more and more of my friends take Ubers because they cannot guarantee they will get to work on time.

Nevertheless, the budget for the Department of Homeless Services under de Blasio is set to double from $1.17 billion spent in 2015 to $2.15 billion for fiscal 2018.

Not very encouraging, you will say. And you will be correct. Under de Blasio city agencies were drowning in useless regulations, many of them imposed by the singularly inept City Council:

Well-meaning City Council politicians often bog down agencies by creating a morass of rules that are burdensome and ineffective. Bloomberg was not afraid to use his veto power and engage in negotiations with the council to apprise them of the negative effects of any proposed legislation.

In more than four years in power, de Blasio has yet to veto a single City Council resolution. As a result, the city’s lawyers are drowning under masses of paperwork, compelled to write rules for legislation that comes with an influx of new City Council laws.

This is what happens when there are no clear or transparent conversations between political leaders. Well-intentioned politicians create work — and don’t actually create proactive change. The underlying concerns that drove the legislation in the first place — massive fraud and lack of oversight — remained unaddressed.

In addition to massive amounts of paperwork, I was restricted in how I could carry out my duties under de Blasio.

When two city workers, who were each under a protected class, approached me with workplace discrimination complaints, I escalated their concerns. Both employees alleged discrimination and retaliation by their immediate supervisor.

Ah yes, there were protected classes of people. The de Blasio administration was all about fighting discrimination. It was all about diversity. Because it didn’t matter who did what job. It didn’t matter how well or poorly the city was being run. What mattered was whether or not the staff was diverse. Member of supposed protected classes spent their time fighting for what they called justice, not doing their jobs.

And of course the complaints were ignored. And the women in question lost her job:

I thought it was my job to mitigate risk within my city agency, and it was met with contempt.

The commissioner began to retaliate against me, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to talk to the employees who were alleging discrimination. As far as I know, their complaints were never investigated by the city.

Then suddenly this year, after 14 years in city government, I found myself out of a job — fired while I was on family leave, three years after de Blasio came to power. I believe I was terminated for investigating employee complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation and then raising my own issues.

And let’s not forget, the New York Subway system under de Blasio is a complete and utter mess.

Bill de Blasio rose to power on his promise to end “a tale of two cities,” but as mayor he rides around in an expensive car — a limousine liberal. He sues oil companies for climate change while the country’s largest public-transportation system is being run into the ground. Bloomberg rode the subway all the time.

My career spanned a handful of social-service agencies under the administrations of two very different leaders. I was shocked to discover that I actually preferred Michael Bloomberg’s very corporate City Hall to Bill de Blasio’s failed socialist utopia. Who wouldn’t?

Failed socialist utopia… how about that? If that’s the future of the Democratic Party, we are all in serious trouble. Consider this insider account a canary in the coal mine.


trigger warning said...

Nevertheless, most Progressives remain unmugged. Consider the vast population of university faculty members and diversity officers babbling from the upper floors of Ivory Safe Spaces. To wit, Heather Davis, faculty member with the New School and author of "Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments, and Epistemologies" (Amazon rank #334,453 in Books), has just kicked off a truly exciting course entitled...

Queer Ecologies (LCST 3875)
"This course will address the interdisciplinary constellation of practices that aim, in different ways, to disrupt prevailing heterosexist discursive and institutional articulations of sexuality and nature, and also to reimagine [sic] evolutionary processes, ecological interactions, and environmental politics in light of queer theory."

With all due respect to Mz Mugged, filth, frottage, and masturbation on the MTA are among the least of our problems (although, to Citizen de Blasio's eternal credit, manspreading has been aggressively addressed), as the vast, vast majority of people in this country have never ridden the MTA, nor will ever (desire to) do so.

And people wonder why the Chinese are kicking our butts in engineering? Do we spend too much time on queer theories? Seems obvious, or so my experiential knowings and epistemological articulations suggest.

Sam L. said...

Contrast "results-oriented" with "liberal pieties".

Walt said...

Didn't much like Bloomberg's utopia either. A friend's 2007 article in Human Events is why:

Anonymous said...

Reason # 1,326,982 to never go near NYC. I've lived in Cairo, and it sounds way safer and cheaper than the big rotten apple.