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Mayor Bloomberg's Handling of Stephen Goldsmith Firing Not the Problem

I don't understand why people are so exercised about the way Michael Bloomberg canned his deputy mayor. We're getting upset about all the wrong things.
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I don't understand why people are so exercised about the way Michael Bloomberg canned his deputy mayor.

The person in question, Stephen Goldsmith, spent a night in a Washington D.C. pokey after his wife called the police to their home, complaining that her husband had shoved and physically restrained her. When the mayor found out, he called Goldsmith in, and then announced to the press that his deputy was leaving "to pursue private-sector opportunities in infrastructure finance."

Ever since the real reason for Goldsmith's termination came out, everyone with access to a public pulpit has been howling about the mayor's duplicity. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (who had his eye on Bloomberg's job) is demanding a public hearing. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (ditto) says the mayor's behavior was "a form of elitism" since low-level city workers who get in trouble "are arrested very publicly."

De Blasio's argument would only hold up if Goldsmith had been taken into custody in New York City, where the arrest would have been reported to the Department of Investigation. If a press release hadn't been issued under those circumstances, there would indeed be cause for complaint because that sort of embarrassing and generally career-ending train of events has happened to many city workers with less impressive titles.

But there's no such standard operating procedure if somebody gets arrested out of town, and I suspect that more than one assistant park superintendent or crossing guard supervisor who's been picked up by the police in Pennsylvania or New Jersey but never charged with any crime, has never been exposed in the press.

And Goldsmith was arrested in Washington. Because that's where he really lives. He has no wife in New York to fight with. You may remember that the deputy mayor was in Washington, in the town house where he really lives, when the great snow hit the city last winter.

Back then, city sanitation workers were getting blasted for failure to get the streets cleared and at the time, there was widespread suspicion that they had been sloughing off their work because their union was fighting with the city. This turned out not to be the case. The problem was with Sanitation Department organization and management, the purview of Stephen Goldsmith, the deputy mayor who was not in town. Because he was in Washington. Where he really lives.

We're getting upset about all the wrong things. It is true that Bloomberg was being duplicitous when he claimed Goldsmith was leaving to heed the siren call of infrastructure finance. But that's nothing compared to the sin of putting somebody at the top of the chain of command who only sort-of, kind-of abides by city regulations on residency requirements for policy-making officials.

The failure-to-be-frank over Goldsmith's departure was far from the most important thing the mayor has tried to pooh-pooh off the front pages. There was, of course, the blizzard: "The world has not come to an end. The city is going fine. Broadway shows were full last night. There are lots of tourists here enjoying themselves," he said.

And then there was CityTime, the gargantuan $700 million looting of the city treasury by sticky-fingered outside consultants hired to build an automated payroll system. Hizzoner said that one had just slipped through the cracks. "Nothing goes without some problems, whether it's in your family, your company, your government, the world," he noted.

And Bloomberg knew just the man to get CityTime back on track: Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith! Goldsmith was placed directly in charge of the scandal-scarred program following the resignation of the clueless city official supposedly minding the CityTime store.

Let's revisit these larger, serious issues instead of obsessing about the way Stephen Goldsmith's departure was announced. It's not as if we'll miss him. He wasn't much of a deputy mayor - the latest in a long line of Bloomberg's bad choices that seem to come from too much time spent thinking outside the envelope. Which is something we should spend more time discussing.

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