Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City
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Mayor of New York
By Andrew Stevens, Deputy Editor
8 November 2009: Michael R. Bloomberg became New York City's 108th mayor on 1 January 2002, re-elected in 2005 and, more controversially, 2009. He was born into a Jewish-American family on 14 February 1942 in Medford, Massachusetts, where his father was the bookkeeper at a local dairy. After attending Johns Hopkins University to study electrical engineering, where he was a self-financed student, he obtained his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1966. He was then hired by Salomon Brothers to work on Wall Street.
He quickly advanced through the ranks and became a partner in 1972. Soon after, he was supervising all of Salomon's stock trading, sales and later, its information systems. He was dismissed in 1981 after another company acquired Salomon. Bloomberg used his stake from the Salomon sale to start his own company, an enterprise that would revolutionise the way Wall Street did business. In 1982, Bloomberg L.P. sold 20 subscriptions to its service; 20 years later that figure had multiplied to over 165,000 subscribers worldwide. As the business proved its viability, the company branched out and in 1990 Bloomberg LP entered the media business, launching a news service, and then radio, television, Internet, and publishing operations.
Bloomberg’s election as mayor in 2001 came in the aftermath of 9/11, with two-term Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani prevented from standing again by term limits. Giuliani’s tenure as mayor was notable for the zero tolerance policies he had pioneered alongside NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, having made his name as a tough city prosecutor during the 1980s. The Republicans’ hold on City Hall comes after the Democrat era typified by the terms of Ed Koch and David Dinkins and a series of damaging splits in the late 1970s. New Yorkers’ political allegiances are known to be fluid, with many voters prizing independence of mind rather than partisan allegiances and the ability to split ticket for elections at different levels of government. That said, machine politics still play a part in the selection of candidates in partisan primaries. Much is also made of ethnic voting blocs, with candidates assiduously courting the votes of Jewish, Irish, Italian and Hispanic communities.
In September 2004, Bloomberg was ranked number 34 in a Forbes poll of the 400 Richest Americans, making him one of the richest people in the world. This was given as one consideration of his decision in 2001 to seek the post of New York Mayor as a Republican, rather than a Democrat, due to his belief that having no political background to draw on, the tightly organised factions in the city party would opt for a favoured son. The New York Democrats eventually chose Mark Green, a consumer activist and associate of Ralph Nader. Bloomberg himself defeated former Democratic Congressman and Deputy Mayor Herman Badillo in the Republican primary, which had to be re-staged because of the events of 9/11.
Bloomberg is acknowledged for the competence of his administration, with his managerial style of leadership credited to building on the work of his predecessor. Bloomberg, though committed to reducing crime, has taken a more low-key stance on the issue compared to the prominence given to it by Giuliani however. He has also called for homeland security funding to be allocated on the basis of risk and population, in light of the 9/11 attacks. The mayor has also supported the extension of the city’s smoking ban to drinking establishments. He is also credited with raising standards in the city’s public schools, which were transferred from the old school boards to mayoral control in 2000. However, his handling of the unsuccessful 2012 Olympic bid led some to question his leadership, especially over his much-derided proposals to give the New York Mets a new stadium.
Given his lifelong Democrat affiliation prior to seeking the GOP nomination, Bloomberg was seen as a liberal Republican before his 2007 Independent registration and has stated his belief in gun control, a woman's right to choose abortion and same-sex marriages.
Bloomberg coasted to re-election in 2005, defeating his Democrat challenger, the former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, by a margin of 20 per cent, the highest ever for a Republican in the city. Bloomberg was re-selected unopposed by the Republicans for their nomination, though one disgruntled party activist ran as a Conservative in the race in opposition to Bloomberg's liberal outlook and 'betrayal' of Republican ideals. Though initially prevented from standing again at the end of his term in 2009, Bloomberg is already likely to join Rudy Giuliani and Fiorello LaGuardia as the city's most successful Republican mayors. However, in October 2008 the city council voted to suspend the term limits on account of the financial crisis, enabling his to successfully run for a third term.
Mayor Bloomberg frequently appeared in press speculation linked to a potential presidential bid in 2008, not least because of the wide open field this time round. In June 2007 he changed his registered affiliation from Republican to independent, feverishly renewing such speculation. Though reticent on his post-mayoral ambitions and coy about stating anything beyond a return to philanthropy once he departs from city hall, permutations of a Bloomberg ticket included Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, a Democrat, as a potential Veep to add political and geographical balance. The mayor's own estimated $13bn fortune would ensure that a self-financed campaign would be free of any unclean funding from vested interests. However, the mayor's social liberalism, most notably his stance on gun control, seen as hardline anti in key swing states, would have rendered such a bid difficult to say the least. Though hailed for his work as the figurehead of the 226-strong Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign, the outrage which followed Bloomberg's foray outside of his own city jurisdiction, not to mention state, into Virginia as part of an entrapment stunt designed to demonstrate the state's lax gun laws, is seen as a wider sign of his Yankee stigma to the electorate south of the Mason-Dixon line. In February 2008 Bloomberg killed off any speculation once and for all when he stated: "I am not and will not be a candidate for president."
Despite his wealth, the Bloomberg retains something of a down to earth manner, travelling to city hall on the subway every day. He does not reside in the official residence of the New York Mayor, Gracie Mansion, but at his own home on the Upper East Side. He also waives his entitlement to the mayor’s salary and accepts a token payment of one dollar annually. Mayor Bloomberg was formerly married to Susan Brown, to whom he has two daughters, Emma and Georgina. The mayor’s partner is Diane Taylor, state banking superintendent for the State of New York.