As they should, New York City mayors come to the job with different ideas about how best to do it. Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani started by being control freaks about details until they learned the nuts and bolts of the sprawling bureaucracy.
From the start, David Dinkins and Michael Bloomberg were more comfortable delegating power to their aides. Bloomberg captured this approach with his expletive warning to new hires: “Don’t f–k it up!”
But in Bill de Blasio, City Hall has a tenant unlike any in recent times: A mayor so disengaged that if he were in the military, he would be arrested for going AWOL.
De Blasio doesn’t have a style of management because he doesn’t seem to know or care about management. His idea of doing the job is giving speeches, writing blank checks to spendthrift commissioners and leaving town for national political events.
He also goes to the gym, takes naps and bitches endlessly about the media to aides and private consultants.
The price of his indifference to substance is coming due. The Post report Tuesday that the city is late with its payments to 80 percent of private vendors shows the impact of an absentee leader.
The payment delays sometimes run for a year or more, which is especially painful for nonprofit social-service providers, including those that operate city shelters. The Comptroller’s Office says the Department of Homeless Services and the Human Resources Administration were late with payments 100 percent of the time in fiscal 2017.
Think about that: They miss their deadlines on every contract they sign! That’s consistency, de Blasio style.
The problem is that City Hall can’t cut through its own bureaucracy. After agreeing to terms with a vendor, including a start date and price, officials circulate the contract among as many as five different city agencies for approval, including budget and legal. There are no deadlines or transparency into the black hole of multi-layer review.
After that process, the contract goes to Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has 30 days to approve or deny it. Approval triggers the flow of agreed-upon dollars.
De Blasio’s abysmal record of being late with payments means vendors are working before the contract has been approved by the comptroller, meaning they can’t be paid. If the delays are long, many nonprofits end up taking out loans, which raises their costs.
The issue is hardly sexy — or new.
Koch, in his 1984 book, “Mayor,” told the story of a vendor who complained that the city was so routinely slow in paying him that he and others padded their bills to make up for the delays.
Koch, eager to save taxpayer money, ordered a study to see how many payments were late. It found over half went beyond the standard 30 days, and some were 18 months late.
Furious, he seized on a Kochian solution: public embarrassment. He gave agency heads three months to shape up, then started releasing the names of commissioners who were habitually late with payments.
“It worked,” he wrote, saying the city soon was paying 85 percent of its bills in 30 days and getting a cash discount for doing so. Koch added, “A little competition is always healthy.”
The NYPD’s CompStat, which started under Giuliani, is another version of embarrassing managers and creating competition, this time with the aim of solving and preventing crime.
In fact, there are an almost endless number of techniques and tricks to fix things that are broken — if the mayor cares. If.
But look at The Post report last week on thousands of syringes being found in city parks, and later stories about junkies shooting up in broad daylight. The city’s answer: deposit boxes for used syringes and medically supervised spots for shooting up.
This isn’t compassion or leadership. These are snapshots of a city surrendering to decline.
Alas, indifference is apparently a de Blasio family habit. The New York Times reports that the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is effectively a no-show as head of the Mayor’s Fund, New York’s official philanthropic organization. The paper reports that McCray has attended fewer than half of its board meetings since becoming chair and that donor contributions, used to augment city services, are the lowest they have been in a decade.
Meanwhile, the fund has new, larger offices and costs have soared by 50 percent. McCray has her own office, but hasn’t set foot in it for a year, the Times reports.
As every mayor learns, managing New York is difficult even when you have the best of intentions, boundless energy and a talented team. But there are no possible solutions when the people in charge don’t care enough even to show up.
Hill fans go the extra vile
My column on how lucky America was to avoid a Hillary Clinton presidency brought the usual leftist insults about my supposed gay relationship with President Trump and wishes that I meet a painful end.
As reader W. Snyder put it, “Please kill yourself so no one will have to read your racist remarks again. Die soon.”
Yet I was struck by how many critical letters were simply personal attacks on Trump. Often, it was pure, blind hate that echoed the campaign of 2016, and we know how that turned out.
“This moron has not only ruined our democracy and disgraced our nation, he is a compulsive liar and a criminal,” wrote Kevin Kelley.
A reader named Charlene said, “This president is a nightmare. The whole nation is falling apart.”
Rebecca Brown says, “He is a liar that is trying to change our democracy into an authoritative state.”
And Scott Aichinger says Trump has a “dehumanizing and anti-American presidency.”
Trump supporters were well represented, too, and reader Mark Mickley best captured their values.
He writes, “A ton of us out here in middle America think Trump’s doing a damn good job and we could care less who he’s slept with or that he’s a bully with bad table manners.
“We just want results. He gets results.”
High-tax states, get out of dodge
Well, that was fast — and predictable.
The IRS is warning high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that laws crafted to avoid federal tax changes won’t pass muster, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The states are trying to circumvent the $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local taxes that is part of the new federal code. Some officials, including Gov. Cuomo, aimed to create a workaround where taxpayers would pay local taxes to charitable entities to reduce their federal taxes.
IRS rejection was a given, yet Cuomo and other Dems wanted to pretend they were fighting for taxpayers even as they gouge them with sky-high state levies.
Instead of playing games, they ought to cut those taxes — or prepare to get run over by higher-income families stampeding for the exits.
Headline . . .
Government warning: Do Not Try To Roast Marshmallows Over Erupting Hawaii Volcano
. . . Your tax dollars at work.
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