Wednesday, September 21, 2005


SBM New Yorker Sks. Billionaire Mayor's Attention

Dear Mr. Mayor,

I’m somewhat disappointed. I’m an African-American and a Republican. I live in Brooklyn — as you probably know, given the amount of campaign literature that has been filling my mail box. So, I’m a little upset that I didn’t get an invitation to that “African Americans for Bloomberg”
press conference Monday.

(Yeah, I know I’m a “journalist,” but it would have been nice to have at least been invited.)

I even voted for you in the last election. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to reveal these things, but I want to be totally honest here.

Honesty, after all, is the best policy.

I imagine that I’m not that rare — a black person registered to vote in New Yorker who is somewhat favorably disposed toward voting for a Republican mayor.

Thus, your press conference — with at least three attendees who aren’t “real” New Yorkers able to vote in the five boroughs — was a rare mistake in an almost-flawless re-election campaign.

Now, you’ve paid close attention to the campaign and saw how some of the Democrats stumbled over racial issues. There was Ferrer’s “
Diallo shooting wasn’t a crime” gaffe. Considering Freddy won the primary, that wasn’t a fatal mistake.

It was still costly: Rev. Al Sharpton held back his endorsement for weeks. In the meantime, he endorsed both the
West Side Stadium and the Brooklyn Yards projects — bringing some black community street-cred to your major development priorities.

C. Virginia Fields stumbled in a way in which her campaign was never able to recover. You remember the Photoshop
diversity flap: Rather than have an actual press conference showing ethnic variety, Fields’ consultants used digital enhancement. Eventually, her main campaign advisor departed and subsequently denounced her. She plunged from a reasonably close second place to a distant third by Primary Day.

A lesson to be learned: Strive for authenticity — even in campaign promotions. That’s why your press conference was disappointing.

Was it really necessary to include quasi-New Yorkers — former Knick guard Rod Strickland, Harlem real estate titan Eugene Webb and ( God help us!) ex-MLB player Mo Vaughn — among your black celebrity endorsers? The latter in particular?

Yes, he's a businessman and is refurbishing buildings for
affordable housing. But -- politically -- what on earth does Mo Vaughn bring — except bad memories that you don’t want dredged up?

His best years were with the Boston Red Sox. That’s certainly going to go over so well with the millions of Yankee fans in the city (of which, by the way, I am one). Besides, it’s taken the city four years to ignore the fact that you used to be a Sawx fan.

When Vaughn came to New York, he supposedly “played” for the Mets, but was so injury-prone that he is recognized as one of the biggest free-agent busts in recent memory. He is, thus, the one former New York baseball player that can turn off equal amounts of Yankee and Mets fans. Not something you want to remind people of during re-election time.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s good that black people are showing some political flexibility (hey, given how you’ve done the same in running from George W. Bush and the national GOP, it is only fair).

Besides, your record on
education and job creation and the Ray Kellly-run NYPD’s improved relationship with the black community should pay off on election day.

But don’t needlessly go over the top.

Fields’ multi-cultural Photoshop was an embarrassment that revealed her as inauthentic. She couldn’t shake that label. You already have significant black support — from Inner City broadcasting’s Percy Sutton who endorsed you last year to Rev. Floyd Flake who came on board this time around.

Why resort to a photo-op with non-resident black ringers? Was this a relatively minor mistake — not doing a background check to find out if these were “real” New Yorkers? Perhaps.

But little things can create big impressions.

This stunt could remind more than a few people — not just black — that you’re a billionaire who can get anything and anyone he wants. Whether it is necessary or otherwise. Something to keep in mind as the campaign develops.

On behalf of real New Yorkers of all (pin) stripes,

Robert A. George

P.S. Just give me a heads up for that next press conference, k?

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