Case of the 'Missing' Mayor and a Very Unusual Fire Sale ; Michael Bloomberg Governs New York like a CEO, Which Means Weekends off and Selling the Brooklyn Bridge

Article excerpt

So what happens when you make a businessman the mayor of the nation's largest city? He puts the Brooklyn Bridge up for sale, literally.

That's right. In Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to close New York's $5 billion budget gap, the billionaire entrepreneur-turned- politician is coming up with some novel ideas that are winning kudos and raising political hackles, sometimes within the same constituency.

For instance, environmentalists are applauding his idea of selling the four bridges that span the East River to an agency that will charge tolls. That could keep traffic and air pollution down.

But they're furious he wants to revoke the 5-cent bottle return - a cornerstone of the environmental movement. It turns out to be a money loser for the city, and it's the bottom-line that matters here.

Welcome to government Bloomberg-style, where the mayor is chief executive officer: a straightforward problem solver with no unnecessary bowing to constituents or the demands of a voracious press corps. Currently, New York reporters are indignant the mayor won't tell them if or when he jets off to one of his four exclusive getaways on weekends.

The New York Post last week put him on a missing milk-carton poster. The mayor couldn't care less. His privacy, he says, is his business. He won't even discuss the flap over the matter.

"Bloomberg is definitely approaching politics from a business perspective, because that's who he is," says Lee Miringoff of the Marist Polling Institute in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "There is a little less political sensitivity, so he will offend and annoy some groups."

While Bloomberg's handling of the budget may have the greatest impact on the city, his weekend absences are garnering most of the attention, in part because of comparisons with his peripatetic predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani. He made a virtue of his 24/7 governing style, and rarely missed a fire or a shooting or a water- main break.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, makes it clear he's comfortable delegating. Two weeks ago, he had no public schedule over a three- day weekend, then appeared sporting a tan. He was mum on his whereabouts, which prompted a rash of "Where's Mikey" editorials, until he was sighted on a Bermuda golf course. Last weekend, he and his staff again refused to answer questions about his schedule.

The effort to draw a line of privacy in a political culture where the personal and the public became blurred by the scandals of the 1990s is winning plaudits from some pundits and elements of the public. …