Ian Frazier’s fascinating piece about the out-of-control homeless epidemic in New York City—spoiler: things got particularly bad when Bloomberg replaced Section 8 housing subsidies with a new program called Advantage in 2007, which was then defunded in 2011—has a terrific explanation of Bloomberg, our Mayor Smaug, in action:
Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, the Bloomberg administration official most significantly involved in its policies for the homeless, is a trim, gray-haired woman in her mid-fifties whose father was the mayor of Menands, a village north of Albany…. Her blue eyes often have an expression that can only be described as a twinkle. I’ve seen this look in other Bloomberg staffers’ eyes, and in photos of the Mayor himself. It reminds me of the twinkle in the eyes of the Santa Claus in the Coca-Cola ads from the nineteen-fifties (inappropriately, given the Mayor’s feelings about soft drinks).
I think the contagious Bloomberg twinkle comes partly from the Mayor’s role as a sort of Santa figure. He works for the city for a dollar a year, he gives away his money by the hundreds of millions, and he manifestly has the city’s happiness and well-being at heart. Every rich person should be like him. His deputies and staffers twinkle with the pleasure of participating in his general beneficence, as well they should. “You can’t make a man mad by giving him money”—this rule would seem to be absolute. And yet sometimes people in the city he has done so much for still get mad at Bloomberg and criticize him. At the wrong of this, the proper order of things is undone, and the Bloomberg twinkle turns to ice.