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Mike Bloomberg, what a guy! He’s the mayor of New York City, a presidential wannabe… and a billionaire who wants you to believe that he’s just an average Joe – one of the folks, doncha know!
To dramatize his claim to be a man of the people, Bloomberg pledged in his first mayoral campaign that he would ride the subway to his office nearly every day. What a great political touch – a billionaire straphanger, willing to rub up against the teeming masses and connect to the hoi polloi like a commoner!
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How’s that working out you ask? Well, the reality of the mayor’s mass transit commute turns out to be a bit less populist-tinged than his image-makers intended. Instead of facing the daily crush that ordinary New Yorkers endure, Bloomberg gets on the subterranean train only a couple of times a week. Still he sets an example, right?
Not exactly. Even on the days he does go underground, he gets – believe it or not – a chauffeured ride. Rather than walk four blocks to the nearest subway station, Bloomberg instead steps out of his swank Upper Eastside brownstone townhouse and steps into a king-sized, black, Chevy Suburban SUV that’s kept idling outside his door ‘til he’s ready. His excellency is then chauffeured, not to his local subway stop, but 22 blocks away to a station where he can hop onto an express train that zips him non-stop to city hall.
Thus the can emerge refreshed, barely touched by the great unwashed, yet appearing to be at one with “the people,” while also touting the environmental benefits of riding mass transit. Never mind that few commuters get a chauffeured ride to the express train, and that Bloomberg’s Suburban SUV is a polluting gas hog – it’s the image that counts.
Hey, Mike – riding an SUV to a subway stop is not populism… it’s hypocrisy. I don’t think you’re fooling anyone.
“Yes, Mayor Takes the Subway. But He’s Driven There by S.U.V.” The New York Times, August 1, 2007
“When a Mayor Plays Just Another Straphanger,” The New York Times, August 2, 2007