Michael Bloomberg’s Only Just Begun

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s three terms will match those of La Guardia and Koch — but what of his legacy?

BY Kerry Eleveld

September 10 2013 4:00 AM ET

“He failed an entire generation of young black and Latino men who are at high risk,” says Janet Weinberg, interim executive director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

Bloomberg also showed early promise on transgender issues.

“In 2002, he signed our trans civil rights bill in New York City — it was one of the first things he did as mayor,” says Melissa Sklarz, trans activist and president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, of the moment when gender identity joined the city’s ranks of
protected classes. Sklarz had worked on adding trans protection to the city ordinance for years under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, to no avail.

But later, Bloomberg faltered on other trans advancements like overhauling gender guidelines on birth certificates. Eleven long years later, like so many other New Yorkers, Sklarz has Bloomberg fatigue.

“He does not seem to be fond of the political process — he likes things done his way,” she says. “I’m not happy, as a Democrat. I look forward to new political leadership next year.”

But one important thing to remember about Bloomberg’s legacy is that it’s not going to end in New York any more than he’ll stop making headlines after he leaves office in 2014.

While some New Yorkers are tired of what has sometimes seemed like autocratic rule — no smoking in bars and
eateries, calorie counts on every menu, and no supersized sodas — people across the country are just beginning to get a taste of his aspirations. And some of his interest areas are distinctly progressive, including immigration reform, reproductive rights, gun control, and marriage equality.

In particular, Bloomberg pledged a $500,000 match last year to the four successful marriage equality efforts in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. He also poured over $13 million into outside groups last cycle, much of which was focused on gun control candidates and campaigns. As many political observers noted, 2012 was likely just a wee glimpse of the future.

When Bloomberg surrenders his mayoral title, he will leave behind his administration’s record on the way to building a legacy of potentially global scope through the contributions of his foundation and political giving. With a net worth of $27 billion, it’s a good bet his impact will reach far beyond the great city of New York. And love him or hate him, having him on the side of marriage equality and LGBT rights, more generally, could be worth its weight in gold.

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