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Mike Bloomberg on Principles & Values

Mayor of New York City (Independent)


Self-made billionaire from financial information company

The first time I met Mike Bloomberg was in the late 1990s at a dinner party in his Manhattan house.

I'd seen mayors come and go and Bloomberg did not fit the mold any which way. The slight, self-made billionaire was the opposite of the boisterous characters New Yorkers enjoy. He had created an improbably successful company, a financial information giant that grew from a sophisticated computer terminal he developed. Few beyond Wall Street and the City of London understood much about that or knew that Bloomberg was a generous philanthropist, but the elaborate ad campaigns he could bankroll would fill in the blanks. Recognition wasn't the problem.

Source: Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, by Joyce Purnick, p. 1-2 , Sep 28, 2010

1940s: Raised in Medford, reached Eagle Scout at early age

Mike Bloomberg grew up in Medford MA, a suburban city not far from Boston, and that was part of the problem--or maybe part of the solution. Medford was quiet and dull and Mike was bored. He place could not contain him. He wanted up and out and since that was not about to happen for a while, he turned into a mini-maverick, a restless loner.

He was not a great athlete. He was not a great student. But he was willful, serious and competitive in his own way, reaching the lofty rank of Eagle Scout even before he was old enough to qualify, planning his escape from his drab suburban town as soon as possible, confident in his self- assigned role as a contrarian who followed his own agenda.

If there was one trait that stood out in Mike's childhood foreshadowing the adult he would become, it was his stubborn insistence on taking charge.

Source: Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, by Joyce Purnick, p. 7-8 , Sep 28, 2010

Childhood home included kosher kitchen, but mom bent rules

His Judaism was a non-issue for him. "I never experienced any anti-Semitism. In the context that you would ask about, did you feel discriminated against, did you feel like you couldn't do anything or something because--well, no, I never felt that."

Life in the Bloomberg home was Norman Rockwell with a Jewish twist: Mrs. Bloomberg kept a kosher kitchen. Every spring the family took the blue glass dishes out of basement storage for Passover. Every night the family ate together and the kids would clean up. Mrs. Bloomberg bent the rules now and again. She kept one knife, one fork and one glass plate separate, for her rebellious son to use with the takeout Chinese food he craved when he got a little older.

Source: Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, by J.Purnick, p. 12-13 , Sep 28, 2010

Bill Clinton's sin was self-indulgence, not immorality

Mike Bloomberg's' pragmatism seems always to prevail over Mike Bloomberg's emotions, and a cold-eyed discipline over his frailties. Get a hold and get over it, as his parents instructed and he does.

When Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky was entertaining America, Bloomberg was indignant. Casual acquaintances were amazed to hear him vent angrily about the president. Clinton's behavior was not only outrageous, he would say, it was unacceptable; he should resign. Mike Bloomberg suddenly a prig? No way. He saw Clinton's offense not as immoral; it was self-indulgent, lacking self-control. Not the Bloomberg way.

Source: Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, by J.Purnick, p. 70-71 , Sep 28, 2010

Outsider to both Republican and Democratic establishment

The mayor would inherit a dysfunctional public school system. Bloomberg would have to preserve Giuliani's success in reducing crime and welfare payments, find a way to build more affordable housing.

And winning did not look easy. Bloomberg's chances of getting the Democratic nomination were nil; too many better known Democrats were itching to retake the city from Giuliani. The Republicans, always hungry for attention and money and a plausible candidate, would welcome a wealthy turncoat, but their label represented a serious handicap with voters who registered 5 to 1 Democratic. Only 3 non-Democrats--LaGuardia as a "Fusion" candidate and Republicans Lindsay and Giuliani--had succeeded in the last 75 years. Betting against the odds, Bloomberg quietly switched his affiliation to Republican.

He was a stranger to NY's Republican establishment, though, the professional politicians who could talk up a candidate, give him credibility at least on the inside, with the party's power brokers.

Source: Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, by J.Purnick, p. 82-83 , Sep 28, 2010

OpEd: Stiff in public; impatient with retail handshaking

Herman Badillo, a former congressman, gamely brought some interest to the Republican contest, but mainly it was Bloomberg vs. Bloomberg. The businessman was a terrible candidate. He was stiff in public, impatient with retail handshaking, awkward with voters and accustomed to saying whatever he wanted and whenever he wanted to say it. Even his own advisers saw the problem. "He started off as a terrible candidate, then got to be a so-so candidate," one of them said.

Could the rigidly private Bloomberg turn himself into a public figure? Retail campaigning was no longer central to a campaign. Television ads, radio ads and direct mailings counted for more than kissing babies or eating hot dogs. With his money, Bloomberg could build a heavily manipulated offstage identity and his minders worked hard to limit and control his public appearance.

Source: Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, by Joyce Purnick, p. 95 , Sep 28, 2010

Candidates' religious beliefs should be kept private

Bloomberg had steadfastly refused to bow to the country's demand that national candidates make a display of religious faith, and he showed no willingness to leaven his position. "I think everybody's religious beliefs are their own and they should keep them private," he said to me when speculation about his presidential aspirations was growing intense. "This business of bringing religion into everything is just bad because if you really believe in religion you should be the person out there championing separation of church and state. If you don't care about religion, then no harm, no foul."

One can only speculate how that message, delivered by an unapologetically secular Jew, would have played out in a campaign that featured the melodrama of Barack Obama's flamboyant minister.

Source: Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, by Joyce Purnick, p.168 , Sep 28, 2010

Impatient with government; executive ok; not legislative

Mike's list: President of the US. Secretary General of the UN. Head of the World Bank. Those were 3 jobs Mike Bloomberg coveted as far back as college. He talked about them so often that friends were convinced that he wasn't fantasizing the way young people do, but actually planning ahead.

He made political contributions--modest ones given his wealth--to mostly Democratic candidates. But participatory politics was never his thing. In fact, he wrote in his self-admiring memoir, fittingly titled "Bloomberg by Bloomberg," that when he was pondering a career change in his late 30s, "My impatience with government kept me away from politics. All elected officials could stop worrying."

In what could have been a broad hint, however, he also wrote that thought being a legislator would bore him, "If I ever ran it would be for a job in the executive branch of government--mayor, governor or president. I think I would be great in any of those 3 executive jobs that mirror my experience."

Source: Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics, by J.Purnick, p. 73-74 , Sep 28, 2010

Offered independent ticket by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R, NE)

While NYC Mayor Bloomberg says he is content running the 5 boroughs, other politicians have higher aspirations for the successful leader. On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Chuck Hagel suggested he and the mayor team up for an independent presidential bid. “I think Mayor Bloomberg should seriously think about this,” Hagel said. “He is the mayor of one of the greatest cities on earth. He makes that city work. That’s what America wants.”

Hagel made the suggestion after sharing a meal with Bloomberg durin the mayor’s most recent visit to Washington. “It’s a great country to think about--a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up, leading this nation,” he said.

Bloomberg has said repeatedly he will not enter the presidential race. Nevertheless, Bloomberg has fueled speculation about his ambitions with a schedule that has frequently taken him outside NY. He has also relaunched a Web site, www.mikebloomberg.com, to keep backers abreast of his governmental and philanthropic work, Bloomberg says.

Source: New York Newsday, “US Politics” , May 14, 2007

Will decide in early ‘08 on run as self-financed independent

As fellow New Yorkers Rudy Giuliani (R) and Hillary Clinton (D) campaign vigorously across the country to become their parties’ nominees and prepare for what would be an electric general-election clash, Bloomberg is patiently waiting in the wings.

Publicly, the Democrat-turned-Republican professes no interest in the top job. But Bloomberg has dropped enough hints and has had enough tantalizing discussions with potential supporters that people who observe the city’s politics for a living are

Source: , Mar 25, 2007

Acquisition of money inextricably tied to hard work

Bloomberg grew up in a blue-collar suburb of Boston. The Bloombergs owned their own home, but Michael’s father worked seven days a week as to feed his family. Michael’s view of money was formed early: It was a tool, imbued with no emotional attachment whatsoever. And the acquisition of money was inextricably tied to hard work, nothing else. Throughout the fifties, though, William regularly wrote small checks to the NAACP. “He said it was because discrimination is against everybody,” Bloomberg recalls.
Source: Chris Smith, New York Magazine , Oct 3, 2005

Charitable giving based on “Where can I make a difference?”

In 1994, Bloomberg hired [philanthropic staff], focusing on education, public health, and the arts. Some money was directed to people and organizations with social connections to Bloomberg. Other Bloomberg gifts have gone to causes traceable to his upbringing and Jewish heritage. Bloomberg has given well over $150 million to Johns Hopkins, his alma mater, with much of it directed to the school of public health-which in April 2001 was renamed the Bloomberg School of Public Health. According to the university’s dean, “He said, ‘The company is going to be a going concern whether I’m here or not, and I need another challenge, and it’s not building another company. I don’t need any more money. Where can I make a difference?’ ”
Source: Chris Smith, New York Magazine , Oct 3, 2005

Started Bloomberg company after Salomon Bros. fired him

[Upon being fired from Salomon Brothers in 1981], if they’d said, “We have another job for you”--say, running the Afghanistan office--I’d have done it in a second. Was I sad on the drive home? You bet. But, as usual, I was much too macho to show it. And I did have $10 million in cash and convertible bonds as compensation for my hurt feelings.

I ordered a sable jacket for my wife, Sue. While I was never embarrassed to say that I’d been fired and was now running a small start-up business, I’m tougher than many others (or, perhaps as a psychological defense mechanism, I have convinced myself not to care what others think). But I was worried that Sue might be ashamed of my new, less visible status and concerned I couldn’t support the family A sable jacket seemed to say, “No sweat. We can still eat. We’re still players.”

On my last day of work, September 30, 1981, I picked up the jacket. Sue was delighted. Next morning, I started Bloomberg, the company. The rest is work in progress.

Source: Chapter 1 of “Bloomberg by Bloomberg,” by Mike Bloomberg , Aug 10, 2001

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Other big-city mayors on Principles & Values: Mike Bloomberg on other issues:

Mike Bloomberg (I,New York City)
Cory Booker (D,Newark,NJ)
Julian Castro (D,San Antonio,TX)
Rahm Emanuel (D,Chicago)
Phil Gordon (D,Phoenix)
Tom Menino (D,Boston)
Michael Nutter (D,Philadelphia)
Annise Parker (D,Houston)
Mike Rawlings (D,Dallas)
Jerry Sanders (R,San Diego)
Antonio Villaraigosa (D,Los Angeles)

Former Mayors:
Rocky Anderson (I,Salt Lake City)
Tom Barrett (D,Milwaukee,WI)
Jerry Brown (D,Oakland,CA)
Rudy Giuliani (R,New York City)
Dennis Kucinch (D,Cleveland,OH)
Sarah Palin (R,Wasilla,AK)
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Page last updated: Mar 16, 2014