Just as democratic U.S. President Barack Obama and republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were able to put their political differences aside yesterday in the face of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy – because that’s the job they were elected to do, and to hell with the political consequences five days before the presidential election – so, too, is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg simply doing his job when he declared that the ING New York City Marathon would go ahead as scheduled this Sunday morning.
“It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you know, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind,” Bloomberg said as quoted in the New York Times.
Notwithstanding, there has been a surge of criticism rising up to challenge his decision. Everyone from 1993 World Marathon champion Mark Plaatjes of Boulder, Colorado, whose wife Shirley had planned to run, but has now chosen not to, to Staten Island borough president James Molinaro has argued that now is not the time to be conducting a marathon when so many others are suffering and precious resources are needed for hurricane relief.
“I just assumed it was canceled,” Molinaro told The Staten Island Advance. “My God. What we have here is terrible, a disaster. If they want to race, let them race with themselves. This is no time for a parade. A marathon is a parade.”
First of all, if you want to know one consequence of allowing foot racing over the last decade+ to be submerged beneath the weight of fund-running, this is one example. What used to be looked upon as a sporting event has now been publicly transformed into a parade, little different than the Puerto Rican Day Parade, or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
But putting that aside for the moment, does anyone really believe that Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t have the Big Picture in mind? You don’t think that he, of all people (moderate, three-term, once republican, now independent billionaire) hasn’t weighed the needs of hurricane relief with the need to get his city back on its economic feet as quickly as possible? Is it even conceivable that this is a frivolous decision on his part, that he doesn’t have his priorities in order, or understand the allocation of city resources and manpower?
Forget the marathon as a reflection of the city’s resilience argument. Forget the marathon as a spiritual communion argument or as a remembrance and memorial – aspects of foot racing that wholly differentiate it from a parade. This decision by Mayor Bloomberg, who is already being touted for higher political office based on his performance to date, comes after assessing the best interests of his city as a whole and an understanding of the assets in hand and the cost-benefit analysis in mind. We are not talking about Ray Nagin, the overwhelmed former New Orleans mayor during Hurricane Katrina.
Emotions are just another of the pent up forces released by a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy. But that’s why we as a society elect certain types of people to lead us and to make the tough calls. Those people – generally – have the capacity to see not only the emotion of the moment but the quotidian flow ahead, and to understand the relationship of one to the other. It’s their job to take emotion out of the equation as much as possible, and make the very difficult decisions that lead us where we need to go. It’s a quality often referred to as vision. Well, it’s time to let the mayor do his job. Supporters and naysayers alike can vote on the appropriateness of his vision soon enough. That’s the rhythm and beauty of our democratic system.