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Bloomberg's gilded reign comes to an end

ALL-EXPENSE-PAID MAYORALTY: Mr Bloomberg has doled out at least US$650 million of his own money on a variety of perks and bonuses, political campaigns, advocacy work, charity, social causes, travel and lodging, connected to his time and role as mayor of New York.


    Dec 31, 2013

    Bloomberg's gilded reign comes to an end


    MR MICHAEL Bloomberg loves tropical fish. So, when he was elected mayor of New York, he installed two giant aquariums inside City Hall.

    The cost for having the tanks cleaned out every week for the past 12 years: Around US$62,400 (S$79,165).

    The mayor likes to nosh, too. So, he paid to feed his staff daily a light breakfast (coffee, bagels, yoghurt) and a modest lunch (tuna salad, peanut-butter and jam sandwiches, sliced fruit).

    The bill for his entire mayoralty: About US$890,000.

    Hizzoner, above all, enjoys hassle-free travel. When he took his aides anywhere, from Albany to Athens, it was by private plane.

    The price tag for all that jetting around: Roughly US$6 million.

    When the 71-year-old leaves office tomorrow, he will bequeath a litany of record-shattering statistics on crime reduction, sidewalk safety and skyline-altering construction.

    But perhaps the most staggering figure is the amount of his own money that he devoted, day in and day out, to being mayor - much of it unseen by the public.

    An analysis by The New York Times shows that Mr Bloomberg has doled out at least US$650 million on a wide variety of perks and bonuses, political campaigns and advocacy work, charitable giving and social causes, not to mention travel and lodging, connected to his time and role as mayor.

    In the past, the city paid its mayor; Mr Bloomberg paid to be the city's mayor.

    In moves that would make a financial planner's head spin, he rejected the US$2.7 million worth of salary to which he was entitled (accepting just US$1 a year) and, starting in 2001, turned on a spigot of cash that has never stopped gushing.

    He poured at least US$268 million of his personal funds into three campaigns for mayor.

    He donated at least another US$263 million to New York arts, civic, health and cultural groups, personally and through his company, Bloomberg.

    Campaign donations? He handed out about US$23 million.

    He even chipped in US$5 million to renovate an official mayoral residence that he never inhabited.

    Mr Bloomberg's all-expense-paid mayoralty was, depending on the vantage point, exhilarating (for his aides), infuriating (for his rivals), cost-saving (for his constituents) or selfless (for the beneficiaries of his largess). But for anyone who interacted with the billionaire, his gilded approach to governance was a breathtaking thing to behold.

    Mr Guy Molinari, the former Staten Island borough president, recalled the time the mayor invited him to see the new commuter ferries that would bear Mr Molinari's name.

    Mr Molinari had assumed the invitation would mean visiting the boats in the humble waters of Staten Island. Mr Bloomberg had a grander plan: He whisked Mr Molinari to Wisconsin on his pristine private plane to view the factory where the ships were being built.

    "We've never had anybody like him before," Mr Molinari said. "And we are never going to see anybody like him again."