Michael Bloomberg’s 12 year tenure as New York City’s mayor ends this month, and he’s going out with a ban. Last week, in the City Council’s final legislative session of the year, the council passed a Bloomberg-advocated ban on plastic-foam food containers, such Styrofoam cups and takeout boxes. The ban comes with a one-year period of “investigation” during which packaging manufacturers try to prove the material can be collected and recycled. (Read: a year in which politicians can solicit additional lobbying money from the industry.)
Council also decided to ban the use of e-cigarettes, which produce completely harmless puffs of water vapor, at any location covered by the city’s smoking ban. The ban means that e-cigarette users will have to join their real-cigarette-smoking cousins on the streets outside of bars and restaurants. The irony of subjecting e-cigarette users—many of whom use the product in an attempt to quit smoking—to second-hand smoke was lost on the city council.
Bloomberg, who was first elected mayor as Republican before becoming an independent, has had a long career of banning things in his adopted city. He pushed through the City Council a ban on smoking in parks and on beaches. His ban on trans fats rendered things like Burger King French fries less delicious than their out-of-state versions. He also attempted to strengthen restrictions on formula within New York hospitals in an effort to encourage breastfeeding. Where Sandra Fluke was when this happened and why she didn’t raise hell about women’s rights being violated, nobody can say.
The mayor strongly supported, with both his considerable financial resources and his own vocal advocacy, anti-gun causes across the country as well as climate-change groups (Bloomberg endorsed Obama’s candidacy during the eleventh hour of 2012, on the basis that Obama thinks climate change is a big deal, or something), but no Bloomberg pet issue is more infamous than his crusade against large sodas. The soda ban, which passed through the city council but was overturned by a judge just before implementation, earned him some well-deserved condemnation and lampooning, as well as praise from insane progressives. The Atlantic called him one of the “brave thinkers” of 2012 for his crusade against big soda cups. The mayor’s defense of his mission consisted of contradictory exclamations like “We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things, we’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup,” which was “not something the Founding Fathers fought for.”
In his final major speech, Bloomberg channeled Eisenhower, addressing the “labor-electoral complex,” a reference to the New York City political machine, which is dominated by unions like SEIU and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which channel their large memberships into voting booths on election day.
Where will Bloomberg go now, and what portents and Cassandra-like omens about unions and soda and breastfeeding will he offer from retirement? Once mayor-elect Bill de Blasio begins to flex his muscles in a more baldly ideological manner, will we look back with nostalgia at these quaint days and decide that Bloomberg’s crotchets weren’t really so bad after all? I think we know the answer.