Gumby vs. Mayor Mike

Posted: Jun 25, 2003 12:00 AM

Which politician is more reviled by his own constituents -- California Gov. Gray Davis or New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg?

The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll found that a measly 28 percent of Californians approve of Davis' handling of his job. Hence the movement to recall him.

In New York, the bloom is off hizzoner's rose. A New York poll found that Bloomberg's approval rating -- 24 percent -- was at a record low.

California critics describe Davis' approach to governance as "nonstop fund raising" -- another way of saying barely governing. Davis has worked his whole life to be governor. Once elected, he went light on doing the job.

The New York Daily News sums up Bloomberg's approach to governing as his "nonconfrontational style" -- a euphemism for ineffective.

Both pols are facing big deficits in their budgets.

California state coffers have a $38 billion hole. New York's shortfall is about $3.8 billion.

Californians are angry at Davis because he spent too much time fund raising and campaigning last year, when he should have been paying more attention to the state's growing revenue shortfall.

New Yorkers are miffed with Bloomberg because he has spent too much time telling other people how to behave -- as in the city's new ban against smoking in bars and restaurants -- when he should have been making Gotham's government run better.

Changes in workers' compensation laws under Davis have driven California employers' premiums through the roof, hurting employers and jobs.

New York businesses are being dinged as city workers fine them under an obscure law for such offenses as displaying illicit signage on awnings. Awnings with the words "cold beer" -- rather than simply the establishment's name -- can earn a fine of $2,500.

Both politicians also show a deficit in their personalities.

Sacto wags call Davis "Gumby." Even the statewide officers who say they won't run in a recall election have made it clear they don't like Davis.

New York tabloids have dubbed Bloomberg "Mayor Mike." The citizenry call him puritanical, prissy, a grinch lookalike and a busybody.

Davis has been happy to allow others to take the credit for tax hikes. Just before his own finance director Steve Peace raised the vehicle license fee -- at an average cost of $158 more per car owner -- Davis told the Sacramento Bee the decision was "up to the financial officers of the state."

Bloomberg has shown himself willing to take the heat for higher parking tickets, hiring more ticket writers for parking and business infractions, and calling for unpopular budget cuts. His methods for enhancing city revenues have small business owners furious with Bloomberg for balancing the city budget on their backs.

Last year, Davis spent some $77 million of other people's money to win re-election, but he won after chasing 1.3 million voters away -- 3.5 million Californians voted for Gumby in 2002, as opposed to 4.8 million in 1998.

Bloomberg spent more than $50 million of his own money to win the mayor's seat. Now, Gloomberg is so unpopular that there are unsubstantiated rumors that Bill Clinton will replace him as mayor in 2005.

In California, tongues wag that Arnold Schwarzenegger will pummel Davis if there's a recall election, which could happen this year. The bad news for Davis is that the more he spends to keep his seat, the less he governs and the more likely he is to lose.