You might have thought that Michael Bloomberg, with his mercifully futile crusades to protect everyone from their guns and their Big Gulps, would have set a record for grandstanding by a New York City mayor that would stand through the ages. Bill de Blasio, his hulking successor, is giving the diminutive Mr. Bloomberg a real run for his money, or, actually, your money. The Bloomberg grandstand was pushed into the shade.
Having just won another four-year term and sending clear signals that his ambitions aren’t limited to Gracie Mansion, the Democratic mayor revealed last week he has directed the city to file lawsuits against five global energy companies for producing greenhouse gases that changed the climate and caused Hurricane Sandy, nearly destroying Lower Manhattan. As The Times’ Valerie Richardson reported last week, Mr. de Blasio further plans to pull $5 billion in five city employee pension funds out of fossil-fuel shares, where they have been increasing the value of the pension accounts. It’s the largest politically motivated municipal divestment in history.
It’s a classic liberal two-fer: first running to the courts to get policy results that can’t be obtained through honest politicking and the legislative process, and attempting to save the world using other people’s money.
Gotham is following a few liberal California cities that have decided they must take the lead to stop climate change, since the Trump administration and a clear majority of the American people refuse to do so. As a spokesman for Chevron, one of the oil-and-gas giants in Mr. de Blasio’s sights, told The Times, “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement” — and isn’t something that can be solved with junk science emanating from the five boroughs Mr. de Blasio is supposed to be representing.”
There’s something particularly rich about the mayor brandishing the pension weapon against his adversaries. The city’s employee pension funds — which all should recall hold the money that guarantees that cops, firefighters and trash collectors can enjoy their retirement years in health, comfort and dignity — have not been exactly a picture of fiscal stability in recent years. Abruptly reassigning $5 billion in sound investments will be both expensive and disruptive, a violation of the fiduciary duty of the pension funds’ managers to obtain the best return for those who faithfully paid into the pension fund over the decades.
A pro-industry research group warns that the cost of Mr. de Blasio’s little political gambit could rob the funds, worth a combined $189 billion, of as much as an eighth of their value over the next two decades. That figure may be high, but it’s hard to imagine any scenario where the mayor’s raid on the pension funds and his politically correct investment strategy could result in higher returns on the workers’ money.
If Mr. de Blasio really wants to act locally while thinking globally on climate change, he should look to his own office. Jim Dwyer, a columnist for The New York Times, gave his readers a devastating peek into the mayor’s own carbon footprint, as Mr. de Blasio’s 13-vehicle motorcade, including four SUVs and a large service van, pulled up to the New York Public Library last week for a private event. For the entire two hours Mr. de Blasio was inside, the cars and trucks waited outside, their engines idling. This preserved His Honor’s sense of his importance, but the importance of urban environment, not so much.
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