The Problem With Cronyism
Eric Adams has friends in high places
As the New York Post completed its turn on Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, the right-wing tabloid ran a story about the number of former city council members he has hired for his government. The story didn’t break new ground; it was a helpful run-down for New Yorkers who hadn’t been paying a great amount of attention to the new mayor.
The Post, finally critical of Adams, ticked off the 10 politicians and the public salaries they now held. What’s not very surprising about the list is how few of these 10 have serious qualifications for the posts they’ve taken up. And even those that do undoubtedly occupy positions that could have been held by more competent people.
Adams is not the first mayor to reward allies; he’s just the first, in at least 30 years, to do it so aggressively and blatantly. Rudy Giuliani made his former driver his police commissioner, but Bernard Kerik, future felon, at least wasn’t his first choice to lead the NYPD. Michael Bloomberg made a friendly magazine executive schools chancellor and that, predictably, was a disaster. Bill de Blasio found government roles for friends and large donors.
All of these mayors, though, prioritized expertise in many of the highest roles and weren’t hungrily drawing from a pool of term-limited politicians to fill out their governments. Perhaps Ed Koch, who paid off political debts to the outer borough Democratic machines and suffered politically for it, is the closest analogue, though Koch still ran a more serious government.
The price of cronyism, for Adams, is now coming into focus.