Smith: Orthodox Vote to Only Cost Bloomberg $8 Million?

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Photo: Getty Images

Come on, Mike. You can buy votes more artfully than this.

Yesterday, less than two weeks before Election Day, the mayor appeared before an Orthodox Jewish group in Borough Park — a stop that wasn’t listed on his public schedules — and said he was “optimistic” that he’d be able to restore $8 million in taxpayer funding that overwhelmingly benefits Orthodox families. Borough Park’s city councilman, Simcha Felder, went considerably beyond optimistic; Felder, a key Bloomberg ally in last year’s term-limits battle, issued a statement flatly treating the funding extension as a done deal. “It’s terrific,” an Orthodox leader says with a laugh. “This is the American system, what our forefathers gave us: An election is coming and this is the way things get done.”

Some background: The money in question is part of a program called Priority 7. Created by the Giuliani administration, Priority 7 has always been a dubious use of city money. It certainly goes to people who need it — poor families who are required to spend it on child care. But in practice, Priority 7 primarily helps the large families that are common in the Orthodox community, which also just happens to be a highly valuable voting bloc. Back in June, Bloomberg abruptly eliminated the entire $16 million outlay, in the name of citywide budgetary cutbacks. After some well-orchestrated protests on the steps of City Hall, the mayor just as abruptly announced he was restoring the funding — but only half of it. He’d decide about adding the additional $8 million in December.

But that timetable was put in place before Bloomberg was officially running for reelection. Maybe he’s worried about Orthodox turnout. Or maybe you do whatever you feel like when you’re ahead by sixteen points in the most recent Marist poll and your opponent’s campaign can’t even spell its candidate’s name correctly in press releases. But Bloomberg, after he’s guaranteed four more years, will soon be loudly proclaiming that he’s making the tough choices to close a $5 billion city budget deficit. Guess he’ll find that $16 million somewhere else.