Who’s the Boss?

Stephen Goldsmith

A September 19 piece in the NY Post reports that Transportation Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan and Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith got into a tiff over Sadik-Khan’s aggressive promotion of bicycle lanes throughout New York City.

The Post then noted that Sadik-Khan now reports jointly to Goldsmith and to Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel.

Janet Sadik-Khan and Michael Bloomberg

To anyone who has spent decades watching City Hall, this means only one thing: Sadik-Khan doesn’t really answer to either deputy mayor. She works for Mike Bloomberg.

The story casts light on some of the frustrations Goldsmith seems to be experiencing after just four months in NYC government.

More on Goldsmith’s frustrations can be found in the September 23 edition of Crain’s Insider. Crain’s (we’re prohibited from providing a public link to this subscriber-only newsletter) reports that Goldsmith is being “confounded by bureaucratic friction” in his efforts to make city government operate more efficiently — primarily, through the use of technology.

Crain’s’ Erik Engquist tells of Goldsmith’s futile efforts to speak directly with Sanitation Department workers to learn how they can do things more efficiently, and reports that Goldsmith hopes to use electronic devices to track how Buildings Department inspectors spend their days. Goldsmith earned a national reputation as a cost-cutter as mayor of Indianapolis.

Taken together, the two stories paint a picture of an official whose portfolio is not so much to bring leadership to mayoral agencies, but to discover ways to make them more efficient and productive. He may be the mayor’s chief cost-cutter, but he’ll have some difficulty imposing his cuts on Sadik-Khan’s transportation agency.

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