Wherever you’re reading this, there’s probably a Bloomberg ad running alongside it.


These ads have amplified, across the country, a Bloomberg who was an ally of teachers and education equity, was dedicated to expanding affordable housing, was a champion of the working class and will build on those successes to “rebuild America.”


Bloomberg, the Great and Powerful.


Take it from someone who lived under Bloomberg, who served with him, who fought against him — if you look behind the curtain, as I hope millions will in tonight's debate, that image begins to melt away.


His advertisements hide his failures on housing — the termination of Section 8, the capitulation to a real estate industry that led to rents rising and neighborhoods falling, the drastic increase in homelessness that was met with an oblivious response. Mayor Bloomberg’s policies created an affordable housing and homelessness crisis in New York City that has extended and exacerbated far beyond his tenure, creating a city that is the most expensive it has ever been.


His money obscures the reality that through his tenure and beyond, 75,000 public school teachers in our city were left without a contract — without job or salary security. When his ads boast of a ‘balanced budget,’ they neglect to mention that balance came on the backs of suffering city employees. Those ads do not discuss his long history of denying benefits to working people, even those working for his own government — he cut costs, then passed the buck.


His ubiquitous 30 second spots don’t explain that he struck blows against educational equity, further enabling privilege and wealth to determine students opportunities to succeed. He oversaw the most segregated school district in America, and the mayoral control he sought and won comes with mayoral responsibility.


Bloomberg's Republican roots


His voiceover never mentions that he first served as a Republican, then an Independent, in part to avoid the fight for a Democratic nomination he now hopes to buy. But for Democratic voters looking to beat Donald Trump and all he represents, Michael Bloomberg is not the answer.


Lacking courage to face scrutiny of his record or heart to meaningfully acknowledge its failings, he has the brains to avoid such confrontations. He’s hoping voters — particularly outside the five boroughs — look back on his emerald city of New York with rose-colored glasses. But the colors he was interested in targeting as mayor were black and brown.


In one year, the stop-question-and-frisk policies pushed by Mayor Bloomberg stopped more young black men than actually lived in the city of New York. He defended that policy against efforts by myself and others to curb these abuses, against a judge who ruled the policy unconstitutional and he vetoed our legislation taking it on – a veto we later overrode to begin to correct these injustices. Yet as recently as 2019, he continued to stand by the policy, even arguing that it did not target enough people of color. He finally apologized just a week before announcing his run, because when it comes to finding clarity, there’s no place like the presidential stage.


On housing, on education, an apology is due and delayed — the same communities were hit and are still struggling. But neither an apology nor his new black economic justice plan can account for why these things never came during his tenure — when given the opportunity to help black and brown communities, when in office, he appeared less interested in building them up and more interested in locking them up.


Before I became the highest ranking black elected official in New York City, while I was in the City Council I witnessed the impact of Mayor Bloomberg’s harmful policies up close — not just as an advocate but an arrestee. While in elected office, while in my neighborhood, with a close friend and fellow government employee, I was arrested and detained by the NYPD in a case that highlighted just how far the abuses of bias-based policing and stop, question and frisk had gone under Mayor Bloomberg. I was just another Xeroxed copy of the kind of person he considered a target.


Quality guy is the wrong choice


Despite that, despite all of my differences from and criticisms of the mayor, I’ll use the same phrase to describe him that he used to describe me after my arrest — “he’s a quality guy… he really wants to do something for this city.” And I believe that. I also believe that some of his policies past and present — on health, on gun safety — are laudable and beneficial. But the questions are and have been — what is he doing? and who in this city — and now is this country — is he doing it for? And the mayor seemingly has no interest in taking those questions or giving the American people answers.


By blanketing the airwaves, by ducking the debates — at least, until now — and by skipping early states, Bloomberg is willing voters, “Pay no attention to the Mike behind the curtain.”


As someone who knows what’s waiting there, who knows the importance of not only beating Trump but progressing beyond him, I’m urging Americans to forget about this wizard.


Jumaane Williams is public advocate for the city of New York. Follow him on Twitter: @JumaaneWilliams. Originally published by USA Today.