Days of Change

Climb Tiny Mountains | August 11, 2016

A true athlete constantly has to challenge himself. Great athletes want to challenge themselves and jump higher hurdles and do it faster and better. The part time athlete just tries to be in good enough shape to do the same thing year after year. I know. I live in a city that holds the same road race year after year.

A cornerstone in the legend of Donald Trump is the story of the Wollman Ice Skating Rink in New York City. This started as a renovation plan by the Koch administration in 1980. The time frame was two years and the budget anywhere from $5-$9 million. That would have been fairly reasonable. After 6 years, $13 million had been spent and the rink had not been completed.

Donald Trump challenged Mayor Ed Koch to turn the project over to him and he would finish it in six months for $3 million. Instead, it was finished in four months for just over $2 million. One dimension of this story has been beaten into the ground. Donald Trump can make things happen that government can’t do because of his business acumen. In reality, this is a story that parallels the current election in a number of ways.

First, there is setting low expectations and achieving them like a lazy athlete. this Bloomberg article points out that Koch and the Comptroller overseeing the project were at war with each other. Companies involved disbanded. People died in the middle of the project. Also, the city was bloated and incompetent. In the following years, NYC has become more efficient while staying incompetent. Anyone who was handed the project without interference could have finished it for a couple million, as it was basically done.

For Trump, publicity is priceless. He made whatever was left from the $3 million out of the deal. Koch made sure all the money made at the rink would go to charity. What Wollman did, however, was make Trump a hero to the city, bolstering the lawsuits he had already initiated with them to get tax breaks for real estate projects. He may not be the biggest real estate developer, but he’s the one you can name.

Fighting divided government is a great battle strategy. Donald Trump averaged 35% of the popular vote in the GOP primaries until he was the only one left running. Then he got up to 44%. He was able to get Wollman Rink because Koch and people in his government were in open warfare.

Trump is able to make a big deal out of small wins. His unexpected opening of Wollman and his unexpected winning of the GOP nomination are still being talked about. However, Trump still fails and those failures are often excused away. Now, they’re blamed on the media. Let’s see how this adventure plays out.

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