What to Like About Mike
With the financial base secure, Bloomberg supervised a land rezoning that resulted in vast development projects in all five boroughsnot to speak of committing to 165,000 new units of affordable housing. The general upsurge and the construction revivalthe biggest since the post-World War II yearshave replaced the economic bust with a boom. Unemployment has never been lower, nor bond ratings higher. The city moved from a budget deficit to a surplus and can now set aside billions of dollars to pay for looming pension costs.
But competence will get you only so far. Without imagination and courage, you cannot advance, and Mayor Bloomberg has both. He has shown himself a visionary as well as a manager. He has looked beyond his time in office to present a "greater" and "greener" program of 127 initiatives that will make a growing New York more livable and a leader in combating global warming. He provides an estimated $400 million a year toward improved mass transit. His congestion pricing would sensibly make motorists pay for using the busiest streets and help address the maddening delays in driving crosstown.
Crime. New York is now one of the safest cities in the United States. Giuliani broke the back of crime. Bloomberg sharpened the trend with the hiring of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, one of the nation's toughest and most intelligent law officers. Murder is down by almost 40 percent compared with six years ago, and crime overall is down more than 25 percent. The city has created a multifaceted antiterrorist unit of over 1,000 police officers, making New Yorka model for the rest of the country. To get crime even more under control, Bloomberg has boldly raised the critical issue of keeping guns away from the people who should not have themcriminals and those with a history of potentially being dangerous. He correctly frames the issue as "crime control" rather than "gun control." He does not assail the rights of law-abiding gun owners, but there have been howls from the gun lobbyists who seem willing to overlook that illegal guns in the hands of criminals and the demented kill innocents every week. Bloomberg, unfazed by the misrepresentation of his campaign, has fathered a coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and mobilized over 200 chief executives nationally, while mobilizing New York State to pass some of the toughest gun legislation against offenders. This is leadership of a high order.
Schools. The New York City school system, with 1.1 million students and entrenched bureaucracies, was notoriously impossible to fix. It eluded Giuliani. Bloomberg undid the knots. He won mayoral control from the Board of Education; he moved its offices from Brooklyn to the Tweed Courthouse next to City Hall in Manhattan; he appointed a schools chancellor from outside the system, namely Joel Klein, a former White House counsel and assistant attorney general. Then, having taken control of the Board of Education, he dismantled the decentralized system of local school boards, notorious as sources of patronage. These "impossibles" achieved, Bloomberg and Klein worked together to set up a management school for principals, authorized them to manage, gave them financial incentives, and enhanced their capacity by negotiating changes in the work rules in the teachers union contracts that had made it difficult to fire teachers for poor performance or reward individual excellence.