A Wounded Mayor

Diallo Deconstructs Rudy's Racial Rule

When Rudy Giuliani relented last week and met with black New York's nicest aunt and uncle, the once spurned Virginia Fields and Carl McCall, he was not so much turning over a new leaf as he was moving past his own darkest instincts. Giuliani politics have long been rooted in the belief that black people couldn't hurt him. That premise perished the past two weeks in front of police headquarters.

He won in 1993 with barely a black vote.

Even before he took office, one of his top deputies told him he shouldn't worry, "two white men" have been ruling New York "for 200 years."

Blacks howled when bitten throughout his first term and no one with power heard them.

He won again in 1997 and the media pretended that blacks had helped reelect him, though 80 percent preferred his weak white opponent.

Until the Diallo killing put a movement in the streets so telegenic no news editor could resist it, Giuliani had proven that a mayor could dis NYC's largest ethnic group for five full years and pay no price for it. Indeed, never before in modern city history had unconcealed contempt for one group been such a spur to broader popularity.

But now, with his favorables plummeting in every local poll and his legacy in doubt, Rudy Giuliani has, for the first time in his mayoralty, come face-to-face with a force larger than his own gestalt. One fatal fusillade has opened the eyes of a just city— beyond blacks to Latinos, Asians, and whites— and suddenly he is seen for what he has long been. A petty partisan whose only agenda is ambition. A punishing self- promoter who inhales credit and exhales venom. A prince of pander whose "one city/one standard" promise was always mere double-talk.

As clear as it is, however, that his own antiblack policies are now haunting him within the city, it's unclear how much he cares. His media adviser, Adam Goodman, appeared on NY1 last week and was asked about the sharp drop in the mayor's numbers here. He answered by pointing to Rudy's rise in the suburbs, as if the city was no longer the mayor's constituency. A top state Republican told the Voice that so long as Giuliani looks upstate like "he's taking on Al Sharpton in defense of cops," this issue is "a boost" to his senate effort.

With polls showing his beyond-the-Bronx support growing even as city voters sour, Giuliani is already auditioning his new campaign theme, "one state/one standard." So much so that his administration reversed itself in February on a critical watershed development issue the same day the newest member of the GOP majority in the state senate, John Bonocic, called to complain. At the behest of the first-term senator who represents reservoir-crowded Delaware County, City Hall ate four letters it had sent to federal environmental officials over the prior seven months, claiming that the deputy commissioner who'd written them was an unauthorized renegade.

That's a level of responsiveness no elected official who represents any part of this city could evoke, not even the longtime king of Giuliani-era leverage, Staten Island's Guy Molinari.

The mayor's out-of-city agenda may also be why his so-called Diallo remedies have so far been so strange. First came hollow-point bullets, which police officials said would make sure offenders shot by cops fall quicker— as if staying upright had been Diallo's fatal error. Then came a $10 million advertising bonanza for the mayor's media friends, a campaign to recruit minorities after almost all the cop jobs were already filled. Next was Howard Safir's pay raises and career-ladder promotions for the Street Crime Unit, whose members killed Diallo. The commissioner also announced that 50 minority cops would be transfered to SCU while still refusing to divulge how many were already there.

Safir has also started insisting that he'd actually "implemented" 84 percent of 75 recommendations issued by the mayor's task force on police/community relations, as large a lie as the scheduled "meetings" Hollywood Howard pretended might keep him from last Monday's City Council hearings. Safir claimed in writing to have implemented "an aggressive affirmative action plan" and "a prospective residency requirement," as well as "partially implemented" the elimination of the 48-hour rule. He said the promulgation of a code of professional standards for cops was "under consideration," though he first announced he was developing one in June of 1996. He insisted he'd enhanced the Cadet Corps, which trains minority cops, when in fact he'd twice cut its funding.

At least Safir was truthful about 16 of the most significant recommendations, saying they were beyond the purview of the NYPD. Of course the mayor has done nothing to "create an independent auditor to monitor and evaluate the civilian complaint processes," or to tie the Civilian Complaint Review Board's budget to the department's "staffing increases," or to require public disclosure of what happens to CCRB complaints and why, especially the substantiated ones. Not even an administration that specializes in phony numbers dared suggest Rudy had complied with many of the recommendations of a task force he'd derided just a year ago.

McCall and Fields in fact told the Voice that Giuliani brought "no plan" of his own to their recent Gracie Mansion sessions, with Fields suggesting that she believed he'd "move to another level at subsequent meetings." This is remarkable optimism for a borough president who was denied access to the mayor for 15 months and scolded for imposing a "racial overlay" on issues she approaches with an openness recognized by probably a couple hundred thousand Manhattanites who voted in 1997 for her and Rudy. The truth is that no one knows if the mayor will meet again, or ever consider real reforms.

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