The New Mayor’s Mission

To The Victor Belongs the Toil

Others suggest that if the new mayor truly wants to bring New Yorkers together, the pain will have to be shared far more equally than it was during the fiscal crisis that resulted in massive layoffs, hospital closings, new college tuition costs, and the deferment of basic maintenance of the infrastructure.

"What's needed is a simple algorithm of shared sacrifice," says Harvey Robins, who served in the Koch administration and was director of operations under former mayor Dinkins. Throughout the Giuliani years, Robins was a frequent critic. He advanced as many proposals for labor concessions as he did for raising new tax revenue from businesses and other powerful interests. To help close the fiscal gap now, Robins would not only reinstate the city's tax on commuters—eliminated last year by the legislature—but double it, from a 1/2 percent of payroll to 1 percent. Universities, hospitals, and foundations, now exempt from property taxes, should be asked to make contributions, he said. Owners of single-family and two-family homes, who shoulder the least of the city's property-tax burden, would be asked to "pay their fair share," he said. Municipal union members, Robins said, should be asked to pay larger copayments for health benefits. Lower-wage workers need expanded unemployment benefits and an increase in the minimum wage to $6.75—legislation that has stagnated in Albany, but has been approved in 10 other states, he says.

"If we are going to just do business as usual, then those who traditionally take from the city will just keep taking, while the rest of the city suffers," says Robins.

Both mayoral candidates campaigned on their reputations as innovators. "No time for politics as usual" was Mike Bloomberg's catchphrase. "Let's unite to rebuild" was Mark Green's post- September 11 mantra. Posturing? The coming months will tell.

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