By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
I've come back here to the New School today because this is where I first said I would not deserve a second mayoral term unless I changed our schools. At a debate in October 2001, I told voters they should judge me by my performance on education, and dump me if I did not make progress.
Now, by just about every measurereading and math scores, graduation rates, city investment, classroom construction, smaller schools, new books and materials, trained principals, reduced social promotion, and yes, even teacher salarieswe are moving forward.
I said I would be accountable then, when the common wisdom was that our schools were intractable, and I've returned today to vow that I will be accountable for the next four years, when most indicators suggest we've begun to reverse decades of decline. We have launched the most comprehensive and systemic changes in school management in modern history, and we cannot afford to lose this momentum. The third-grade class that shattered improvement records last year in reading and math will be in high school when the next mayoral term ends; I want to move through the next four grades with them. It took Rudy Giuliani eight years to forever alter our policing practices and crime rate expectations and my administration is building on his legacy. I want my successor to inherit graduation and reading improvement rates so regular they seem routine, just like the continued, gradual decline in crime.
By 2009, I believe we can end the culture of lower expectations that has dimmed the dreams of so many of our young. We can make our schools the engine that drives the work life of our city again, the supply line to Wall Street and corporate midtown, the great leveling source of opportunity and inspiration. We can put the children of our neighborhoods in the jobs of our towers, making the city an interconnected whole, a straight line of promise and possibility.
I am not asking to be socially promoted to a second term; November is no comfort-level review. I believe I have proven myself ready for another rigorous round of challenges and crises, in and out of the schools. It is time for the people I serve to speakto renew, with your votes, the contract we signed two months after 9-11.
When I began in 2000 to think in a systematic way about running for mayor, I asked an array of advisers a single, sweeping question: "Can I make a difference?" For me, running for mayor was not just a career change, it was a career U-turn. My critics like to deride me for running the city as if I were still the CEO of a privately held, $20 billion fiefdom. So long as my new bottom line is better public education and public health, more New Yorkers employed than at any time in 25 years, the lowest murder rate since 1963, and a transformed racial and ethical climate, I don't mind the corporate charge. If I am making a difference with the same skills that once earned me billions, I am better for it and so is my city.
On September 11, I remember voting in the early morning and, while walking to my campaign headquarters on Lexington Avenue, where my company was building its new, 15-story headquarters. The site was then nothing but an excavated hole in the ground. I remember watching the Trade Center collapse from my campaign headquarters and acting immediately to secure my company's telecommunications site downtown and turn it over to city officials for emergency use. I remember my aide Bill Cunningham asking, late that afternoon as we climbed into our campaign Suburban, if I "still wanted to do this thing."
"More than ever," I responded. Bill says I almost whispered, but that I looked at him with a steely certainty. A determination gripped me that day and every day since. My old company, which I still own in trust, now occupies that new tower, abuzz with the work of thousands.
And our city, too, has risen. We triumphed over the largest budget deficit in the history of this or any other American city and now have our highest bond rating ever. When the opposition raises doubts about our property tax hike, ask them how else we could've closed that gap. Ask them what the alternative was to the surcharge I agreed to impose on the wealthiest. Ask them why a Democratic city council virtually unanimously approved the added burden. And the core revenue remedies we put in place did not merely temporarily plug a gap; they restructured the long-term finances of the city. If we can get hold of runaway pension and other state-mandated costswhich will be a centerpiece of my next termwe can end the annual rite of gap-closing fears.