Mayor Mike Makes His Case

A feisty Bloomberg sells his record on schools, health, crime, budget & jobs

We also made ourselves more prepared for calamity than we have ever been. We have 1,000 cops assigned to terrorism, 10 times as many on the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force as we did on September 11. We have detectives in the Middle East, London, and Europe feeding intelligence to senior police officials who once ran the nation's counter-terrorism operations. We know we have thwarted attacks and jailed jihadists. We now have a clear command and control protocol that, for the first time, leaves no doubt about which department is in charge at every conceivable emergency, and we have new emergency facilities that are both secure and technologically adept. I am determined to focus in a second term on preparation for climatic catastrophe, while continuing to build our defenses against those who wish us harm.

I have approached the issues of the city's fiscal and physical security the same way I have approached great challenges all my life. I believe the only reason to talk about a problem is to find a way to fix it. I parked cars to put myself through college, got an undergraduate degree in engineering, was president of my college's Slide Rule Club, and love to think of myself now as a municipal mechanic. My favorite word is "next." All I want to know when faced with another tough problem is what can I do to help make it right. And when I focus on solutions, I know I do not have all the good ideas. I find a way to match good people with great challenges for meaningful results.

It is results, not polls or applause, that drive me. I like to go to the theater, not star myself. No drama, no posturing, no personal mayoralty, no public spleen. I figure the less I raise my voice or my profile, the less I incite others to raise theirs. My Democratic critics fault me for not getting in the face of Republicans with the power to hurt or help the city, but I don't take on Democrats with the same power either. I am more interested in nurturing productive relationships with the powerful than exacting a public price for the latest snub or policy dispute.

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  • And it's not just presidents, governors, and Speakers that I prefer to deal with rather than deride. When environmentalists and community groups came to me with a solid-waste plan they preferred to my own, I adopted it. I appointed commissioners, including the head of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, who advised my 2001 Democratic opponent. I know that I do not select the leadership of any of New York's ethnic communities, and I respect and respond to the elected and unelected leaders they choose. I believe it is part of the mayor's job to include everyone in the governance of this city, not just supporters. It is also my job to bridge, not exacerbate, divisions, recognizing that a mayor's temperament can become the city's, making an even keel as much an obligation of office as open ears.

    None of this means I'm an easy mark. I took such heat over the smoking ban that my political advisers wondered if it was worth it. Critics dubbed the huddled smokers on sidewalks outside bars "Bloomberg lounges." Yet my health commissioner can now make the case that the ban and our dramatic, first-year hike in cigarette taxes have saved 60,000 lives. The city has 188,000 fewer smokers and 150,000 fewer people are being regularly exposed to secondhand smoke. When I learned that restaurant and bar workers were 50 percent more likely to get lung cancer, I made up my mind to act, and now even the pubs of Ireland are smoke-free imitations. The property tax hike and the new unified incident command protocols provoked similar protest in what some regard as my political base, but they were as necessary as the smoking ban. One of my favorite sayings during my corporate career was "take a gun to a knife fight," and I do not shrink from battles that cannot morally be avoided.

    I can take the heat because I have no ambitions beyond this job. I will do what it requires. I cannot be lobbied by insiders, seduced by donors, or pressured by special interests. I can only be reasoned with, by anyone with a compelling argument, and I will stand by the decisions we make, together, on the merits. My only job after this one is to sell my company and give my fortune away, hopefully one wise grant at a time. I was fired on Wall Street before I created my company. When I took office as mayor, I did not know if the Conflict of Interest Board would require me to sell my interest in that company, a risk I freely took. I've shunned the trappings of office—from living at Gracie Mansion to sounding a police siren every time I wend my way through traffic—because I am a citizen mayor. Once I made up my mind to seek this office, it became all that mattered to me in my life, besides family, friends, and my philanthropic causes.

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