By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
Ideology is also a registered lobbyist to me. I will not be compromised by it. For example, it is precisely because I come from a lifetime in the private sector that I do not romanticize it, and that I respect prudent public management. Not only did I suspend efforts to privatize our airports and city hospitals, I pressed for public takeover of the dysfunctional and politically wired private bus lines, negotiating a gradual transfer to the MTA. Similarly, no mayor has put more resources and energy into reviving our hospitalsa $200 million operating subsidy, $1.2 billion in capital funds, a new Harlem Hospital. My opponent has repeatedly claimed that I said the poor get better health care than the wealthy when he knows that all I was celebrating was the fact that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now rate HHC hospitals ahead of many voluntaries, as do other professional rankings.
But it's not just the privatization rhetoric that I've rebutted with actions. Ray Kelly and I have proven that you can cut crime 20 percent without alienating communities, that each deadly case of police force requires its own careful examination, and that where, as with Alberta Spruill and Timothy Stansbury, a wrong has occurred, an apology and a policy shift is due.
The same resistance to rigidity guided my core fiscal decisions. I became a student of the budget's details, burrowing inside its nooks and crannies during 36-hour briefing sessions that occupied my first days in office, redesigning the graphs, studying the history, delivering two-hour assessments of it. The crushing consequences of the fiscal crisis of the '70s convinced me that I could not allow the even larger budget crunch I faced to destroy services, the way the police, fire, teacher, and other layoffs did then and for years thereafter.
The right howled that my balance of measured service cuts and substantial tax increases would decimate the local economy, with predictions of hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and dozens of fleeing companies. I said that my own experience as a corporate executive convinced me that location decisions were more influenced by the service health of a city than marginal hikes in taxes, and they laughed. The 62,000-job gain since new taxes is a stronger rebuttal of this conservative linkage than any think tank orthodoxy can manufacture.
A can-do flexibility has helped me launch the largest affordable housing program in nearly 20 years, double the number of families moved from homeless shelters to homes, double the number of people in health insurance programs, and start a new database disclosing the connections between campaign contributions and city business. In a second term, I will not only continue these initiatives, I will integrate our nation's least diverse firefighting force, make principals the true managers of their schools, generate development in the neighborhoods we've already rezoned, and heighten the role that parents play in framing school policy.
This speech is an unusual statement for me. I prefer to get things done without anyone noticing I'm doing it, but elections require assessments and this is mine. You have a choice between a mayor and CEO who's managed a government and a company with billions at stake versus a borough president who's run a staff of 30 or 40. His grandmother and mother were members of a union that has endorsed me. His idea of working in the private sector is running a nonprofit think tank with a couple of researchers. He deplores the fact that I am spending my own money to overcome his party's five-to-one registration advantage even while he declares daily that he should be elected because of his party. He never mentions that I've also given away $5 in charitable contributions since 2001 for every dollar I'm spending on my campaign, which might help put the political expenditures in perspective.
All I can promise in a second term is a steady hand. You will get more, much more, of the same. I turned 60 during the first term and I didn't change girlfriends. Reporters stopped wailing about my private weekend schedules because I was almost always around. I have been a workaholic all my life and I pledge not to change. I became the chair of the Johns Hopkins board and they named the School of Public Health after me in part because no challenge discouraged me. We decided together to try to wipe out malaria through research and I put my money where the mosquitoes were. These are extraordinary times for our city and that makes them no time for an ordinary politician. I think it's clear by now that I will never be that.