Mike vs. Rudy: The Smackdown

If only we could see it, in all its gory glory

A believer in preventive health care, he restored city hospitals to prestige, and they now get top ratings.

Housing? Giuliani never even bothered to hatch a policy. As the numbers of homeless rose around him and an affordable-housing crisis crunched the middle class, Giuliani gave the job of running the city's housing-finance agency to the son of his political mentor, Liberal Party boss Ray Harding. Russell Harding had no background in the business and lacked a college degree. A Voice series later helped send him to prison for stealing $400,000 from the agency (official scheduled release date: May 29, 2008). Giuliani's housing commissioner, Richard Roberts, pled guilty to federal perjury charges in the same scandal. Still in his first term, Bloomberg launched a major initiative to build and preserve housing—one that doesn't take nearly adequate account of the need to hold onto current low-cost housing, but one that is helping to make up for eight years of inaction.

Welfare? Backed by new federal laws limiting welfare eligibility, Giuliani launched a crackdown that cut the rolls by half. Score one. But he also managed to put a seamy team of Midwest hucksters angling to cash in on the new policies in charge of city operations. Bloomberg caught flak for letting the rolls rise modestly. At the same time, complaints of ruthless inequities all but disappeared.

Crime? Here may lie the nub of the matter. The two mayors can square off, citing stat for stat proving lowered crime rates. A key difference is that the steep drop in the Giuliani years paralleled a national decline; Bloomberg's continued low crime numbers go counter to a rising national trend. Then there are their top-cop comparisons: the already once-convicted Bernard Kerik (now facing an ongoing federal probe) and the buffoonish Howard Safir versus rock-jawed Ray Kelly. Kelly did lock up antiwar protesters on a whim, but don't expect that to generate too much heat in Keokuk, Iowa.

A Rudy-Mike smackdown? We can only wish.

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