The Harding Boys


Dear Dad:

As a mom, I admit I’ve been worried about the kids’ futures. Without an “in,” as you know, it’s not easy to hop on the fast track to career success—especially without a college degree.

Thank God, though, I don’t have to fret anymore. Through hard work and a lot of luck, the boys managed to nail great jobs with big prospects. And believe it or not, they both got good city jobs—and you know how tough those are to find these days, what with workfare people doing so much of the work that used to belong to civil service employees. But I’m not complaining about workfare or anything, because now that the boys are settled, it shows how fair city employment practices can be when you get rid of cronyism and paybacks in the workplace.

Oh, no, no—it’s not my kids I was worried about. It’s Ray Harding’s children whose careers have been keeping me up nights.

You know Ray—the head of the Liberal Party and the mayor’s adviser? Sure you do—he’s the guy who put the mayor on the Liberal Party line in the first place, which luckily brought Giuliani over the top votewise to win the mayoralty. Harding’s also the fortunate son-of-a-gun who happened to strike it rich lobbying city agencies controlled by the mayor, shortly after the mayor was elected.

Now good fortune has struck him again. In a matter of weeks, both of Harding’s sons got top positions within the administration even though they had no relevant experience, and in one case, didn’t even have a college degree!

First to strike pay dirt was Russell Harding, a 34-year-old college dropout handpicked by the mayor to run the city’s Housing Development Corporation. This is a really good opportunity for him because he not only gets to issue bonds for housing projects, but also gets to learn on the job. He must be so pleased with his $111,000 gig, seeing as how he has not one whit of experience in housing finance. But you know what they say—success is nine-tenths perspiration and one-tenth inspiration. And me? I’ve always believed that there’s no better way to learn than to be thrown into the fire.

As great as Russell’s job is, it’s not as terrific as the gig his brother Robert (hey! They’re the three R’s—Ray, Robert, and Russell!) landed last week. His mother (that would be Liz) must be so darn proud.

Robert was named by Mayor Giuliani as budget director for the whole city! My Lord, isn’t that something? He’ll have 350 people working for him, and if that’s not enough, he gets to oversee—are you ready?—34 billion dollars. Pretty great promotion, from city lobbyist to budget director—right?

A few of the usual complainers complained, of course, saying that it wasn’t fair to appoint someone to the $136,990-a-year position of budget director when he has little or no experience with finances per se. You know how it is; those yentas will always find something to complain about. That do-gooder government watchdog type, Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group, regurgitated his usual line about how the mayor denounced cronyism in the last administration and now he’s practicing it. But to Russianoff, I say: Yeah? Well, you do the same thing over and over, too, but nobody faults you—do they? It’s all nonsense. I mean, do they want the mayor to put disloyal people in top posts? (David Dinkins made that numbskull move.) With enemies in key positions, the mayor would never be able to implement his fabulous—not to mention inspired—visions for using city funds to build a new Yankee Stadium on 34th Street.

Cronyism? Bull! But as Robert’s dad, Ray, said: “If anybody thinks Rudy Giuliani would turn over the management of a $34 billion budget for political considerations, they don’t know Rudy Giuliani.” Well put, Ray.

Gotta run. Hubby’s calling me for din-din.

—Love, Susan