Not a lot of surprises at the mayor’s State of the City speech today at Morris High School in the Bronx. In an auditorium inside the school, Mike Bloomberg spoke for about an hour on how to improve public education and the economy and how to make this great city the capital of innovation. That latter theme was underscored by the sign above him that read “NYC CAPITAL OF INNOVATION.”
Bloomberg began with some praise of the Bronx: “This is the birthplace of legends,” he said, citing Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Mariano Rivera. “In a city that is the ‘Capital of Innovation,’ this one borough has given us some of the world’s great authors, artists, and architects, not to mention the pioneers of hip-hop and salsa.”
After the laundry list of self-praise for the 2011 initiatives from the mayor’s office and his colleagues (the East River Ferry! Taxi Service in the outer boroughs, too! The 9/11 Memorial, finally! Better life expectancy rates!), he launched his 2012 agenda with “even bigger plans.”
He spent a long time on education, coming down pretty hard on the United Federation of Teachers — calling for tenure and teacher evaluation reforms and an increase in charter schools. “Rewarding great teaching is an idea whose time has come. We hope the UFT will join us in this effort,” he said. “We are raising the bar for teachers, just as we are for students….This year, we’ll do more to make sure every classroom has an effective teacher — and to remove those who don’t make the grade,” he added later about tenure reform.
“Are we here for the teachers or are we here for the students?” he asked, briefly deviating from the script handed out to the media. “I know which side I’m on.”
Bloomberg said he opposes UFT provisions that make it difficult to remove ineffective teachers and supports school-based committees that evaluate teachers on merit. He also announced that a new charter network, Rocketship, would be coming to New York City.
After pages and pages of education talk, (which included new plans to incentivize people to consider jobs teaching in the city as well as new college-preparedness initiatives), the mayor moved on to the economy and even gave shout outs to upcoming outer borough developments (Eastchester’s new mall! The expansion of the Queens Museum of Art! A new industrial business zone…on Staten Island!).
New projects means new jobs, the mayor said, in, you guessed it, ALL five boroughs. In one announcement that seemed to get a lot of attention after the event, Bloomberg said he would this year be pushing for a “responsible raise in the minimum wage” (he seemed to emphasize the word ‘responsible’).
There was also a push for more bike lanes (even though he knows the debate has been “hot and heavy”) and a push to bring Wi-Fi service to a dozen city parks (which gave the mayor a somewhat forced opportunity to make a joke about Alec Baldwin playing “Words With Friends” on airplanes).
Bloomberg said the city will also be moving to address the problem of 9,000 veterans in the city without work via its workforce centers.
But you’re probably sick of all the politics talk, so why don’t you watch this strange video that Bloomberg played at the beginning of the event. (Spoiler alert: Bloomberg mentions Lady Gaga and Ed Koch screams, “Welcome to my bridge!” Multiple times.)