Outgoing mayor gets A+ on public health and safety
Ok, class. It’s near the end of 12 years of school (in this case, City Hall High), and now it’s time you finally graduate and receive your final grades.
The Bloomberg era in New York is about to sunset in less than six months and a Report Card on different subjects will help define what worked, what worked less well and what we want our next mayor to continue and build upon.
It is indisputable that Mike Bloomberg and his administration have changed New York in many ways – largely for the good. He will be a tough act to follow.
PUBLIC SAFETY – A+ When Rudy Giuliani left office in 2001, could anyone have imagined that his successor would continue to bring down crime so precipitously that New York is now the safest city in America?
While metropolises like Philly and Chicago and L.A. backslid during the last decade, Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly kept New Yorkers safe from crime and terrorism. They deserve more than the highest grade: they deserve our eternal gratitude.
Yes, police “quotas” on “Stop and Frisk” probably got out of hand in 2011 and 2012, but it’s very hard to find fault with a mayor who has reduced the murder rate to less than one a day in 2013 (it was more than six a day in the early 1990s).
We will sorely miss the Mayor’s backbone in fighting crime and guns.
PUBLIC EDUCATION – B Even Mike Bloomberg, not generally a self critic, admitted that “we didn’t move the needle enough” in education in an interview with The Atlantic magazine earlier this year.
He did some very bold things: he won mayoral control of education, created hundreds of small high schools by breaking up big ones, expanded charter schools dramatically and won a hard-earned and bloody fight over teacher evaluations.
But there was little progress on teacher training and recruitment of the “best and brightest” to our teacher corps. Testing became too heavily emphasized at the expense of true learning. Job readiness and vocational education, while expanding, has not been accelerated enough to help the 40 percent of high school dropouts who need job skills training.
PUBLIC HEALTH – A+ This may be Mayor Bloomberg’s best subject. He has been visionary with his smoking ban, which now even the originally opposed restaurant owners hail as a good move. Calorie counts on menus, expanding park space around the city, and even his seeming overreach on limiting big gulp sugary drinks will insure our citizens will be healthier and live longer and with a better quality of life.
CITY BUDGET – C Yes, the mayor was able to balance the city budget each year without major cuts, but property taxes have spiked, pensions have ballooned and we likely have a structural problem with a $70 billion annual budget, which has skyrocketed from $42 billion in 2002 when Bloomberg took over.
Property taxes were mishandled and need to be re-calculated so they are charged more equitably. This is one of the hidden stories likely to plague the next administration.
TRANSPORTATION – B The only two really big ideas here were the recent Bike Share program and the hard-fought expansion of cabs to other boroughs. No significant capital improvements (although this is more MTA responsibility than mayoral) and the city needs to rapidly expand Bus Rapid Transit and try monorail or light rail to get eight million people around more efficiently.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – B+ The mayor and his first-term deputy, Dan Doctorof, did some very bold and creative things to unlock waterfront development and rezone parts of the city that are now thriving. He had a steady hand through the recession and New York suffered less than the rest of the country. But, inequality and poverty and homelessness increased during the past decade, so the mayor’s good works were certainly not felt by all and the next mayor has to figure out how to lift the bottom quartile of New Yorkers, while incentivizing the job creators and entrepreneurs who keep this city great.
Tom Allon, the president of City and State media, was the Liberal Party-backed candidate for mayor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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