Waiting to See How Free-Agent Bloomberg Performs
By JOHN REILLY
The arrival of a new mayor can be a little like baseball's spring training. We can afford renewed optimism because we haven't played any games yet. In Michael Bloomberg, New York has tried to boost its roster with a big-name free agent, in this case a star not from a different team but from another sport.
This makes two "non-politician" mayors in a row, but for all of his campaign talk of continuing the Giuliani legacy, Bloomberg has already shown a very different style. Without getting into the heated discussion of Rudy G's successes and failures, New York is facing some major issues and there are some early indications as to how Mayor Bloomberg will approach them.
His first and most prominent move was to place Raymond Kelly back in charge of the Police Department. Kelly previously served 14 months as commissioner in the Dinkins administration and was not reappointed under Giuliani. He clearly wanted to stay and now has another opportunity to place his mark on a department where he rose up through the ranks. Kelly is a firm believer in community policing, and community groups hope this will lead to a more visible uniformed presence on the street. He's already said that 'quality of life crimes' will be a priority and agrees that many communities are still victimized by drug trafficking and related violence. Look for the NYPD to take advantage of new technologies to improve internal information flow under the tech- oriented Bloomberg administration.
Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is a city agency where there is Giuliani continuity and not everyone agrees that's a good sign. Holdover Housing Preservation Commissioner Jerilyn Perine is a longtime HPD staffer. The Giuliani administration downsized the agency, reducing both construction budgets and inspection staffs. Bloomberg made affordable housing a priority during his campaign, recognizing the city's need to provide homes for people working for city businesses. It's unclear now if he'll give Perine any money to build housing or for the inspectors she'll need to crack down on negligent property owners.
In May 2001, Bloomberg said there were four legs to hold up his mayoral platform: public safety, public health, education and housing. The Sept. 11 attacks may have forced him to combine public health with public safety and add the economy as a new priority. Amazingly, economic issues were not prominent last spring. Now they are the driving force behind huge city budget cuts. A quick economic revival is crucial to many community hopes for new and renovated schools, park improvements and housing code enforcement.
A change in attitude is, however, already apparent in City Hall and around the city. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is taking public transportation to work and pledging to do so at least once each day. The Republican mayor is appointing Democrats, attending Democratic inaugurals out in the boroughs and, get this, he's saying he needs lots of advice and cooperation - not fighting - to address the city's problems.
So, lets be optimistic. The mayor and his new team haven't had to face any major league curve balls yet, but who knows, maybe they can hit.
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