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NYT: A New Year, A Humbler Bloomberg?

January 2, 2010

As Mayor Bloomberg took up his seat for a controversial third term, some noticed he didn’t have quite the swagger in his step as he had had in the past:

Michael R. Bloomberg on Friday became only the fourth mayor in New York City history to take office for a third term, striving in his inaugural address to repair damage caused by his campaign to overturn term limits and to make clear that his administration would not run out of ideas.

Through his first eight years, Mr. Bloomberg was hardly known for introspection, much less humility. But on Friday, he sought to strike a more conciliatory tone. As he stood on a dais set atop the steps of City Hall, he said, “The building behind me is yours, and the job in front of me is to listen and to lead.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s tone suggested an acknowledgment of the resentment many New Yorkers expressed over the way he spent more than $102 million — a record-shattering amount — to win by a surprisingly small margin in November.

“I recognize — I understand — that this term is a special opportunity,” he said.

Mr. Bloomberg, who at 67 looks grayer and thinner than when he first entered politics not long after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, seemed to speak as much to history as he did to an audience estimated at 2,500.

In the most overt effort to show that his administration would strive to remain creative, he declared that the top deputy in every agency would spend three weeks in another agency — an idea that he said he had adopted at the financial services firm he founded, Bloomberg L.P. The deputies would then report directly to Mr. Bloomberg “to break down the bureaucratic barriers that all too often impede innovation, compromise customer service and cost taxpayers money.”

“This is not a game of musical chairs,” he said. “This is a management challenge, and a unique opportunity for collaboration and innovation.” And, he added, “As I tell everyone I hire, don’t screw it up.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s idea was applauded, at first blush, by some people who have had no difficulty criticizing his policies. These include Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, and Councilman Robert Jackson, who represents a district in Upper Manhattan.

“I hope it’s not a gimmick,” Mr. Jackson said. “I think it’s a bold step in the right direction. He has to take the bold initiatives in order not to be a lame-duck third-term mayor. If they truly make real recommendations and not be afraid, then they’re doing their jobs.”

Mr. Bloomberg shared the stage with the city’s new comptroller, John C. Liu, the first Asian-American to win citywide office, and the new public advocate, Bill de Blasio. Two former mayors, Edward I. Koch, the last to hold a third term, and David N. Dinkins, were also on hand, as were members of Congress, legislators and local officials.

While Mr. Bloomberg touched on a number of issues, from schools to the middle class, and spoke the words “innovation” and “fresh” more than a dozen times, he offered no specific proposals to tackle problems, simply vowing to disprove conventional wisdom about third terms being devoid of energy.

His address capped a day that was deliberately much more understated and self-conscious than his previous two inaugural celebrations. There was, for instance, no traditional post-inaugural party. Nor did the mayor approach the stage in a grand red-carpet fashion. Instead, he walked out from behind a blue curtain from inside City Hall.

And arguably the only celebrity in sight was none other than the mayor himself. In previous years, the inauguration included stars like Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, Wynton Marsalis and Barbara Walters. This time, the mayor tapped six students from Newcomers High School in Long Island City, Queens, all immigrants, to preside over the ceremonies.

The mayor even began his day by donning a black turtleneck sweater that read “I ♥ NYC,” and helping to prepare green beans and slice onions at a Brooklyn soup kitchen. It was part of a daylong effort to promote a service campaign in the city.

Mr. Bloomberg later traveled to Staten Island’s borough hall to assemble care packages for soldiers; to Long Island City to sort donated supplies for schools and cultural groups; then to Hunts Point, in the Bronx, to help paint a mural at a recreation center.

At the inauguration, which began about 12:15 p.m., Mr. Bloomberg was preceded by Mr. Liu and Mr. de Blasio, both Democrats who are widely viewed as potential mayoral contenders in 2013. Mr. Bloomberg is an independent who ran on the Republican line in November.

When it was Mr. Bloomberg’s turn to recite the oath of office, he was flanked by his daughters, Emma and Georgina, and his companion, Diana L. Taylor. His mother, Charlotte, who turns 101 Saturday, did not make the inauguration for the first time, but he planned to return home to the Boston area on Saturday to visit her. Mr. Bloomberg’s speech lasted just under 14 minutes — the shortest of his three inaugural addresses — and was delivered under gray skies but in relatively warm weather given the season.

He promised to push for comprehensive immigration reform, in a manner similar to his efforts to battle illegal guns nationwide.

“With leaders from across the country, we will assemble a bipartisan coalition to support President Obama’s call for comprehensive immigration reform that honors our history, upholds our values and promotes our economy,” Mr. Bloomberg said. At his service stop in the Bronx, Mr. Bloomberg was more blunt, calling people who want to curb immigration “stupid.” Mr. Bloomberg also promised to establish a new service for small businesses to “get the answers and services they need, all in one place,” to spur entrepreneurship.

One issue that Mr. Bloomberg did not address in great detail was the economy, even though he cited his expertise in financial matters as a rationale for his controversial decision in 2008 to push to overturn term limits.

Then again, his aides also note that Mr. Bloomberg is expected to reveal more substantive proposals in his State of the City address in a few weeks. Several weeks after that, he is expected to unveil his budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning in July, in which the city faces a multibillion-dollar deficit, high rates of home foreclosures and a 10 percent unemployment rate.

But, as is customary with such addresses, Mr. Bloomberg closed on an optimistic, and more self-effacing, note, saying, “No matter where you live and work, no matter what your race or roots, no matter who you love, who you worship, or who you voted for, I pledge to be your mayor.”

***

From The New York Times.

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2 Comments
  1. January 2, 2010 11:45 am

    my take on the inauguration and what we all should try to accomplish with the Mayor over the next four years…

    http://www.urbanelephants.com/index.php/component/content/article/64/2045-bloomberg-takes-oath-no-one-seems-to-care.html

  2. Gerry permalink
    January 2, 2010 11:55 am

    Jay Golub’s Piece from UE:

    As most readers of UE know, I was not supportive of Mr. Bloomberg’s effort to win an unprecedented, voter-un-approved Third Term. Oddly enough, the media wrap-up of his first words in this term paint a picture of disinterest, dissatisfaction and humility coming from the people and the Mayor. The New York Times called it a “Humbler Start”…

    Through his first eight years, Mr. Bloomberg was hardly known for introspection, much less humility. But on Friday, he sought to strike a more conciliatory tone. As he stood on a dais set atop the steps of City Hall, he said, “The building behind me is yours, and the job in front of me is to listen and to lead.”

    Mr. Bloomberg’s tone suggested an acknowledgment of the resentment many New Yorkers expressed over the way he spent more than $102 million — a record-shattering amount — to win by a surprisingly small margin in November.

    …Andrea Peyser in the NY Post reported the event as “Tired Mayor Lacks Heart for Another Long City Haul”…

    Like a tired case of déjà vu, Bloomberg once again stood in front of City Hall yesterday, and raised his right hand before a crowd far smaller and less giddy than in years past.

    “I, Michael Ruben Bloomberg” blah blah blah “solemnly swear” blah blah “so help me God.” One self-conscious peck on the lips of gal pal Diana Taylor, and Bloomberg, who is rapidly turning into this city’s Mayor Who Wouldn’t Leave, gave a speech someone should use as a sleep aid.

    Spending an unconscionable $102 million, but managing to win just an anemic 585,000 votes, is living proof that Bloomberg wants this job more than breath. So when is he going to prove to you and me that he still deserves a run in City Hall?

    We’re stuck with you, Bloomberg. Again. Please, show us you mean it.

    …”stuck with you” is the appropriate term. Bloomberg himself, in the last lines of his stale speech, made clear he understands how little the electorate and people of this city truly wanted him to have a third term…

    “No matter where you live and work, no matter what your race or roots, no matter who you love, who you worship, or who you voted for, I pledge to be your mayor.”

    As the Mayor of my city, I certainly do not wish failure on Mr. Bloomberg. But I, along with millions of other New Yorkers who felt it was his time to move on, will certainly be watching if he truly does “listen” as he stated he would yesterday. We will all be watching closely to ensure that he respects the will of the people of NYC and, most importantly, follows the will of the people by correcting some of the failures of his first two terms, such as:

    1. Reversing the policies that nickle-and-dime our residents on a daily basis in an effort to balance the wasteful city budget – reducing the number of parking tickets issued, reversing the recent sales tax increase, holding the line on water bills and eliminating the wide range of fees and surcharges imposed on business and citizens alike.
    2. Bringing the fight to municipal labor by getting back the excessive union wage increases and bloated pension plan expansions that are making middle-class New Yorkers move to cheaper locations around the nation.
    3. Eliminating the anti-business climate that exists in NYC by reducing taxes, streamlining business development procedures and by challenging, both publicly and privately, elected officials who stand in the way of creating jobs
    4. Insisting that Charter School expansion is possible by using all his power – and resources – to get the ridiculous, UFT-imposed cap on Charter Schools lifted in Albany.
    5. Stopping the intentional under reporting of both overall crime and failure in our public schools by fixing the Compstat Program and by making NY State and City’s standardized testing process more in line with National Standards.

    Mayor Bloomberg got his Third Term. I’m not sure if he will regret working so hard to get it, but I know that he has much work to do if he wants to be remembered well. I didn’t vote for him, but we all should try to work with him in as constructive a manner as possible to make NYC’s present and future bright.

    For what it’s worth, I know I will…

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