Mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg


Mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg
Mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg
108th Mayor of New York City
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 1, 2002
Preceded by Rudolph W. Giuliani
Personal details
Born February 14, 1942 (1942-02-14) (age 69)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Democratic (1960–2001)
Republican (2001–2007)
Independent[1] (2007 – present)
Spouse(s) Susan Brown (divorced)
Alma mater Johns Hopkins University
Religion Reform Judaism
Signature

Michael Bloomberg has served as the current and 108th Mayor of New York City since January 1, 2002. He won reelection in 2005 and 2009.

Contents

Overview

Governing style and legacy

Bloomberg has said he wants reforming public education to be the legacy of his first term and addressing poverty to be the legacy of his second.[2] He is known as a political pragmatist and for a managerial style that reflects his experience in the private sector. Bloomberg has chosen to apply a statistical, results-based approach to city management, appointing city commissioners based on their expertise and granting them wide autonomy in their decision-making. Breaking with 190 years of tradition, Bloomberg implemented a "bullpen" open office plan, reminiscent of a Wall Street trading floor, in which dozens of aides and managerial staff are seated together in a large chamber. The design is intended to promote accountability and accessibility.[3]

Public opinion

Bloomberg had a 49% approval rating in August 2010 compared to 56% in April, according to the New York Post. It also stated in August that 47% of Democratic voters expressed approval compared to 55% of Republican voters. Lee Miringoff, director of Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion, has remarked that governing during a world economic recession coupled with his stance in support of the Islamic complex near Ground Zero dampens Bloomberg's support.[4]

Throughout 2006 and 2007, Bloomberg had approval ratings consistently above 70%, according to Quinnipiac polling. Differences between Republican, Democratic and independent voters were small. "An effective, straightforward guy who calls it as it is – that's Mayor Bloomberg's most attractive quality, New Yorkers think. And they like his businessman approach to the job," said Quinnipiac polling director Maurice Carroll.[5]

In November 2010, a Public Policy Polling survey of American registered voters inside and outside of New York City found that 19% voters expressed a favorable opinion of Bloomberg. A 38% plurality expressed a negative view.[6]

Education

Bloomberg's first mayoralty coincided with a major shift of authority over the city's public school system from the state government to the city government. From 1968 until 2000, New York City's schools were managed by the Board of Education, which had seven members. Only two of the seven were appointed by the mayor, which meant the City had a minority of representatives on the board and the mayor's ability to shape education policy was greatly diminished. In addition to the Board, 25 local school boards also played a part in running the system. In 2000, the local boards and Board of Education were abolished and replaced with a new mayoral agency, the Department of Education.

Bloomberg appointed Joel Klein as Schools Chancellor to run the new department, which was based at the renovated Tweed Courthouse near City Hall. Under Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, test scores have risen and the City has obtained a higher percentage of funding from the state budget. Bloomberg opposes social promotion, and favors after-school and summer-school programs to help schoolchildren catch up, rather than allowing them to advance to the next grade level where they may be unprepared. Despite often tense relations with teachers' unions, he avoided a teacher strike by concluding a contract negotiation in which teachers received an average raise of 15% in exchange for givebacks and productivity increases.[7]

Bloomberg has enforced a strengthened cell-phone ban in city schools that had its roots dating to a 1988 school system ban on pagers. The ban is controversial among some parents, who are concerned with their ability to contact their children. Administration representatives have noted that students are distracted in class by cell phones and often use them inappropriately, in some instances sending and receiving text messages, taking photographs, surfing the Internet, and playing video games, and that cell-phone bans exist in other cities including Detroit and Philadelphia.[citation needed]

On May 27, 2007 Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the four-year high school graduation rate in New York City has reached 60%, the highest level since the City began calculating the rate in 1986 and an 18% increase since the Mayor assumed control of the public schools in 2002.[8] On June 30, 2009, the New York State Senate declined to renew mayoral control. Mayoral control had allowed Mayor Bloomberg to have complete control of the school system.[9]

Social policy

Bloomberg giving a speech in August 2004.

Bloomberg supports the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. Still, he appealed a decision finding the limiting of same-sex marriage in the state of New York unconstitutional. "My personal opinion is that anybody should be allowed to marry anybody. I don't happen to think we should put restrictions on who you should marry.... What the city doesn't want to have happen is people getting a marriage license and then six months, or one year later, or two years later, finding out it's meaningless," he has said.[10]

Public health

Bloomberg has donated millions of dollars to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and appointed Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, an epidemiologist with a reputation for activism and scientific rigor,[citation needed] to be his Health Commissioner. Under Frieden the city Health Department has made HIV, diabetes and hypertension priorities.

Bloomberg extended New York City's smoking ban to all commercial establishments, including bars and nightclubs. This reform removed the last indoor public areas in which one could smoke in the city. The smoking ban took effect in March 2003, and remains part of city law today. Bloomberg's smoking ban was considered trend-setting and many municipalities in North America and Europe have subsequently enacted similar bans.

In June 2005 Bloomberg signed the Potty Parity bill requiring more women's toilets in newly opened public places such as bars, theaters, stadiums and convention facilities[11]

On December 5, 2006, New York became the first city in the United States to ban trans-fat from all restaurants. This went into effect in July 2008.[12]

In January 2010, the Bloomberg administration unveiled a plan to reduce the amount of salt in packages and food served at restaurants by 25 percent by 2015.[13]

Environment

Bloomberg is one of the most active big city mayors on the issue of the environment. On April 22, 2007 he announced PLANYC: an aggressive program to vastly improve New York City's environmental sustainability by 2030.[14] On May 23, 2007 Bloomberg announced that by 2012 all of the city's Yellow Cabs will be hybrid cars.[15] PLANYC aims to improve the city's sustainability through a multi-pronged approach that includes, among other things, the adoption of traffic congestion pricing based upon a system currently used in London and Singapore. Bloomberg contends this measure will reduce pollution and traffic congestion while raising revenue for the city.[16] He has also pledged to plant one million trees in New York City, which will clean the air and boost property values.[17]

Immigration

Bloomberg is a supporter of immigration reform to secure the rights of illegal immigrants, who comprise a large part of the population of New York City. He argues that deportation breaks up families and scares illegal immigrants away from cooperating with law enforcement or accessing vital social services; as such, he supports proposals like those put forth by U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain, which would normalize the status of otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants already present. Bloomberg also believes that border enforcement is somewhat futile. He told the US Senate Judiciary Committee Field Hearing on Federal Immigration Legislation on July 5, 2006: "It is as if we expect border control agents to do what a century of communism could not: Defeat the natural forces of supply and demand and defeat the natural human instinct for freedom and opportunity. You might as well sit on the beach and tell the tide not to come in."[18]

He also issued Executive Order 41 on September 17, 2003 which instructs city employees not to ask nor to disclose information about immigration status unless required by law or organizational mission.[19][20]

Crime and security

During Bloomberg's tenure, the reduction of crime that began during Mayor Rudy Giuliani's tenure [2] has continued. Bloomberg's approach to the issue has been more low-key than that of Giuliani, who was often criticized by advocates for the homeless and civil rights groups. However, there exists some criticism that the reduced-crime statistics are frequently falsified or doctored to exaggerate the reduction. [3] [4] According to Salon.com, "[w]hile Bloomberg has kept aspects of the Giuliani management style – like his utterly unaccountable and institutionally racist NYPD – in place, he has seriously dialed back the shouty rhetoric."[21]

Since 2003, Bloomberg has become increasingly assertive in demanding that federal homeland security funds be distributed to municipalities based on risk – such as New York City – and population rather than any other measure. In an appearance before the United States Senate he argued that federal security funds should not be indiscriminately distributed, spread like "peanut butter."[22]

Raymond Kelly, Bloomberg's police commissioner from 2002, in his financial disclosures, "reported six shared plane flights to Florida in 2008 and five more in 2009, provided by Mayor ... Bloomberg at an undetermined cost."[23]

Gun control

Bloomberg is a strong advocate of gun control and made it a major issue of his administration in his second inaugural address. Most of the beneficiaries of his donations to Congressional candidates, however, have been opponents of gun control. Those incumbent Congressmen have had high ratings ("A" to "B+") from interest groups (e.g., National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America) which oppose gun control.[24]

Bloomberg once said, "I don't know why people carry guns. Guns kill people...". Bloomberg is also a co-chair and founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, an organization of 210 mayors whose stated goal is working toward eradicating the use of illegal firearms by criminals.[25]

In 2006, Bloomberg conducted a number of sting operations in gun stores outside his state. In these, city-paid private investigators attempted to illegally purchase handguns for other people (known as a "straw purchase"). Bloomberg then brought civil charges against stores which did not submit to extensive monitoring from representatives of New York City. Reaction to the sting operations was overwhelmingly negative in states where he conducted his sting, prompting an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to determine whether Bloomberg's "sting" violated any federal gun purchase laws.[26] Many Second Amendment advocacy groups referred to the mayor's actions as "vigilante."[27] The Virginia Citizen's Defense League held a raffle, dubbed the "Bloomberg Gun Giveaway" to help raise sales at affected stores within the commonwealth.[28] This, in turn, was received poorly by many groups, especially after the recent massacre at Virginia Tech. The Commonwealth of Virginia overwhelmingly passed legislation against simulated straw purchases such as this, and communicated such personally to Mr. Bloomberg (Attorney General McDonnell's press release).

Tax and fiscal policies

Facing a severe fiscal crisis after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bloomberg introduced a $3 billion tax increase in the middle of the fiscal 2003 year. The move is credited with stabilizing the city's finances, which have since recovered. Some critics, however, opined that he should have instead sought to cut government spending instead of raising taxes.[29]

In 2004 and 2005, the city experienced record surpluses, but financial experts and Bloomberg administration officials warned about unfunded future pension costs owed to city workers. In response, in 2006 Bloomberg unilaterally set aside $2 billion for a city-retirees' health fund. Some critics, however, characterized this move as representing a lack of political courage on Bloomberg's part insofar as he did it to avoid facing the prospect of reducing New York City government payrolls, a move which they argued would have provided a more fiscally responsible long-term solution. Some of these critics claim that bloated government payrolls are one of the main reasons why New York City has one of the highest tax rates in the United States.[29]

In August 2010, Bloomberg made controversial comments on a radio show, referring to uncollected taxes on cigarettes sold on Indian reservations in New York State. Bloomberg commented facetiously that the governor should, "you know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, 'Read my lips: The law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce the law.'"[30] His statement was criticized by the Seneca Nation of Indians,[31] as well as the National Congress of American Indians. Members of the Oneida Nation also protested in front of New York City Hall.[32] Bloomberg's office later said that the Indian tribes should "follow the law" and that he would not apologize for his comments.[33]

Development

Mayor Bloomberg and his Deputy Mayor for Economic Development & Rebuilding Daniel L. Doctoroff have overseen one of New York City's most dramatic economic resurgences, spearheading the effort to reverse New York's fiscal crisis after the attacks of 9/11 through a five-borough economic development strategy. By focusing on making New York's economy more diverse, its business climate more hospitable, and its communities more livable, they have helped lead New York to its strongest economic position in decades. In 2005, the city achieved record levels of jobs, visitors, population, and the greatest number of housing starts since the 1960s.[citation needed]

Poverty

Bloomberg plans to make poverty reduction the central focus of his second term. In 2006 he appointed a Commission on Economic Opportunity to come up with innovative ideas to address poverty in the city. The commission's initial report was released in September 2006.

According to the United States Census Bureau the city's poverty rate of 19 percent in 2004 had not changed since 2001, while in Manhattan the earnings of the top fifth of earners ($330,244 on average) were 41 times the earnings of the bottom fifth ($8,019 on average). Bronx County is the second poorest urban county in the United States, with a per capita income of $13,595 (after El Paso County, Texas); Kings County, which is coterminous with Brooklyn, has a per capita of $16,775, which is lower than the 2000 per capita income of New Orleans. In 2004, the Census' American Community Survey reported, Latinos had the highest poverty rate in the city (29 percent), compared to Blacks (21 percent), Asians (18 percent) and non-Latino Whites (11 percent). Although in 2005 Latinos made up 28 percent of the New York City's total population, they made up 42 percent of its poverty population.[citation needed] The Mayor's Commission, however, has been criticized by advocacy groups like the National Institute for Latino Policy, for not addressing the problem of high and persistent poverty in the Latino community, pointing to the underrepresentation of Latinos on the Commission (only 4 out of 32 commissioners are Latino) and its leadership (no Latinos).

The Mayor's Commission issued a 52-page report on September 18, 2006 entitled, Increasing Opportunity and Reducing Poverty in New York City.[34] arguing that it would be counterproductive to try to focus on everyone's problems, and instead would concentrate on three groups: very young children, young adults, and the working poor. By targeting these critical groups, the Commission believes it can best combat poverty overall. However, the focus has been criticized by those who would like a focus on other groups—including the elderly, the unemployed, the homeless, and those recently released from prison. The New York Times reported that little new city money is likely to be invested to fight poverty; management reform will be the main source of improvements. For example, the Times noted that food stamp administration will be important for all three of the groups targeted by the commission. Food stamps are fully funded by the federal government, so any expansion of their use is a cost-free reform for the city.

The Commission is expecting reports and plans by city agencies on how they each plan to address the issues raised in the Commission's report by November 2006, and will need to get City Council and State Legislative authorization for parts of its plan. The planning and implementation of the Commission's recommendations are under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, who is credited with being the person in the Administration who convinced Mayor Bloomberg to make poverty reduction a major theme of his second and final term.

The Mayor also announced that he plans to explore the use of cash incentives to poor parents to get them to keep their children in school and promote other constructive behaviors. On June 18, 2007, city officials released details of an experimental two-year Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, known as Opportunity NYC, which will make "healthy lifestyle payments" to recipients who exhibit behaviors that are deemed conducive to self-sufficiency . Bloomberg cited successes with similar programs in Brazil and Mexico. The pilot program is expected to have approximately 14,000 participants and will be funded by the private sector, rather than city tax dollars.[35]

In late May of 2011, he was criticized for a budget proposal which would close 110 day care centers in the city, according to the public advocate's office.[36][37]

Technology

Bloomberg came into office with a view that technology could not only make New York City government more efficient and responsive, but more transparent as well. His first major technology initiative was the consolidation of the City of New York's thousands of individual agency phone numbers into one three-digit number, 3–1–1. Bloomberg felt that a single phone number would be easy for New Yorkers to remember. The 311 deployment was of such importance that he assigned his daughter, Emma Bloomberg, to work closely with Commissioner Gino P. Menchini of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) to ensure that the project moved along swiftly. With his daughter on board, he felt many of the typical institutional obstacles that hinder rapid progress in a large bureaucracy like New York City would be removed. Although the project was greeted with skepticism, in 2003, 311 went live and it has since become one of the hallmark achievements of the Bloomberg Administration. In June 2007, 311 received its 50 millionth call.

Another of Bloomberg's technology initiatives was the creation of NYC TV. By virtue of the franchise agreements with the cable TV operators, New York City had always had access to valuable spectrum on local cable providers Cablevision and Time Warner Cable, but had made little use of the channels. Upon taking office in 2002, Bloomberg tapped two trusted campaign aides, Seth Unger and Arick Wierson, to revamp the City's cable channels. In 2003, Bloomberg unveiled their creation, a network called NYC TV. Unlike typical Government-access television (GATV) run local channels, NYC TV would be focused on local lifestyle and events, parks, history and culture. Some members of the New York City Council initially criticized the network for being overly preoccupied with ratings. Nonetheless, the network gained early traction, most notably for its coverage of the local fashion industry and local arts and music scene. Since its inception, NYC TV has gone on to absorb local broadcaster WNYE-TV and has emerged as the largest local broadcast network in the New York region with one full power broadcast station, five cable stations, and one FM Radio station, collectively now known as NYC Media Group. By many regards, Bloomberg's belief that NYC TV could reinvent the local television landscape has largely held true. In 2006, WNBC entered into a large syndication agreement to air over 100 hours of NYC TV's original shows. The network has won 48 New York Emmys since its inception, and series such as "Secrets of New York" are being distributed nationally on PBS, DiSH Network, airlines and overseas. In the Spring of 2009, the Mayor announced that NYC Media Group President Arick Wierson was returning to the private sector, and that Katherine Oliver, the current Film Commissioner and another longtime friend and colleague of the Mayor, would be stepping into Wierson´s former role as the top executive at the NYC TV stations.

Housing

Over the three years prior to June 2006, housing rents in New York City rose faster than inflation while inflation-adjusted incomes fell, according to a report by New York University.[38]

The report indicated that New Yorkers with low or moderate incomes spent increasing proportions of their wages and salaries on housing costs. The quantity of units available at rents affordable to city households earning 42 percent or less fell by 205,000 units in three years prior to the report. Lower-income residents had greater difficulty with the housing cost changes. During the period from 2002 to 2005, low-income families (in private-market housing) spent 43.9 percent of their incomes on rent, on average. [5]

Bloomberg has increased city funding for the new development of affordable housing.

Support for Republicans in and out of the New York area

Since 2000, Bloomberg has given $29,200 in donations to eleven candidates for the United States Congress. Nine of these candidates were Republicans: John E. Stevens, Harold Rogers, John McCain, Richard C. Shelby, Lynette Boggs McDonald, Vito Fossella, Peter T. King, James T. Walsh, Michael Oxley. However, their voting records on social and economic issues are not characteristic of conservative Republicans.[39]

World Trade Center responder death benefits

On August 14, 2006, Governor George Pataki signed legislation ordering the city to pay increased amounts in death benefits for rescue workers or "first responders", such as fire department and police department members who later died from illnesses such as cancer after working at the World Trade Center site.

The mayor objected to this, arguing that the increased cost of $5 million to $10 million a year would be unduly burdensome for the city.[40] The responders and the city additionally conflicted with each other over the issue of payments for health costs of the living among the first responders. On October 17, 2006, federal judge Alvin K. Hellerstein rejected New York City's motion to dismiss lawsuits that requested health payments to the first responders.[41]

2004 Republican National Convention

While Bloomberg was mayor, New York City hosted the 2004 Republican National Convention, to the opposition of thousands of residents of the heavily Democratic city.

At the convention, Mayor Bloomberg endorsed George W. Bush for President.[42]

The mayor was particularly criticized for his handling of protest activity [6]. Almost 2000 protesters were detained at a former bus garage on Pier 57 characterized by opponents as a "Guantanamo on the Hudson." [7]

The Parks Department denied a permit for an anti-war march organized by United for Peace and Justice to terminate at Central Park's Great Lawn, and also denied a permit for the group's rally there. Critics cited this as abridging First Amendment rights. Defenders claim the decision was due to the fact that the Central Park Conservancy had spent tens of millions of dollars during the 1990s on redoing the lawn and on adding a new drainage system, and a march and/or rally would have virtually destroyed the lawn and taken several months to repair before it could be again used, and thus any large organized gatherings on the lawn are prohibited, except for the annual free concerts by the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera.

The National Council of Arab Americans and the ANSWER Coalition, two groups sponsoring a planned march and rally, have sued the city in federal court for the denial of the Great Lawn permits. In addition to claiming that a large gathering would have damaged the newly renovated Great Lawn, the city also claimed it could not provide adequate police protection, and that the protesters failed to provide a rain date for the gathering. The July 31, 2006 edition of The New York Times reported that court documents appeared to indicate the Parks Department turned down the permits in order to shield Republican visitors from the protests. The documents include several emails and legal memoranda from city officials.[43]

Bloomberg gave a sworn statement in which he claimed to have "no unique personal knowledge" about the permit denials. However, several of the documents in question indicate that Bloomberg received regular updates regarding the status of the permits. For example, an email from Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe informed Bloomberg that "following your call," he received assurance that the denial letter would go out on July 11. Benepe also went to the Great Lawn himself to see if there was any activity and personally emailed the mayor to let him know there was no demonstration there.[43]

Statements concerning the Iraq war

In 2004, during a joint news conference with first lady Laura Bush in lower Manhattan, he came to her support on the topic of Iraq, saying, "Don't forget that the war started not very many blocks from here."[44]

In March, 2007, during a news conference in Staten Island, Bloomberg declared his strong opposition to legislation proposed in Congress calling for a clear timetable for troop withdrawal. He said, "We ask our young men and women to go over and to fight, and if you have a deadline knowing they're pulling out, how can you expect them to defend this country? How can you expect them to go out and put their lives at risk? I just think that's untenable and that this is not a responsible piece of legislation. It is totally separate of how we're conducting the war. It's totally separate of whether we should have been there. The issue that you asked about is plain and simple: Should the Congress pass a law forcing the president to withdraw troops at a given point in time? I think that is not something that is in the country's interest or in the military's interest."[45]

Occupy Wall St

On March 14 Bloomberg ordered the eviction of Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park), home of Occupy Wall Street for the since September, two months, and the birthplace of the 99% movement that has spread across the country and around the world, is presently being evicted by a large police force in full riot gear. Subsequently protesters rallied on November 17th in the largest rally to date with estimates up to 30,000 people.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Rudolph W. Giuliani
Mayor of New York City
January 1, 2002–present
Incumbent

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