When Rudolph Giuliani left City Hall, almost no one thought that crime would continue to go down. Mr. Giuliani had transformed New York into the safest large city in America, and there was an underlying assumption that his background as a prosecutor and his bullying style had a lot to do with his effectiveness. Fighting crime was the defining achievement of the Giuliani administration, coming as it did after the painful years of David Dinkins’ Mayoralty, when crime was out of control. Surely Mr. Giuliani’s successor, a self-made billionaire named Mike Bloomberg, would not be able to hold the line against the city’s criminal element. But Mayor Bloomberg has not only kept the streets safe, he’s made them safer, despite tighter budget constraints and the added burden of fighting terrorism. Crime in New York has fallen 8 percent this year from the same period in 2002, while crime across the country is showing signs of being on the rise. It’s a well-known fact that a low crime rate has a profound impact on the city’s economic base: Tourists feel good about coming here, residents don’t pack up and move to Westchester, corporations want to be based here.
Almost as stunning as Mr. Bloomberg’s success at fighting crime is the fact that very few New Yorkers are giving him any credit for it. The latest New York Times poll shows that only 24 percent of city residents approve of the over-all job the Mayor is doing-the lowest Mayoral approval rating in 25 years. According to The Times , his approval rating is low across the board: 31 percent among whites, 19 percent among Hispanics and 15 percent among blacks. While it’s clear that this Mayor, like any Mayor, is being unfairly blamed for the weak economy, it’s troubling that more New Yorkers do not recognize the outstanding job Mr. Bloomberg is doing.
Mayor Bloomberg, admittedly, has raised taxes-a painful cure for our city’s financial excesses. But this was the right move, rather than the traditional short-term approach of borrowing and relying on one-shot gimmicks to create the illusion of a balanced budget. And it’s notable that the Mayor refuses to blame the current fiscal crisis on his predecessors or on Albany-both easy, indeed plausible, targets. Instead, he’s focused on getting things done. He has begun to reform the schools, getting rid of the corrupt and wasteful local school boards; he’s built public support for a new water-filtration plant in the Bronx; he’s launched a plan for renewing all of lower Manhattan, not just Ground Zero; and he’s banned smoking in bars and restaurants.
The continuing crime drop is a result of innovations put in place by Mr. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly. For example, Operation Impact has deployed 800 police officers into the city’s worst crime pockets, resulting in a drop of almost 47 percent in homicides in those areas. Operation Spotlight has created a special court to sentence those crooks who are chronic offenders-46 percent more of those criminals were sent to jail this year compared with last year. Simply put, New Yorkers are even safer now than they were under Mr. Giuliani.
All of which raises the question: Who do New Yorkers think could do a better job than Mr. Bloomberg? Surely they don’t want a return to the days of Mr. Dinkins, when the city recorded over 2,000 murders a year and people in many neighborhoods feared to leave their homes at night? Or perhaps they just miss the bristling glamour of Mr. Giuliani. The fact is, Mike Bloomberg has been a gutsy Mayor; he doesn’t pick needless fights, but he does get things done. History may very well remember Mr. Bloomberg as one of the greatest Mayors New York has ever had.
Are Kids Safe With The Teachers’ Union?
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has a simple, common-sense solution for teachers who are accused of sexual misconduct or other forms of bad, if not criminal, behavior: He wants them out of the classroom, away from children.
Recently, Mr. Klein acted decisively in the case of four teachers who were implicated in what he called “acts such as sexual harassment, sexual abuse of special-education students and paying students to engage in theft.” The chancellor got them away from students by transferring them to administrative jobs within the Department of Education.
Though an arbitration panel cleared the teachers to return to the classroom, Mr. Klein’s office believes that this decision was based on “legal technicalities” and not the merits of the case. That’s why the schools chancellor intervened.
Unfortunately, Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers’ union, protested Mr. Klein’s wise decision. Typically, she avoided the merits of the case in questioning the chancellor’s motives. According to Ms. Weingarten, the chancellor merely wants to be seen as acting tough. That’s simply absurd. Mr. Klein doesn’t have to prove his toughness to anyone-he, after all, willingly left the private sector to take on the thankless job of overseeing New York’s public schools. If that’s not a sign of toughness, what is?
Like all union officials, Ms. Weingarten believes she has a duty to protect her members. That’s fine. But this case involves sexual harassment as well as an alleged plot to hire students to steal auto parts. These teachers do not deserve protection from the consequences of their actions-the schoolchildren need protection from these teachers. Apparently, Ms. Weingarten would rather see such people inside the classroom, free to harass young people. That’s hard to believe, but that’s the logical conclusion of her complaint. She would have done better either to remain silent or, better still, to make a firm statement that any teacher implicated in such vile behavior can expect nothing but the union’s contempt.
Older, Wiser-and Happier
Who has a sunnier outlook on life-those under 30, or those over 65? According to new research by psychologists at the University of California at Irvine, it’s the 65-and-overs who see the bright side of things and don’t let life’s negative bumps get to them. Which is yet more proof that the common perception of older people as lonely and depressed is off-base.
The researchers conducted several tests, including a memory test in which people over 65 and people under 30 were shown a series of positive and negative images. The results, published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology , showed that people age 65 to 80 remembered almost twice as many of the positive images as the negative ones, while those under 30 remembered more of the unpleasant images. Even though all age groups spent more time studying the negative images, the older respondents still recalled the positive images far more vividly. “Older people remember less of the negative aspects of their experiences than younger people,” Dr. Susan Charles told The New York Times . “And perhaps not dwelling on the negative aspects of life is one reason that they look so healthy emotionally.”
So if you’re getting on in years and find yourself becoming forgetful, don’t worry. Just be thankful you’re not 30 anymore.