State of the City

There’s nothing like a mayoral campaign to inspire the political class to give long, windy speeches about the state of the city. With an open seat looming next year, there’s no shortage of pretenders to the throne, which means that there has been no shortage of speechmaking about the city’s condition.

The only speech that really meant anything was Mayor Bloomberg’s, simply because, well, he can actually implement things or at least advocate for them in a powerful way. So it was heartening to hear him propose merit pay increases for unusually effective teachers. He may or may not get that done this year, but at least it’s part of the conversation moving forward.

As for his would-be successors, embattled City Comptroller John Liu offered further evidence of his cluelessness as he indulged in his own version of a state-of-the-city speech. Mr. Liu said he’ll ask Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin about how he might get a good headline in the New York Post. Mr. Lin probably is too polite to tell Mr. Liu that all he needs to do is identify his fund-raising bundlers.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also trotted out quasi-mayoral speeches, neither of which did anything to raise expectations. They and other would-be candidates, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (who has been mercifully silent on the state of the city), have yet to show that they are capable of true citywide leadership.

Ms. Quinn asserted that New York is “not a big city” but a “patchwork of small towns.” That’s exactly wrong. When politicians think of New York as a series of niche groups, they inevitably confuse pandering with leadership.

And we’ve had enough of that, thank you.