The Mayor Thinks It Over

For the sake of his health and his personal life, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ought to spend some time reflecting on his political future. A long, potentially exhausting battle awaits him as he prepares to undergo treatment for prostate cancer. The campaign for U.S. Senate may begin to look unimportant and not worth the risk to his physical and mental well-being.

This is not to say that the Mayor should get out of the race. We have said before, and will say again, that he is an outstanding candidate, well poised to block Hillary Clinton’s carpetbagging machinations. His diagnosis may change everything; it may change nothing. Though his cancer was caught early and chances are that he will have a complete recovery, nobody, not even the Mayor, can predict how he will feel once he begins treatment. He still may be an energetic candidate. But there is a chance he may not be. And decisions have to be made soon. The Republican state convention will meet on May 30 to decide on a Senatorial nominee.

Mr. Giuliani has about two weeks to consider his options, to decide whether or not he will be up to the rigorous assignment of taking part in what already looks to be the most expensive and hard fought Senate campaign in memory. As he weighs what the near future may bring, he ought to consult with his putative party leader and the state’s leading Republican, Governor George Pataki, a man who understands what it takes to win a statewide election. If the Mayor has second thoughts about the race, and who can blame him if he does, he would do well to have a frank and private conversation with the Governor and with Republican party leaders.

If Mr. Giuliani decides not to risk the race, Mr. Pataki owes it to himself, his party and the state’s well-being to step in as Hillary Clinton’s opponent. The Governor is a natural for a consensus-building body like the Senate, and his genial, moderate image would seem unbeatable in a race against a hard-edged ideologue like the First Lady.

Should Mr. Pataki go on to defeat Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Giuliani, if so inclined, could fill out his second term in City Hall and run for Governor in 2002. Nobody will hold it against him if he chooses his health over ambition this year.

Meet Your Judges

Those who frequent topless bars, or who just like having them in the neighborhood, might wish to send a spring bouquet to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which early this month made sure that a topless club in Manhattan could stay open despite the city’s attempts to close it. The court’s action will make it easier for other X-rated businesses to flout community efforts to get rid of them. In this case, the owners of the V.I.P. Club on West 20th Street claimed they did not fall under the city’s anti-porn zoning law because their topless dancers were only on the mezzanine, not the main floor, of the club. The judges on the Court of Appeals bought this specious argument-unanimously.

So who are the judges who sided with sleaze over civility? The magnificent seven were all appointed by former Gov. Mario Cuomo or current Gov. George Pataki, and serve terms of 14 years, unless they turn 70 first. Of the current bunch, all except two will likely be in their robes for at least seven more years. Sitting atop the court is chief judge Judith S. Kaye, whose term runs out in 2007. Then there’s Joseph W. Bellacosa, who is resigning in August to become dean of St. John’s Law School. Moving right along, we have George Bundy Smith, Howard A. Levine, Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Richard C. Wesley and Albert M. Rosenblatt. These five men and two women hold a great deal of power: their rulings on state law cannot be overturned, even by the U.S. Supreme Court, unless federal issues are involved, and 99 percent of the time their ruling is the last word on a case.

So, the next time you and your family stroll past a strip club or tawdry porn palace, just remember, it’s there courtesy of Judy, Joe, George, Howie, Carmen, Dick and Al.

Pataki Ends Debt Binge

George Pataki has just made an admirable move to slow down New York State’s out-of-control borrowing binge. After seeing the state’s debt grow by more than 30 percent since he moved into the executive mansion in 1995, the Governor has finally put on the brakes. His plan, which has the backing of the leaders of the State Legislature, would restrain the state’s ability to borrow, both by forbidding the state to borrow money for anything other than capital projects, and by putting a cap, yet to be specified, on how much debt New York could carry at any time. By turning off the tap, he sides with those who believe that boom years do not justify reckless disregard for the state’s fiscal prospects.

Borrowing to build roads is one thing; borrowing to pay the state’s operational expenses, as New York has done in the past, is shortsighted and irresponsible. As is selling off state assets whenever some extra cash is needed. Such financial trickery has helped push the current debt to a staggering $37 billion-No. 1 in the nation, by the way-with an annual debt service approaching $4 billion. Who cares if the state has boasted budget surpluses over the last several years? A downturn in Wall Street’s financial services sector, which has been providing all those lofty tax revenues, could quickly put New York into very serious trouble. Mr. Pataki deserves credit for taking initial steps to strengthen the state’s ability to respond to an unpredictable future. The Mayor Thinks It Over