After he lost his bid (and $2 million of his own money) to end partisan elections, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become a bigger target for op-ed writers and Democratic would-be challengers. And the smug quotes he gave for an article published in this month’s Vanity Fair have hardly helped matters. But as with Rudolph Giuliani before him, Mr. Bloomberg’s personality and ability to charm the public are far less important than the fact that his Mayoralty continues to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.
The latest proof: According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serious crime remained steady or inched up in America in 2002. But New York City was insulated from the trend: Crime overall in the city dropped 5 percent, and while murders nationwide were up 1 percent, they declined almost 10 percent here. Such stunning and continued reductions in crime have a profound impact on the city’s economic base: Real-estate values remain strong, companies are happy to locate here, tourists feel safe visiting, residents are less apt to move to the suburbs, and the city’s universities are far more attractive to high-school seniors around the country.
Given the ongoing crime reductions, New Yorkers might be lulled into thinking that it’s just happening naturally. That would be a dangerous mistake. The fact is, Rudolph Giuliani and his police commissioners revolutionized crime-fighting in New York, making it the safest large city in America. And Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, have taken Mr. Giuliani’s successes and built on them. And they have done so with fewer resources, since the NYPD now must deploy officers to fight terrorism as well as crime.
It is notable that, rather than rest on his laurels and tell New Yorkers they should just be grateful he’s kept their streets safe, Mr. Bloomberg is very publicly attempting to fix the city’s horribly dysfunctional public-school system. No previous Mayor has wholeheartedly tackled this challenge. And the startling thing is, Mr. Bloomberg and his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, have already made notable progress, freeing the system from the bureaucratic restraints of the Board of Education, refusing to be cowed by the teachers’ union and, just last week, proposing a $13 billion capital plan for school construction and repair.
He may be a billionaire who likes to go to Bermuda on weekends, but Mr. Bloomberg’s school reforms will inordinately benefit the children of poor, struggling parents-just as his ability to keep crime low has paid off most directly in the city’s less fortunate neighborhoods.
Spitzer Versus the Pollution President
The environmental outrages of the Bush administration continue. And the air New Yorkers breathe is going to get dirtier and more toxic as a result.
The White House recently announced changes in clean-air policy that will result in aborted investigations into 50 dirty power plants across the country. The inquiries were begun because the plants were suspected of violating the Clean Air Act.
Who ever said that you can’t change the rules in the middle of a game? George W. Bush obviously doesn’t agree. His administration has ruled that the coal-burning power plants in question-which spew their poisons into New York’s air-should be judged by a set of new regulations that will take effect in December. Here’s a surprise: Those new regulations make it easier for polluters to foul the air, because they will be exempt from installing pollution-control devices. They are expensive, you see, and the utilities don’t want to pay for such equipment. Executives at the 10 utilities which own the plants surely agree that the money they invested in Mr. Bush and his puppet master on energy policy, Vice President Dick Cheney, was well worth it.
Luckily for New York and its neighbors, State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is trying to foil this latest concession to the nation’s energy industry. Mr. Spitzer and several colleagues from other states have demanded an investigation into this outrageous decision. Mr. Spitzer is among several officials from the Northeast who have filed lawsuits demanding that utilities clean up their old, filthy power plants.
New Yorkers need officials like Mr. Spitzer, because the Environmental Protection Agency has abdicated its responsibilities. The agency is not interested in protecting the environment anymore; it exists to protect industry from being accountable to the public.
Coal-fired plants in the Midwest poison our air and produce acid rain. Apparently, Mr. Bush thinks utility profits are more important than air quality in New York.
Fortunately, Mr. Spitzer disagrees.
CBS and The Reagans : Bad Taste, Worse Judgment
No matter where one falls on the political spectrum-left, right or middle-it’s hard to admire CBS for its tasteless decision to commission a TV miniseries which denigrates the life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan, at a time when the 92-year-old former President is gravely ill with Alzheimer’s. The fact that the producers of The Reagans cast James Brolin-the husband of Barbra Streisand, the most outspoken liberal in Hollywood-as Mr. Reagan indicates a perhaps less-than-
stringent respect for objectivity. (Indeed, Mr. Brolin has said that he modeled his performance in part on a satirical British TV puppet show, Spitting Image , which mercilessly mocked Mr. and Mrs. Reagan.) In their desire for success and political revenge, the producers were determined to turn all American stories into the same cheesy, lowlife soap opera that makes up most of American television.
Not only did CBS executives reveal a lack of good taste, they also showed lousy judgment: Mr. Reagan remains a hero to at least half the country. And now, having given in to political pressure and moved the series to its sister cable station, Showtime, CBS has managed to anger both liberals and conservatives. And they won’t even benefit from the high ratings the show would likely have earned.
It’s a shame, because an accurate, balanced look at the Reagan years would have been welcome. If you look at the Presidents we’ve had since Mr. Reagan, he might very well rank No. 1 among them. During his time in the White House, the economy was reinvigorated, national pride was restored, the country didn’t get involved in hugely expensive foreign wars, and the Soviet Union collapsed, thanks in part to Mr. Reagan’s foreign policy. (Indeed, Mr. Reagan’s biographer, Edmund Morris, said he started out his biography thinking Mr. Reagan was “an apparent airhead” but eventually concluded that he was a “visionary statesman.”) Ronald Reagan built a career on self-mythologizing, but it was based on certain core beliefs and hard-won truths. He deserves decent treatment.