Forty years ago this fall, Mayor John V. Lindsay’s reelection campaign coined a memorable slogan designed to win the sympathy of skeptical voters. Referring to the mayoralty, Lindsay’s bumper stickers and other campaign material bore the phrase: “It’s the second-toughest job in America.” The slogan was designed almost as an apology for the strikes and disorder of Lindsay’s first term. The job of running New York was so hard, the campaign suggested, that the incumbent deserved a second change to get it right. The message worked.
New York in 2009 is not what it was in 1969. Back then, the city was stumbling toward near-bankruptcy and chaos. Today, even in the midst of a wretched economy, the city is enjoying a revival that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. One thing, however, hasn’t changed: Yes, Virginia, running New York is indeed the second-toughest job in America.
For that reason and many others, we believe Michael Bloomberg deserves a third term. His reelection on Nov. 3 will ensure that City Hall remains in the hands of an executive who understands the importance of accountability, innovation and fiscal responsibility. Over the next four years, Mr. Bloomberg will have the chance to become the standard by which 21st-century mayors will be measured. If he succeeds, and we believe he will because he has so far, Michael Bloomberg will cast a LaGuardia-like shadow over New York politics in the coming decades.
The mayor’s record speaks for itself. Critics complain that voters are being brainwashed by the mayor’s free-spending campaign, but Mr. Bloomberg’s popularity has more to do with his accomplishments than with the quality of his television commercials. His place in history was ensured the moment he took office, because on January 1, 2002, the city still was recovering from the attacks of 9/11. The city was on edge, emotionally and fiscally, on that January morning. Mr. Bloomberg helped lead the city from its despair with a combination of reassurance, compassion and financial acumen.
In the years since, Mr. Bloomberg has defied conventional wisdom, as he and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly continued to drive down crime even after the historic decreases under Rudolph Giuliani. He told us to hold him accountable for the performance of the city’s public schools, and he is now reaping the benefits of a school system that no longer is dysfunctional, unaccountable and unsafe. He returned the city to its rightful place as a leader in public health through his campaigns against smoking and trans-fats. He recruited capable deputies and let them do their jobs.
The result is a city that is safer, smarter and healthier than it was when he took office. What’s more, the city’s treasury is in reasonable shape despite the horrific bloodletting in the financial sector. The collapse of institutions like Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers did not lead to a collapse in City Hall. That is no small achievement.
But that achievement, however laudable, is in the past. The question is whether Mr. Bloomberg has the solutions for tomorrow’s problems. His campaign platform suggests that he does. His emphasis on charter schools, his insistence on sustainability, his plan to diversify the city’s economy so that it is not so dependent on volatile financial services and his continued efforts to increase public safety all suggest that he has 21st-century solutions to the problems that will confront us in the years to come.
Mr. Bloomberg’s third term surely will test his administrative abilities and financial wisdom. He will be a lame duck, and the battle to succeed him will begin in two years. But that puts him in good position to re-emphasize fiscal restraint and undertake vital measures, like reductions in job-killing real estate taxes, which demagogues will condemn but which are necessary for the city’s long-term prosperity.
Michael Bloomberg was a newcomer to New York politics just eight years ago. Since then, he has defied expectations by putting together unlikely coalitions, implementing creative solutions to stubborn problems and serving as a unifying voice in a diverse and contentious city. Few mayors have so richly deserved reelection.