In his first major speech since he arrived this spring, the city’s new Deputy Mayor for Operations, Stephen Goldsmith, said today he wanted to reduce Albany’s role in city government, as he envisions engaging in a “project” to peel back some of the Legislature’s oversight.
The remarks came as part of a speech on Goldsmith’s desire to reduce bureaucracy and streamline government in the city in an attempt to find major cost savings.
“Everything is a rule,” he said at the Crain’s breakfast forum in midtown. “There are rules upon rules. And there are rules inside rules.
“It’s not just what we do to ourselves,” he continued. “I find a remarkable lack of authority in New York City to do stuff without Albany’s permission. And this—it’s an infection that’s everywhere.”
After the speech, he told reporters he does not yet have specific plans, but does intend to talk with the powers-that-be in Albany to try to find ways to reduce unnecessary oversight. (He gave an example of an idea the fire commissioner presented to him to reduce response times for ambulances. The idea, apparently, would need Albany’s approval).
“I want to work on these things with the governor-elect and the legislature,” he said (note that he didn’t say the sitting governor). “I think a project that says, let’s look at when oversight is important and when it is unnecessary, even counterproductive, and let’s just straighten out the relationship a little. … More layers of approval may no longer be the best to produce professionalism.”
This is not a surprising line for the new deputy mayor to take, both given his mandate from the mayor (do more with less), and his past history. As mayor of Indianapolis in the 1990s, he was one of a handful of Republican urban mayors who championed, with decent success, a movement toward stronger mayoralties (mayoral control of schools is in this mold) and streamlining government. His most notable achievement was bidding out city services, often to the municipal unions themselves, in an attempt to introduce competition and bring down costs.
And, from a policy point of view, he clearly has a point. The city is handcuffed on a tremendous range of issues—unable to pass things like new taxes or laws allowing for cameras that can issue driving tickets without the approval of the Legislature (which is often reluctant to take difficult votes on the city’s behalf).
Still, should some broader initiative come to fruition, it sets the stage for what would surely be a confrontation, or at least some sort of trade, with the Legislature, which, understandably, is generally not keen on ceding power to the mayor without some good reason to do so.