Friday, December 22, 2006

An Innovative Mayor

As a New Yorker I’ve regarded Mayor Michael Bloomberg with skepticism. I thought his pursuit of a new baseball stadium on Manhattan’s west side was wrongheaded. His crackdown on free speech during the 2004 Republican National Convention was despicable. Also, the Mayor has effectively gelded New York City’s Department of Investigation (DOI) from cracking down on corruption between city government and big business.

Conventional wisdom stipulates the Bloomberg Administration is less corrupt than Guiliani’s because he financed his own campaigns. True as that may be, Bloomberg’s has cut DOI's staff and diminished their ability to identify corruption within his administration. That makes me suspicious.

That said, Bloomberg is a non-ideological technocrat who isn’t afraid to try fresh approaches. As Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes in his most recent column,

“In New York this week, Bloomberg announced a new initiative to fight poverty, including a Center for Economic Opportunity and $150 million annually that would, among other things, provide incentives for the poor to stay in school, to build up their personal savings and to get preventive medical care.The mayor would also create an Office of Financial Empowerment to 'educate, empower and protect workers with low incomes so they can make the best use of their financial resources.' The poor often get ripped off by the unscrupulous.

The fund includes $25 million raised privately -- a signature approach for Bloomberg, a billionaire and a major private philanthropist -- which will give the program more room to experiment.”
I hope Bloomberg’s innovations succeed and can be replicated statewide. Perhaps other municipal and state governments will review these programs and adapt them for their own needs. It’s often said that city and state governments are laboratories of innovation. I’ll happily give Bloomberg credit if his new ideas lift citizens from poverty and help lower income workers learn to get the most from their resources. It would help however, if Mayor Bloomberg realized even educated professionals like myself are also struggling to remain fiscally sovent in this city.

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