For all the gloom and doom scenarios that were floating around before November 6th, Mike Bloomberg continues to pleasantly surprise. He won’t take office for another five weeks and his policies and staff are still being shaped behind closed doors. But his initial steps as New York’s 108th mayor look remarkably promising and we hope that he stays his present course.
Take the labor unions, for starters. In a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans by four to one, leaders of DC-37, SEIU 1999 and the UFT didn’t bother much with Bloomberg before the election; picking the right Democratic candidate who could return favors seemed much more important. Some unions, like the UFT, endorsed losing mayoral candidates three times: once in the Democratic Primary (Alan Hevesi), once in the mayoral runoff (Fernando Ferrer) and once in the general election (Mark Green).
So when Bloomberg surprised everyone but his core supporters by winning on November 6th, labor leaders were nervous. How could they expect to get better contracts and higher wages for their members when the new mayor owed them nothing?
But Bloomberg, who promised a Giuliani-like administration during the campaign, made a swift departure from his predecessor’s legendary thirst for political vengeance as mayor-elect. Just two days after the unions were eating crow, Bloomberg not only met with labor union leaders, but actually appointed three of them to his 56-person transition team. While largely symbolic, it was an important show of access for this city’s workers, who face job cuts and smaller raises as the recession digs in its heels.
What’s especially admirable are the gestures Bloomberg has made to minorities, many of whom felt shut out of City Hall by Giuliani. One of the first things he did after winning was to break bread with Fernando Ferrer, who was still bitter over his loss to Mark Green in the Democratic Primary. Ferrer said he wasn’t seeking a job and Bloomberg said he was there to solicit advice. But the breakfast was noteworthy because it showed a spirit of reconciliation and inclusiveness.
This week, Bloomberg made another important statement to Latinos by heading to the Dominican Republic to visit relatives of the Flight 587 crash victims. Accompanied by Congressman Charlie Rangel of Harlem, Bloomberg paid for the trip with his own money and even addressed the relatives in Spanish.
And it’s not only Latinos who are seeing some positive early signals from the mayor-elect. Two days after the election, he met with former Mayor David Dinkins to talk politics. That night, at a reception of the 100 Black Men law enforcement group, Bloomberg shook hands with Reverend Al Sharpton—something Giuliani didn’t do in his eight years in office.
Granted, the challenges ahead of Bloomberg are daunting. The city government faces at least a $1-billion downturn in revenues after September 11th. The financial services sector, the backbone of the local economy, is in rocky waters. The schools, and our young people, are still struggling.
That’s precisely why there has never been a more important time to have a straight-shooter running City Hall. We welcome his independent spirit and look forward to the fruit it promises to bear for all New Yorkers.