Week of October 2, 2006
Snapshot from the Field
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New Chapter in NYC
Mayor shares lessons learned from managing city of 8 million.
by RON STARNER, Site Selection
Director of Publications
Michael Bloomberg knows a good book when he sees one.
As the author of a book currently ranked No. 290,880 on Amazon.com, the mayor of New York City isn't necessarily talking about Bloomberg by Bloomberg, although he freely admits that he wouldn't mind if more people read his autobiography.
What he prefers is to have more people learn the same lessons he did by applying his own twist on Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Speaking to about 1,500 attendees at the International Economic Development Council's 2006 Conference in New York City in September, Bloomberg shared his "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Cities."
The erstwhile business media mogul said his lessons, gleaned from on- the- job training, aren't complex – just common sense. "Habit No. 1," he said, "is to fight crime. Public safety is any city's most important job. And you must learn to deploy your resources practically, not politically."
With crime 22 percent lower than it was in 2001, New York City is statistically safer than 227 other large cities in America. "We are safer than Port St. Lucie, Fla.," the mayor boasted. "Pretty soon, Floridians will be moving to New York to retire."
Bloomberg said the city of 8.1 million residents took a big step forward when it launched a 311 call center for non- emergency inquiries. In less than four years, the help line fielded 37 million calls in 170 languages, freeing up the 911 line for critical calls that require immediate response from public safety workers.
New York's 108th mayor said the second most
Bloomberg helped spark a resurgence of small business by promoting special "Business Improvement Districts" throughout the city's five boroughs. Coupled with the State of New York's Empire Zone program, these programs provide tax savings to mom- and- pop shops and encourage entrepreneurship.
Thirdly, said the mayor who takes a salary of $1 a year, an effective city must emphasize accountability and high standards in every municipal department.
"In New York, we turned around a failing school system by establishing accountability and standards," he said. "The reality in America is that educational standards must be raised in all states and cities. If we don't, we won't be able to compete in the world economy against nations like China and India."
The well- known budget cutter also emphasized one of his favorite mantras: Promote self- sufficiency and do more with less. "We must practice fiscal responsibility," said the mayor who rides the subway to work every day. "We inherited a $5 billion budget deficit in New York in my first year and a $6.5 billion budget deficit in my second year. But we cut $4 billion from the budget and learned to become self- sufficient. If we needed to raise taxes, we raised taxes."
Today, the New York City budget stands at $53 billion, more than the budget size of most U.S. states.
The mayor is especially proud of reducing the number of people on the city's welfare rolls. "Our welfare rolls in New York City today are lower than at anytime since 1964," he added. In 1993, one of every seven New Yorkers lived on welfare.
Turning his attention toward cultural and quality- of- life concerns, Bloomberg encouraged his audience to adopt habit No. 5: Feed the spirit. He encouraged cities to unleash creativity and freedom of artistic expression in all walks of life.
"We have 19,500 restaurants in New York, and last year some 42.7 million visitors came to our city," he noted.
Habit No. 6, he said, is to "paint the town green." Since Bloomberg became mayor following the highly acclaimed tenure of Rudolph Giuliani, the city has created more than 300 acres (121 hectares) of new parks and embarked on an ambitious plan to reclaim hundreds of miles of neglected waterfront property.
"We must do more to improve our water and air quality," he said. "The Bank of America building on 42nd Street will be the most environmentally friendly skyscraper in the world. We need more buildings like this one across the country."
Finally, he said, cities should never stop investing in their future. "We have committed $4 billion to improving our water tunnel system because we have to," the mayor said, encouraging other cities to invest more in their critical infrastructure.
Bloomberg also noted that public leaders should be willing to make bold and controversial decisions, even if that means their poll numbers will drop.
"When New York needed to balance our budget, I raised taxes," he said. "I didn't feel right turning to the state and federal government and asking for more money."
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