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Archive for Friday, January 11, 2002

New York finds old attitude

January 11, 2002

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— The city has changed since Sept. 11. There's a new mayor. Michael Bloomberg is in; Rudy Giuliani is out. Of more significance, there's a new direction. Of even more significance, there's an old attitude.

Under the helm of Giuliani, the city became safer, primarily through the efforts of an enlarged and more aggressive police force. As we have written, providing for the public safety is the first function of government. New York became a prime example of why this is so, because with safety came prosperity. And with prosperity came the pursuit of happiness. New York became fun again.

But Sept. 11, which affected us all, affected New York City most of all. Jobs disappeared, tourists stayed away, and people became grumpier. Then along came Bloomberg announcing that the city could no longer afford all that it wanted, not even all that it had. Here, the man who spent millions and millions of his own money to become mayor, announced to his constituents that austerity was the word of the day. This made the people even grumpier.

Giuliani had noted with a smile that New York had been dubbed one of America's friendliest cities. New Yorkers, known for attitude, were friendly.

In truth, they were. Some of the kindest, most caring people in the country are to be found in New York brusque though many of them may be.

Giuliani, himself, was the personification of the city. His upbeat, smiling, in-your-face manner mirrored the people, or more likely struck a resonant chord with his fellow citizens.

With him, the city found its tempo. Without him, they are becoming dissonant. Bloomberg promises cuts, but what can he cut garbage removal in a city plagued with rats? Welfare assistance when the federal Welfare Reform Act is causing thousands of people to be removed from the federal welfare rolls? Fire protection in a fire department that suffered such terrible losses on Sept. 11? How about the police, that underpinning of the Giuliani administration? Quite simply, Bloomberg has it wrong.

It is reminiscent of "It's a Wonderful Life," when Jimmy Stewart is shown by his guardian angel what his town would have been like without him. People who had been thriving and cheerful, became, instead, dreary, petty, apprehensive, greedy and paranoid. What a difference one man makes.

Bloomberg is facing the prospect of falling revenue as a result of rising unemployment and falling tourism, so logic dictates retrenchment or does it?

He should be betting on the city. What Giuliani created, Bloomberg could build upon. All it takes is optimism and determination. This means pulling all the stops to bring back business and tourists, whether it is achieved through advertising, events, or jawboning.

But time is against him. What he does over the next several weeks will determine whether New York City sinks into despondency or overcomes the tragedy of Sept 11.

So much depends upon psyche. After all, in New York, attitude is everything.

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