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Interview With New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Aired January 2, 2002 - 09:46   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, now we take it all the way back across the country, the Big Apple's new mayor is promising New Yorkers a better tomorrow, but it appears he's got his work cut out for him.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg joins us now. He is live and he is at the New York Stock Exchange today on his Day 2 of being at the helm. And, your honor, thank you very much for giving us some of your time this morning. We sure do appreciate it.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: Thank you for having me and Happy New Year.

HARRIS: Same to you. It's an honor to have you with us today. Let me ask you about that. Last night was your first night as mayor. Did you sleep any differently?

BLOOMBERG: No, I didn't. By the time I got home, I was pretty tired. It was a fun-filled day.

HARRIS: Well, let me ask you about your day, yesterday. We sat here, and we covered your speech yesterday. And I couldn't help but notice the groan from the crowd when you announced the fact that you were going -- you were going to be making a 20 percent cut in the staff there in your office. And you were encouraging the same thing to happen at the council -- city council, as well as in the burrough's offices as well. It seems as though you may have a tough row to hoe, when you start effecting those sorts of cuts because there -- I don't know. Does it seem like you're going to have support on things like that? How will you get that message across?

BLOOMBERG: Well, it's not going to be easy, but I think we have to understand that when we know we're going to have tough times, we know we're going have to make choices, know we're going to have to make cuts. That really translates where the rubber hits the road. You've got to actually do those things. Just promising them when you're on the campaign trail or saying them in a speech isn't adequate. We've got to do more with less in this city, and I would never ask anybody to do anything I'm not willing to do myself. I've just found it a lot easier to lead by example. So, I go first, and then I talk to everybody else.

HARRIS: Well, you know, your honor, a lot of people are going to be watching your example, because you've not been a politician in the past. And yet you're going to be walking this tightrope where you're actually, you know, spreading this message of -- a bit of austerity you're talking about here. But you still have to do so without scaring people off from bringing business or whatever, back to New York and bringing the city back to its former glory. How do you manage that?

BLOOMBERG: I think that by actually doing things, getting our expenses down to where our revenues are, is exactly what people want to hear. And if they see that, that's all the more reason for them to stay in the city or move to the city or bring their jobs to the city. People want to be in a city that is safe and well managed. It isn't that they run away, when you face up to your problems. They run away if you don't face up to your problems.

HARRIS: So you think things would actually be worse if you didn't come out with this dose of hard medicine?

BLOOMBERG: I think things would be much worse if we just tried to sweep under the rug what everybody understands is a down turn in the economy that results in less tax base for New York City and New York City being less able to do the things, not necessarily that it did before, but certainly the way that it did it before.

Different times, and you have to have different solutions. I think the last eight years, we made enormous progress in the city and not just in fighting crime but in getting city government under control. But now, there's the next four years in front of us with different resources, different problems, different inputs. And we're just going to do things differently. And I think my predecessor, had he been in office the next four years, would have done things differently than he did before. And that's what I've got to do.

HARRIS: Okay, you're going to do things differently. But give us an idea, if you can, of what you're going to do about two major challenges, here. Besides the budget, there -- you've got the city budget, which we know is already a big issue there.


HARRIS: But number one, the fact that you're in something -- we're in a recession. And that has hit your city very hard. And, number two, the schools there. We know that that's a big priority for you as well.

BLOOMBERG: Well, the first priority has to be to make sure the streets are safe. And I've picked a great police commissioner. He is focusing on quality of life crimes. That's the only thing that has sort of gone up since September 11th. All other categories of crime have come down. And I hope we can continue to have them come down. We'll certainly do our best, and they're certainly not going up.

And then we have to make sure that we encourage economic activity, because if we don't keep jobs here and have people bring more jobs here, we're not going to have a tax base to do anything. But, after those two things, education has got to be the number one priority. And the first thing to do is to try to get the mayor in control of the school system. At the moment, the school system reports to the Board of Education, which doesn't really report to anybody. And I will be spending a lot of time in Albany, where the state legislature has to make that change. And I have great hopes that I can convince the Albany legislature that this is what's right, this is what the people want, this is what we have to do to make our school system -- which has some of the best schools in the world in it -- but also many, many -- too many -- bad schools in it, where we leave some children out from getting the skill sets that they need to participate in the great American dream. Got to be priority number one.

HARRIS: Let me ask you one more question, if I can, about another issue. You said also in your speech yesterday that you know you can't afford everything you want. And many people would like to see some sort -- some sort of a memorial at the World Trade Center site.


HARRIS: What are your -- what's your thought on that? And whether or not that is going to happen under your tenure?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I -- there certainly will be a big memorial at the World Trade Center site. Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani appointed a commission run by John Whitehead, who has been a friend of mine for 30 years, to go and to get all of the different suggestions and find some compromise where we can please all of different requirements that this city has.

And I think we have to balance a memory for the 3,000 friends and relatives and co-workers we lost and the 400 heroes who gave their lives to save others with economic activity for the future. Remember, all of those 3,000 people that died, they have left relatives, spouses, children; and we've got to make sure that we can have an economy where they can go forward, particularly the children.

We don't want to walk away from our future. So, we'll have to come up with some balance. But you start with finding the best design for the most appropriate memorial for those we have lost. And then you work around that, and that's exactly what John Whitehead will do.

HARRIS: Your honor, one final one, this morning. We know New Yorkers, they told us firsthand, they like to see a character in your office. They want someone who speaks for them and is a bit -- can be a bit outrageous from time to time. That doesn't seem it fit with your style. Are we going to be seeing a transformation of you?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I -- I don't know. I was criticized during the campaign for having my own style. Now people are going to criticize me for not having it. We'll have to find some balance as time goes on. I'm sure that I can't have the honeymoon that I've had for the last 35, 40 hours. I've only got about 1,460 days left to go. Some time we'll have some style, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HARRIS: There you go. First lesson, you can't please everybody. BLOOMBERG: You can't please everybody. That is true.

HARRIS: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Thank you very much and good luck to you, sir. And a Happy New Year. It's been an honor to have you with us today.

BLOOMBERG: Thank you and Happy New Year to you.

HARRIS: Okay. Take care.




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