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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Michael Bloomberg

Aired August 20, 2003 - 20:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Much like his predecessor, Rudi Giuliani, after the 9/11 attacks, current New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was a reassuring presence during last week's blackout. In a Sunday editorial, "The New York Times" had this to say: "Mayor Bloomberg had to manage a crisis not of his making and only marginally within his control. But for the duration of the mess, the mayor's own supply of energy kept the city going." Mayor Bloomberg joins us now to talk about the blackout and the recovery.
Always good to see you. Welcome, Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: Thank you for having me.

ZAHN: Well, that was pretty nice to read for a change?

BLOOMBERG: My mother was pleased about it, I'm sure.

ZAHN: But how about you?

BLOOMBERG: I was thrilled as well. Always nice when people say good things.

ZAHN: Was that a defining moment for you as mayor?

BLOOMBERG: I don't think so. I think that people look back at a record, and if we get through four years where crime keeps coming down and the schools get better and the streets get cleaner and we balance our budget and do it responsibly, then people will say a successful administration. Anyone of these things are good. They all add, and the press focuses on them, but I think it's the longer term people's view of whether you're doing a good job.

And whether you make the tough decisions. Everybody knows we have some tough economic times. They're not happy when you face them, but they look back and say, I'm glad he did.

ZAHN: And yet you have seen a jump in poll numbers that have been done. Can you imagine how you'd be doing if New Yorkers actually could have seen you on television during that 24-hour period?

BLOOMBERG: Well, who knows what the polls are going to say. But seriously, I think you can't worry about the polls. Every governor or mayor in this country is facing the same situation. Tax revenues are lower because economic activity is down. The public's need for services in tough times goes up, and so at the very time that you're least able to do it, the demand is the greatest, and how you get through that is never going to be popular, if you do it responsibly, but I think if you do it quickly and do it the correct way, long term people look back and say, great job.

ZAHN: Take us back to the day of the blackout. Was there a moment where you thought, oh my God, this could be a terrorist attack?

BLOOMBERG: No. Because as soon as I was told about it, it was late in the afternoon, it was very hot and humid, and I had been cautioning, as had plenty of other people, over the summer, that we don't have enough electricity and we don't have enough transmission capacity, so that there's always the danger of a blackout. And when I was told right away that there was a blackout and the blackout extended all through New York state and over into adjoining states, that's not something that a terrorist is likely to be able to cause. That's something where the system that is all interdependent gets into a problem and can't handle it.

And so my first thoughts were, natural causes, lightning, or a mistake at a control center or something like that, not terrorism.

ZAHN: So there was never a period of time where you worried about a scenario that these terrorist acts threw out a one-two punch...

BLOOMBERG: I think we've...

ZAHN: ... you're distracted by a blackout, and then?

BLOOMBERG: I pray that it never happens, but the fact of the matter is, we have to prepare for the day in and day out emergencies and traumas and events that are part of normal life. Most people have to still look when they're crossing the street to make sure that there's not somebody that's going to hit them. People have to make sure they don't go swimming when there's not a lifeguard. People have to worry about the normal risks of going about in a high-technology, fast-paced society, particularly in a big city, and let the professionals worry about terrorism, and particularly in New York City.

We have 1,000 of New York City's best police officers devoted to intelligence and counterterrorism. And hopefully, that's enough. Hopefully, they would stop anything if it ever is planned to take place here.

Every time we have ever seen somebody caught and they had plans to go and attack New York, they all said, looked too tough, we're not going to do it. And as long as that's the case, we'll be fine. You worry about the normal stuff, the police will worry about the terrorism.

ZAHN: I've got to tell you, what was comforting throughout the whole thing, is what gracious and helpful people New Yorkers were, contrary to the stereotype that we see across the nation.

BLOOMBERG: Woman (UNINTELLIGIBLE) city hall, tells me she lives in Boro Park (ph), and she walked home across the Brooklyn Bridge, and she said people had set up tables and chairs outside their houses and were giving food and drink and a place to sit for people that had a two-hour walk home.

ZAHN: A civil bunch, aren't we?

BLOOMBERG: We are. That's the New York that I'm proud to be part of, that's the New York that I think people from around the world should come and visit. It is the world's second home for a reason. It's safe, it's clean, and it's a group of nice people.

And if you think about it, it's not just after 9/11. For a long time, when you have a tourist coming from overseas or from outside the Northeast, and they're leaving, they say, I didn't realize New Yorkers were so nice. They expected the worst and they got the best.

ZAHN: Mayor Bloomberg, good of you to drop by.

BLOOMBERG: Oh, thank you very much.

ZAHN: And again, we appreciate your hard work during that bleak period of our city's history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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