Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Mayor Speaks His Mind

The New York Times
The Mayor Speaks His Mind

In his first term, Michael Bloomberg was often diplomatic to a fault. He was loath to criticize publicly members of his adopted Republican Party in Washington and Albany. He preferred working behind the scenes — with mixed success — to change policies that were often at odds with city needs as basic as security and the schools. Now, in his second and final term, Mr. Bloomberg seems to have decided he isn't taking any guff from anyone.

This week the mayor criticized the Bush administration's plans to cut federal housing assistance as "shortsighted." He said that the history of urban America was "a story with a strong and bitter subtext of racial segregation" and that federal help in housing was "a matter of social justice."

His passion is understandably fanned by his own plans to build or rehabilitate 165,000 housing units in New York by 2013, a lofty goal that will be very difficult to achieve without federal aid.

The mayor seems to have learned what it takes to get Albany to listen hard. When he recently threatened to help unseat a Queens Republican and help tilt power to Democrats in the State Senate — payback for the short shrift the G.O.P. has given the city — the shudders from Albany were palpable. Lawmakers there, and the governor, are finally on notice that the mayor will do what it takes to get the billions of dollars overdue for school construction.

Mr. Bloomberg has also entered the fray on gun control and promised to take the campaign to the national stage — the only way that the flow of handguns from out of state can be controlled. Hitting another hot button, he donated $100 million of his fortune to Johns Hopkins University for stem cell research. The mayor is now unchained, and that should make for fascinating politics and policy.