Mayor Bloomberg takes over

New York: Facing crisis with a leaner budget and lowered expectations.

January 05, 2002

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG spent his first business day as mayor of New York acting like the Republican he says he is and the cutting-edge business proprietor he was.

He moved himself and his staff to a large chamber with little cubicles instead of offices and told department heads to plan budget cuts from 5 to 20 percent to reflect a revenue shortfall. Ouch.

Mayor Bloomberg even hinted at delaying or reneging on the city's commitment to the redevelopment of Lincoln Center, of which he used to be vice chairman. The performing arts megacenter has other problems, of professional jealousies and revolving-door leadership. It didn't need this.

After the atrocity of Sept. 11 devastated New York's financial services and tourism industries, the nation is rooting for its speedy recovery, on which America's own depends. Stimulate, invest and borrow to restore confidence, some say. Scale down to your reduced revenues, the new mayor says. It is the conundrum many a Third World country faces.

The business news tycoon and Johns Hopkins University benefactor and former board chairman never gave voters details of his intentions. He curtailed debate and won with an advertising rather than political campaign. So now New Yorkers get to find out what they chose.

Mr. Bloomberg's ability to confront stark reality is refreshing, a benefit of business experience, and undoubtedly what voters hoped they were getting. Long may it survive his first experience with a business radically different from any in which he has engaged.

Much is riding on Mr. Bloomberg's adventure, not merely the pace of the inevitable revival of the world's greatest city.

It is a test of what Republicans offer the big Northeastern cities that traditionally are Democratic bastions. Baltimore, take note.

His success or lack of it will weigh heavily on dreams of other moguls who through some mixture of civic patriotism and outsized ego want to contribute to public life starting at the top.

Whatever Mr. Bloomberg does, his Republican predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, who wanted to stay on, will be looking over his shoulder. So will the Democratic City Council members and borough presidents, and the whole nation. His company, Bloomberg L.P., was never like this.

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