N.Y. Mayor: Hands-On and Aiming at Crime
HE'S the hands-on mayor. He's done just about everything except drive the snowplows this winter. If you need to talk to him, he's on talk-radio shows several mornings a week. If you don't get him there, he'll listen to your questions at a town meeting. And Rudolph Giuliani says that's just the way he wants it - just like his role models, former Mayors Fiorello LaGuardia and Ed Koch.
In an interview, Mr. Giuliani says there have not been a lot of surprises in his first two months in office. ``The challenges are roughly what we thought they were,'' he explains.
To the new Republican mayor, his main priorities are reducing crime, improving the education system, and restoring the economic vitality of the private sector.
These priorities are reflected in his budget proposal, introduced last month. For example, to demonstrate his resolve on crime, the mayor has not cut the New York Police Department's (NYPD) budget at a time when the rest of the city agencies are shrinking.
And since taking office, the mayor has announced five initiatives on crime. One of the Police Department's top priorities is getting guns off the streets, he says. The department has formed a Gun Task Force to try to come up with ways to reduce the firepower available to criminals. Although the NYPD is involved with gun-swap programs, the mayor says: ``Law enforcement is going to be the key area in getting the guns out of the hands of the worst criminals.''
Since crime is often linked with drugs, the mayor promises more drug enforcement ``at all levels.'' Under Mayor David Dinkins, street-level ``buy and bust'' programs were reduced, in part, to keep the courts from getting backlogged. Giuliani says it is important that the police attack the drug problem from every direction.
``You just can't do street-level drug enforcement. If you do, you avoid the upper-level drug dealer. If you just do the upper-level drug dealer then you give the streets to the drug dealers, and your pursuit of the upper level is prejudiced because you are not getting information from the street,'' Giuliani says.
The new mayor intends to keep funding ``serious'' drug-treatment programs, which he defines as ``those programs with good rates of rehabilitation success.'' How does a program attain that success? Giuliani says that it must enroll people who are willing to undergo long-term custodial treatment.
``It's worth paying for that,'' he says.
At this point, the mayor's main education emphasis is on reducing the bureaucracy to get more money into the classroom. He says a portion of the $7.3 billion the city spends on education is wasted. ``It's a scandal beyond the proportion of any criminal scandal,'' he says.
To revitalize the private sector, the mayor has proposed a series of tax reductions. In order to pay for the reductions, he is proposing large-scale layoffs of city employees.
``New York City employs more people than any other state, not just city, and we are decisively engaged in turning that around,'' he says.
In his hiring choices so far, the mayor has turned to liberals, Democrats, Republicans, and conservatives. So what kind of Republican does that make him? ``I have no idea,'' he replies, preferring to leave those characterizations to columnists.
Perhaps an independent Republican might be the best moniker. For example, Giuliani says he will support Republicans in most cases. But, he admits: ``As a private citizen, I have found, at times, the Democratic candidate to be the better candidate.''
Does that mean he will support his friend Gov. Mario Cuomo, who is up for reelection? ``I actually have not thought about who I will support,'' he replies. He adds, however, that he did not expect Governor Cuomo's support during last fall's mayoral campaign. ``I think he assumes I will support a Republican.'' So far, the state Republican party has yet to come up with a candidate.
It's doubtful that whoever is elected governor will have the same sort of inaugural as Giuliani, whose son, Andrew, became a celebrity when he - in a humorous manner - mimicked his father during his speech.
Since then, Giuliani says, he and his wife thought it would be best if Andrew kept out of the public eye. ``But, that's hard because I like to do things with him,'' Giuliani says. ``He feels like we're a team, which is how I like him to feel, because that's how my father used to do it with me - call me his partner,'' he adds.