At the podium with his highest approval ratings ever, Mayor Mike gave his annual State of the City address and outlined an agenda that will dictate his last three years in office and most likely, his legacy. Some of these items include passing $1 billion in tax cuts (including $750 million in property tax and eliminating sales tax on clothing and shoes), improving the school system, pursuing anti-gun laws, and continuing development projects across the city. In fact, his recommendations to continue school reform were the first things he mentioned, from further empowering principals to do a better job retaining good teachers (and getting rid of tenure), and shifting funding to students, instead of schools, and grading the schools themselves..
He asked the audience at Brooklyn’s City College of Technology, "How can you not feel that New York's future is bright with promise and that the state of our city is alive with hope?” Well, if the outlined agenda wasn’t clear enough, then perhaps the Brooklyn Steppers marching band complete with on-stage dancers and the multi-media multi-screen backdrop with floating graphics were more convincing (see video). In keeping with the upbeat mood, he didn't address the shooting of Sean Bell directly, but did say the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board, which addresses NYPD complaints, would get increased funding and staffing.
The fanfare was a fitting backdrop for what seemed to be a corporate bash rather than a public service announcement. The concrete steps of City Hall could not be the appropriate venue for what was essentially a CEO’s declaration of record profits and salary bonuses...wait, tax cuts.
But while the speech was a signature to a long list of reforms and initiatives that are not new to the city, yesterday’s display of political and financial capital does not change the equation for real reform, especially for the city’s public schools. It also does not seal the fate of the all-important budget process, also known as the budget dance, which was initiated on January 16th when the Mayor’s office submitted its preliminary budget to the City Council. Watch the video for Council Speaker Quinn’s reaction to Mayor Bloomberg’s mention of the budget. He asks to dance. She smirks. Still, Quinn said it was a great state of the city address.
The NY Times says the Mayor's plans has risks. Reaction to the Mayor's school reform is mixed, as well. You can read Mayor Bloomberg's State of the City here, and find out more information about tax and education reform proposed here.
You can also watch the address here, via dial up or broadband. We recommend watching at least the first 10 minutes of the State of the City, if only for a marching band and the Brooklyn Steppers performing, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz giving the intro, then Mayor Bloomberg making his appearance, hugging, kissing, shaking hands. He introduces various city heroes, from city workers to subway hero Wesley Autrey...and even Ranger the dog who was very sweet in his blue cast.
With contributions from Greg Wong
Photograph of Mayor Bloomberg during the State of the City address by Mary Altaffer/AP