NYC Mayor Bloomberg Faces $5 Billion Deficit
by Ed Somers
April 29, 2002
The final speaker for the International Conference of Mayors was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who warmly welcomed his American and international colleagues to his city. Reflecting on his experience since he last spoke to the Conference of Mayors during the Winter Meeting in New York in January 2002, Mayor Bloomberg said he has come realize that the hardest part of being mayor will be the loss of any public safety officer's life during "his watch." The Mayor had just returned from visiting two EMS officers hit by a drunk driver.
Mayor Bloomberg also said he is grappling with the $5 billion city deficit, which is rising. He said that while the total city budget is $42 billion, $27 billion of this is not controllable. Of the remaining $14 billion, education, fire and police account for $9 billion. That leaves him in the situation of cutting $5 billion out of the remaining $6 billion in spending if he did not touch education, fire and police, which would not be possible. So, "everybody will have to feel the pain, and priorities will have to be set" the Mayor said.
Bloomberg said that as mayor, his first priority is public education, which he said can address many of the social problems in a city. He pointed out that New York City is still a city of immigrants, with 40 percent of the population being foreign born, and that these new residents must be provided a good education.
To make the improvements he sees as necessary, Mayor Bloomberg is fighting for control of the school system, which now rests with an elected school board. This is similar to the approach taken by a number of mayors including Richard M. Daley in Chicago and Thomas M. Menino in Boston.
To balance the budget, Mayor Bloomberg will continue to work with Washington and New York State to secure needed resources, will raise the cigarette tax and parking violation fees, will restructure some debt, and then will make cuts such as 3 percent in education, and 6-7 percent in police and fire.
Prior to the closing luncheon, the participants in the meeting paid their respects to the World Trade Center site, at which major changes were evident since the Winter Meeting visit in January 2002. Reflecting on the progress, Mayor Bloomberg said that New York City is coming back, and that "we will memorialize, but we will move on."