The End of Two Eras

Tuesday’s New York elections marked the official closing of Mayor Bloomberg’s three terms. The year also marks the February death of Edward I Koch with whom I served in his first term. It’s hard to believe that 35 years have passed since I joined Ed as a commissioner and became one of his deputy mayors a year later.

My role and relationship with Ed in his first term has been widely reported. I was a central player in some of our most inflammable issues from the restructuring of our poverty programs to confronting the City’s hospitals financing crisis where I served as Chairman of the City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation. Ed and I disagreed on how to handle this crisis and as a matter of principle, I resigned as Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services from his administration.

Ed did not want me to leave his administration and we both regretted the circumstances that led to it. Yet we maintained a close friendship until his death this year, at 88-yers old.

I am often asked if I miss New York, a city which was home to me for 30 years, and the answer is yes and no. Yes, because having had the once in a lifetime opportunity to play a leading governance role in our nation’s largest city was a special honor for a former poor boy from Griffin, Ga. Yet, No, because I believe that we are on a path in Georgia to addressing our racial diversity issues much better than New York has shown a willingness to do.

The next mayor in New York, de Blasio, will inherit a richer city in some financial respects than we did in 1978. He will also inherit a much poorer city for those mired in poverty. Worse still, he will come to power confronting governance issues that continue to be influenced at the core by race and poverty.

I am impressed by de Blasio’s rhetoric, yet the entrenched interests of the privileged in the city serve to maintain inequities among the various communities which serve to perpetuate a climate and feeling of social unrest. Climates and feelings which underlie the current policing policies of Mayor Bloomberg while serving to continue and enhance anger in the targeted communities. In some ways, this seems like 1978 all over again. We shall see.

(Photo: Michael Bloomberg, Haskell Ward and Ed Koch)

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