As Mayor Michael Bloomberg prepared for his 11th State of the City speech, MetroFocus talked to independent experts, advocates and executives who work on big city issues about their hopes and predictions on several key areas that will likely be addressed in the speech on Thursday.
Richard M. Aborn, President, Citizens Crime Commission
Predictions: Aborn, who was a 2009 candidate for Manhattan District Attorney, said Bloomberg will “rightfully” talk about the continued progress of the NYPD and will probably also discuss his efforts around illegal guns and youth violence.
Hopes: The piece Bloomberg won’t talk about, and which Aborn says he should, is the need for independent oversight of the NYPD.
“New York needs it, and the NYPD needs it,” he said, adding that the number of police officers in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles combined is less than that of New York City, yet the police departments in each of those cities have independent oversight.
Aborn also said he hopes Bloomberg will begin to address the growing problem of cybercrime. New York City should lead the fight against hackers, Aborn said, just like it has led the fight against terror — especially in light of the administration’s major push to bring tech companies and tech campuses to the city.
Leonie Haimson, Founder and Executive Director, Class Size Matters
Predictions: Haimson said she expects Bloomberg to “do a strong PR push to try and spin a positive image” of his achievements in the education realm. Bloomberg has recently come under criticism for slashing education budgets and closing public schools while favoring and opening charter schools, she said. Haimson said Bloomberg will likely tout his record of “closing large schools and starting small schools.”
He will also likely discuss successes with charter schools, which he says gives parents choice. But Haimson says she has found that a “vast majority” of parents would choose a school with small classes and art and not a school obsessed with test prep, a staple in many charter (and non charter) school curriculum.
Hopes: Haimson hopes Bloomberg will make a commitment to lowering class sizes, though she isn’t optimistic, considering what Bloomberg said in a speech at MIT last month (“Double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students”). She also hopes he will address overcrowding in kindergarten classes and will fight for teachers.
“I wish he would say something about investing in the classroom instead of in consultants,” she said.
Predictions: Colgrove says Bloomberg will likely “brag” about public health developments in the city, as they have been a cornerstone of his administration. The increase in average life expectancy in the city is higher than the national average, which is said to be linked to the city’s anti-smoking policy and declining childhood obesity and is “obviously a very high profile issue,” he said.
“He’ll say we should continue to do what we’ve done,” said Colgrove.
Hopes: Colgrove said he hopes that Bloomberg will address the disparity of outcomes in public health initiatives across different racial backgrounds and socio-economic statuses, a significant issue in the realm of public health. Since income polarization is such a big issue, he said, the mayor should talk about ways to narrow the gap between the wealthy and the poor. But he doesn’t advocate for another tax on soft drinks, which Bloomberg attempted to impose last year. Sales taxes burden the poor, he said.
Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, The Partnership for New York City
Predictions: Bloomberg will focus on the gains he’s already made in the subjects of jobs and the economy, Wylde predicts. He has worked hard to broaden the tourism industry and help the tech industry flourish, she said, adding that he will likely propose further developments in those fields. Small business outreach is also sure to continue, she said.
Hopes: Wylde says the goals of economic development and public education are the top priorities of the business community. Youth unemployment and drop-out rates are bad for business, she said, and she hopes Bloomberg will address the need for career and technical education in his speech.
“Stability in the communities of the city is extremely important to the business climate,” she said. “I think it does have an impact to the extent that more youth are prepared to take jobs and become consumers and are contributing to the local economy.”
Gene Russianoff, Lawyer and Spokesperson, NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign
Predictions: Russianoff says he thinks Bloomberg will discuss the success of Select Bus Service, which has brought faster bus service to the city through features like paying fares off board, three-door buses for faster boarding and exiting and exclusive bus lanes and camera enforcement. He also predicts Bloomberg will hail the recent passage of a deal to broaden taxi services in the city.
Hopes: Despite the recent taxi deal reached with Albany, Russianoff says there is more work to be done with cabs. Bloomberg has not been an advocate of wheelchair accessible cabs, he said, adding that he hopes Bloomberg makes sure that the Taxi and Limousine Commission achieve the goal set in the legislation: 2,000 more wheelchair-accessible yellow cabs. He also hopes Bloomberg will work with the MTA to figure out a deal to sell or develop jointly owned MTA/city property; $250 million from that sale is already designated for the MTA’s 2010-2014 capital program.