- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2002

NEW YORK Now that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been in office for two months, usually the life span of the proverbial honeymoon, it is clear that the new mayor bears no resemblance to his predecessor.
In words, deeds and especially style, the media tycoon who spent $70 million to win City Hall is very much the "un-Giuliani." What's more, there is reason to believe that he wants to clearly distinguish himself from Rudolph W. Giuliani, who achieved legend status in the paralyzing days after the World Trade Center attack.
Among the many contrasts between the two men: Mr. Giuliani relished confrontation; Mr. Bloomberg is businesslike and almost prim in his public statements. Mr. Giuliani was on the job from sun-up to well past sundown; Mr. Bloomberg's schedule has an average of three events per work day, but on weekends he has been virtually declared missing for at least the past two weeks. Mr. Giuliani had little time for minority activists; Mr. Bloomberg has made a passion of embracing activists, especially the Rev. Al Sharpton.
"He's had remarkable success in changing the whole tone of the debate in New York City," said former three-term Mayor Ed Koch, who supported Mr. Bloomberg during the mayoral race. "The minorities who absolutely hated Giuliani and extended that hatred to government no longer feel that way because he listens to people."
Mr. Bloomberg, a Democrat who became a Republican shortly before he began his campaign, owns five residences and likes to sneak out of town over the weekend. He insists that his private life is nobody's business.
Mr. Giuliani, who rarely took a vacation, spoke openly of his medical, marital and extramarital troubles, which became the stuff of tabloids.
The news flowed in the Giuliani years; the news has slowed with Mayor Mike.
As for personality, New York's "Rudy," who seemed to smolder by nature, was not given to flip one-liners. The new mayor, known for making the impolitic remark, actually joked about lay-offs of city workers during a radio call-in show.
Meanwhile, he gave jobs, although not salaried, to his daughter and sister. Then there is that report that in at least two speeches, Mr. Bloomberg, trying to minimize the flight of business from downtown Manhattan to the suburbs, said only "the best and the brightest" want to live in the city.
He turned a deaf ear to political sensitivities by not appearing at any of the numerous memorial services until some of the city's firefighters resenting that he went to Staten Island for a Groundhog Day event instead of attending a funeral for a terrorist victim went public. Mr. Giuliani, crisscrossing the city in a van, made a point of going to virtually all of them.
Mr. Bloomberg, a licensed pilot, gets around faster than his predecessor. Just last week, he was pictured taking the controls in an NYPD helicopter flying over lower Manhattan. His critics were not impressed. "These things create an impression of frivolity, of not taking the job seriously," said former Republican Rep. John Le Boutillier.
For sports fans, perhaps the most telling comparison between the two men is that Mr. Giuliani, a rabid Yankee fan, proposed that two new stadiums be built for the city's baseball teams. One of the first acts in office of Mr. Bloomberg (a lifelong Red Sox fan) was to invite a New York Mets pitcher to emcee his inaugural and then squash the stadium idea.
What will truly test the media mogul's mettle is how he handles the city's financial troubles. He will need all of the skills it took for him to amass a $5 billion personal fortune to wrestle with the city's $4.8 billion deficit, much of it the result of the national recession, the World Trade Center attack and a subsequent drop-off in tourism.
He proposed the city's new $42 billion budget with the confidence of a man who can crunch numbers, declaring that the days of Fat City living were over and calling for cuts across the board, including a 20 percent personnel reduction in his own office. Although the mayor held the line on other taxes, he proposed raising the cigarette tax to $1.42 a pack.
The mayor's critics note that he has proposed that the city take on $1.5 billion in debt to cover current operating costs.
"There is enormous borrowing and no apparent interest in privatization, reorganization or productivity," said Fred Siegel, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. "It's borrow and spend, and there is nothing but danger going down that path."


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