As the mayor wins headline after headline for his cranky tirades and his homeless-baiting, welfare-bashing policies, it seems impossible to believe that he'll only be a footnote in city history. But according to a report card issued last week by the liberal advocacy group City Project, that's just what his legacy will be–“forgettable.” They say that thanks to poor management, a sloppy economic development strategy and other lapses, New York–low crime and a booming economy aside–is in worse shape than it was eight years ago.
While the mayor's social policies get the press, more mundane mayoral decisions may be what haunt the city. As taxes are being cut at the state and city level, the city is spending more money (hikes of 5.2 percent from 1997 to 1999, twice the rate of inflation), which creates a dangerous situation if revenues drop in coming years. City jail admissions and cost per inmate are up over 1993. And according to the report, the Mayor's Management Report itself has been warped, denying citizens the specific indicators they need to judge the city's progress.
Some say that a “forgettable” rating is a little off the mark. “Like it or not, his implementation of welfare reform certainly has led to a dramatic reduction in the rolls. [And] people will not forget the fall in crime,” predicts CUNY professor John Mollenkopf. Plus, “he'll be remembered as the man who militarized City Hall steps. The whole debate about what kind of public spaces we have and who has access to them will be on people's minds for awhile.” Giuliani's legacy will also depend on whether he wins the Senate race and if the next mayor follows his lead or builds a more liberal coalition.
A call to the Mayor's Office seeking comment was not returned. The report is available at www.cityproject.org.