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Mayor Michael Bloomberg: July 2010 Archives

July 2010 Archives

I often get asked how running a government is different than running a business. Well, one big difference is that private sector private companies have to innovate -- or else they'll be put out of business by someone who can offer goods and services better, faster, and cheaper. Governments, however, are always in business. They have no real incentive to change they way they do things -- and often they don't. 

But our administration has never been satisfied with the status quo. From the very beginning, we've pushed ourselves to look at old problems in new ways. One of the best examples is our Center for Economic Opportunity, which tests out new poverty-fighting strategies using public and privately-raised dollars. Over the past four years, the center has developed and field tested more than 40 new strategies. All of these initiatives have been rigorously evaluated for their effectiveness in reducing poverty, and many have shown some extremely promising results. So promising, in fact, that last week, the Obama Administration awarded New York City nearly $6 million in "social innovation" funds. Using those funds and more private dollars, we will now work with leaders in seven other urban areas to help them replicate five of our most successful poverty-fighting initiatives.

These innovation awards are a real tribute to the creative, cost-effective approach our administration has taken to solve some of our city's toughest problems. But our work is far from finished. Our city's economy took a major hit during the national recession. It's only been a few short weeks since we produced an on-time, balanced budget for this year, and already we are looking at an enormous $3.3 billion budget gap for next year. 

Over the past few years, we've worked to do more with less -- and we've succeeded. Even after eight rounds of budget cuts, we continue to drive down crime, increase graduation rates, and keep our streets and parks clean.  But the only way we're going to be able to keep this progress going in the years ahead is to further reduce the size and cost of government. 

Last week, in partnership with the City Council, we unveiled the first stage of our plan to create a leaner, more efficient government for the 21st century.  By consolidating some of our agencies' back-office functions, reducing the size of our office space and vehicle fleets, and using technology to better serve the public, we believe that we can save $500 million over four years while actually improving the quality of services we deliver. And by 2014, these efficiencies should generate an annual savings of $500 million. 

This plan is just the first in a series of cost-cutting strategies we'll implement as we continue to examine all the possible areas where we can sustain -- or even improve -- public services through efficiencies. The result will be a government that is smaller, smarter, and fiscally sustainable. A government that innovates and puts the customer first. A government that isn't afraid to test out new ideas -- or shelve old ones that clearly don't work. And if we can continue doing all those things, we will leave New Yorkers a city that's even stronger than the one we have today.  
Last week we got a glimpse of what the future of New York City is going to look like: Electric cars that can be charged in stations throughout the city, water usage that can be checked remotely on your smart phone, and a Number 7 subway line that will travel from Times Square all the way to 34th Street on the Far West Side of Manhattan.
That's what's ahead for our city -- and it's not in the distant future; it's all happening over the next few years. For example, last week, the Department of Environmental Protection began rolling out a new system that allows water customers to access their water readings online.  By visiting nyc.gov and entering your account number, customers can see how much water they're using in real-time. Homeowners and businesses will be able to access detailed data they've never had before, so they can carefully track exactly when they are using water, identify potential leaks, and look for ways to conserve and save.
All this is now possible because, last year, we began a major effort to replace older water-meter readers throughout the city with new wireless versions that can automatically transmit readings several times each day. It all adds up to simpler bills, easier payments, and potential savings from reduced water consumption. Our Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees our water supply, has already hooked up nearly 50 percent of paying customers with new wireless meters in their homes and businesses. And we plan to install the rest of the wireless meters by the beginning of 2012. 
We're also making New York City a hot spot for electric cars. Last year, we conducted a study that explored what we could do promote the use of electric vehicles, which have environmental benefits for our city and economic benefits for drivers. One recommendation was to establish a network of charging stations, because without them, people won't start buying electric cars. Now we're taking that idea and running with it. Working together with a private company that received $15 million in stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, we're going to install 100 charging stations throughout New York City.  We've already installed the very first one at a parking facility on 9th Avenue and 36th Street in Manhattan, and the rest of the publicly accessible charging stations will be up and running at other locations by early next year. Cars are a part of our daily life -- but that doesn't mean they can't also be part of our solution to create a more sustainable city.
We're also working to expand our subway system, and last week we made some major progress there, too. After 13 months of toiling and churning underground, the tunnel boring machines that have been blazing the path for the Number 7 subway extension finally finished their work. With the tunneling now complete, we are one step closer to running the Number 7 train all the way to the 34th Street station on the Far West Side. The Number 7 train extension is a great investment in our city's future, and one that will continue to pay big dividends in the form of new jobs, housing, and open space, not to mention the revenues generated from the development of the Hudson Yards area.
Mayor Ed Koch once declared that "New York City is the place where the future comes to audition." And I think that last week we proved that to be true. Because of the smart investments we've made, the future is coming here -- first -- and it's very bright.
The word on everyone's mind last week was "heat." We hit 103 degrees in the city. And I won't even mention a certain basketball team down in Miami where a certain player is going. But we also had some great news at York College in Queens, where we swore in more than 1,200 new police recruits.

It's always a special moment when a new class of recruits enters the police academy. They've yet to walk a beat, or catch a criminal, but by choosing a career of protecting others they've already made the most courageous decision of their lives.

That's especially true for two of our new hires: Conor McDonald, whose father, Steven, an NYPD detective, was shot and paralyzed while chasing a suspect in 1986, and Barry Driscoll, whose father, Sean, was an NYPD officer who gave his life during the 9/11 attacks. Conor's and Barry's decisions to follow in their fathers' footsteps speaks volumes about the kind of courage and commitment that makes up the entire department.

Last week's new class of recruits underscores another important point: Our administration will never walk away from city government's primary responsibility of public safety -- especially during these tough economic times. We understand that safe streets are the foundation of both our recovery and our future -- and that's why we are committed to putting our full resources behind the NYPD.

That begins with boots on the ground. Last year, for instance, we began building a new police academy in College Point, Queens, which will help us continue to produce and train the world's best police officers. We also successfully lobbied the Department of Homeland Security to provide stimulus funds that have allowed us to hire more than 100 new officers -- who graduated from the academy two weeks ago. And this year, in a budget that was full of tough choices, we made a decision to put scarce taxpayer dollars towards keeping our city safe by including funding for nearly 900 police officer positions.

The result of these and other tough decisions is that New York remains the safest big city in the nation. We've reduced crime every year during our administration -- a 37 percent decrease in total. And we're not about to stop there. Because every time the experts tell us that crime just can't go any lower, or that we'll never have fewer than 500 murders a year, or that the threat of terrorism will scare away businesses and visitors, New York City's Finest and our partners in law enforcement prove them wrong!

Yes, we've done it time and again -- and we're going to keep doing it, because we know that safe streets are an essential foundation of any great city.
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