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40th Anniversary

In Conversation: Michael Bloomberg and Ed Koch


EK: I said, “If I have to suffer—”

MB: “—you have to suffer.”

EK: He wanted it very badly, and he said okay. But then, in the third year, he imposed an increase with the rider paying. I called him up: “Hughie, you cannot do this! You gave me your ironclad assurance!” And he said, “Next time, get it in steel. Iron breaks.”

MB: Politics and governing is the art of coming up with a consensus that most of the people [can accept], or within one standard deviation of the center, and there will always be somebody four standard deviations out, and you just can’t accommodate them. Having said that, I think the art of governing is to lead rather than to do a poll and see where they are. Ed Koch—I read the papers about Ed Koch when he was mayor; I didn’t know Ed Koch then, didn’t know very much about government—my perception of Ed Koch was that he decided. He led from the front. And I’ve tried to do the same thing.

NY: Would McCain or Obama be the best next president for the city?

MB: The next president, regardless of who it is, has to face some issues that all cities face in common.

NY: But what’s your preference?

MB: Well, I’m pretty sure I know who I’m going to vote for. But I’m not gonna tell you. But in either case, the mayor of the city has to work with either one. Neither one is addressing the issues in the ways I think they should. On the big issues, there’s no simple solutions, there’s painful solutions only. Our life expectancy is worse than Western Europe, yet we pay $3,000 more for health care. Our public-school system is a disgrace. We have guns in the hands of criminals and kids all over. You go right down the list—energy independence! They want energy independence, they pass a farm bill with ethanol.

NY: Oh, come on! You care about gun control, smart energy policy, broad immigration, you believe in science—you’re an Obama voter!

MB: I don’t think I’ve heard from either candidate explicitly what they would do. I talk to both of them with some regularity. I’ve told both what I think they should do. I recommended to both who they should pick for vice-president—neither listened. It wasn’t me.

NY: Several years ago, during an event you both attended at Gracie Mansion, Mayor Koch said he’d be happy to move back in.

MB: He can run again!

NY: Mayor Koch, are you going to run next year?

EK: No.

NY: Mayor Bloomberg, are you going to run next year?

MB: My candidate is sitting right here. I’m going to work hard to convince Ed Koch to run. And if he is not willing to run, I don’t know the answer.

EK: This is the greatest job in the world.

MB: Yes. That’s correct. When a cabdriver yells, “Great job, Mayor!”—if you don’t like that, you ought to see a shrink! It’s the most fun thing of all.


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