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In Conversation: Michael Bloomberg

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Racist?
Well, no, no, I mean* he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.

But his whole campaign is that there are two different cities here. And I’ve never liked that kind of division. The way to help those who are less fortunate is, number one, to attract more very fortunate people. They are the ones that pay the bills. The people that would get very badly hurt here if you drive out the very wealthy are the people he professes to try to help. Tearing people apart with this “two cities” thing doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a destructive strategy for those you want to help the most. He’s a very populist, very left-wing guy, but this city is not two groups, and if to some extent it is, it’s one group paying for services for the other.

It’s a shame, because I’ve always thought he was a very smart guy.

But it’s not just De Blasio. Eliot Spitzer, too, has run an anti-Bloomberg campaign. If they were to both win, how much of a repudiation of you would that be?
Zero.

Zero?
What’s one thing got to do with another? Spitzer’s case—it’s probably more name recognition and Stringer’s lack of it. With De Blasio, the percentage of the public that’s going to elect him is pretty small.

And he doesn’t have any ideas. “I’m gonna raise the taxes.” You know that Albany, under no circumstances, nor the governor, under any circumstances, is going to allow that! So come up with some real ideas, Bill!

Stop-and-frisk has also been a big issue. Three years from now, do you think the policy will be largely the same, substantially changed, or scrapped?
I don’t know. I think that if crime starts tweaking up the tiniest bit, there’s going to be enormous pressure. And there may be other ways to do it—we’re not the only ones with good ideas, but we’ve found a formula that works and we believe is consistent with the law.

How do you square that view with the ruling last month that it is unconstitutional?
The judge is just wrong. We have not racial-profiled, we’ve gone where the crime is. I don’t have any doubts that she will be reversed right away. The question is, will our successor continue the battle? I cannot get involved in the next administration, nor should I. But for something like that I would certainly make my views known.

What would you say?
The sad thing, which nobody’s willing to talk about, is that most of our crime is in two neighborhoods: southeast Bronx, central Brooklyn. All minority males 15 to 25. We’ve got to do something about that. And unless you get the guns out of their hands, you’re not going to ever be able to do anything.

The failure of the Olympics, the West Side stadium, and congestion pricing—what did you learn about the politics of how Albany works, how government works, from those episodes?
It is very difficult to explain complex things in sound bites. And government talks to its constituents generally through the press, whereas private-sector organizations talk directly to their customers. If you have something that is complex and long-term before you see results, and there’s one or two people who are willing to go on the record and say the reverse, it is very difficult. Particularly in the days of social media, when there’s an instant referendum on everything—I think it’s going to make governing more difficult.

Could there have been a compromise with Occupy Wall Street that didn’t involve running them out in the middle of the night?
We waited two months, which I think was more than adequate. I was worried that a court would say that you haven’t given them enough time, so we waited what I thought was a reasonable amount of time. Then we called in everybody and said, “Tonight, this is what we’re doing.” I had at various times during the two months discussed options with the Police Department and the Fire Department and the Health Department and the Sanitation Department and legal counsel. So when it came time I said, “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!” And they executed it.

So no second thoughts?
None whatsoever.

Why didn’t the Cathie Black appointment work?
In the end, she just could not understand the sensitivities, to some extent. I went out looking for somebody—it was totally me. I wanted somebody that came from out of left field, because the school system needed shaking up, and that’s where Joel Klein came from. And if she hadn’t been dumped on in the newspaper on day one, maybe she would have been able to make that transition. I think the city owes a great debt to anybody who’s willing to try. And this woman put an awful lot on the line.


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