As the city shakes off the economic downturn, 2010 will be about how to stretch the tax dollars of every New Yorker, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today in his ninth "state of the city'' speech.
"Our goal is simple: To make the strongest possible recovery from the most severe national recession our country has faced in the post-war era," the mayor said in Astoria.
The mayor pledged to revitalize the Big Apple both economically and culturally through innovation.
"So let me make this commitment to you, as we begin this new term: We will continue demanding and achieving progress in every area – every day," the mayor said. "We will continue going full tilt – full time. And, even as we face difficult budget choices, which will require painful cuts, we will continue insisting that government remain on the side of every hard-working New Yorker. And we will not forget our responsibilities to our less fortunate neighbors."
The mayor was elected last year to a third term after he controversially persuaded the City Council to overturn the term limits law. Despite spending a record $108 million of his own cash on the campaign, Bloomberg only narrowly defeated Comptroller Bill Thompson.
He promised in his inauguration speech on Jan. 1 that he would "listen and lead'' because of the special opportunity. And before he delivered the State of the City on Wednesday, he reiterated that the challenges before him -- and before the city of New York -- would not be easy to overcome but would be met with leadership and determination.
"The sobering cuts the city faces in the proposed State budget released yesterday are not going to make our job any easier. The fact is, because we prepared for the national recession by saving for the future and making the hard decisions."
Under Bloomberg, rents have skyrocketed and the city budget has increased by more than 20 percent compared with 9 percent during the eight-year administration of his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani. When Bloomberg took office in 2002, the city's budget was $39.6 billion. Adjusted for inflation, the budget has ballooned by 23 percent to $59.1 billion in fiscal 2010, which began in July.
But he said the city will go "full tilt" toward getting its economic outlook back on track. "A strong recovery is not inevitable. It won’t happen on its own," Bloomberg said. "But with the right strategy, there is no doubt in my mind that we can help lead the national recovery and lift our city to new heights."
The mayor's four-prong strategy involves helping those hardest hit by the recession, promoting entrepreneurship, expanding opportunities for young black and Hispanic people and stretching every city dollar to the max to boost cost effectiveness and efficiency in all city programs.
“The faces up on the banner behind me are people I’ve met in visiting every community and every borough. Their stories reflect the unequaled progress we’ve made and the unfinished business that we still face," he said.
Bloomberg outlined a number of new initiatives to help struggling New Yorkers, including job training and placement services, financing fairs in multiple languages, a new public-private loan pool and a robust foreclosure assistance program. He pledged to enhance local government's relationship with small businesses -- to make them both easier to start and maintain.
“As we help New Yorkers keep more of their money in their pockets, we’ll also help more families keep their homes. Thankfully, the level of foreclosures here is much lower than in many other Cities, and our Center for New York City Neighborhoods has played a critical role in keeping that number low.
The mayor announced that this year, the city will set up the most ambitious home foreclosure prevention effort of any city in the nation -- creating a $10 million mortgage assistance fund that will help up to 1,000 middle-class families refinance their mortgages.
To stretch every dollar to the limit and make government more efficient, an interagency taskforce led by Deputy Mayor for Operations Ed Skyler will identify opportunities to consolidate vehicle fleets, centralize human resource and other shared functions, and reduce the city’s office space by 10 percent over the next four years.
The city will also maximize the power of technology in the form of MYnyc.gov, a new feature on the city’s home page, that will allow New Yorkers to customize the information from city agencies that matters most to them. In addition, a new feature on nyc.gov will let New Yorkers with automated meters track and better control how much water they use saving them real money.