Promises Kept and Broken
July 14th, 2009

Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday released a report on how well he has kept, or not kept, his 2005 campaign promises. Not surprisingly he gives himself pretty good grades.

(More surprising might be why this report shows up on the official New York City government site rather than on the campaign site, since whatever the merits of the tally, it is difficult to see it as anything other than a campaign document.)

Of some 100 promises Bloomberg made in 2005, the mayor says 38 are “done” and that he has launched another 55. Only two — expanding the gun court into Manhattan and working with the state “to create a family health plus buy-in program” –are listed as “not done.”

Pretty impressive but, of course, it depends a bit on what the definition of “done” is, as Elizabeth Green makes clear in her analysis of the education promises made and kept.

For example in 2005, Bloomberg pledged to “improve access to selective schools for students in under-served communities.” To accomplish that, the city has spread the word about the schools — and so it says, it has kept the promise.

Maybe the city deserves an “A” for effort but that effort has simply not worked. In a school system that is 40 percent Hispanic and 32 percent black, blacks and Hispanics together accounted for only 14 percent of the offers of admission to the city’s elite high school this year, the New York Times reported.

This year’s figures continue a trend of declining black and Hispanic enrollment at the prestigious public schools. Looking at the figures for the 2005-2006 academic year, the Times found that “blacks made up 4.8 percent of the Bronx Science student body, according to city figures, down from 11.8 percent in 1994-95…. At Brooklyn Technical High School, the proportion of black students has declined to 14.9 percent from 37.3 percent 11 years ago, and at Stuyvesant, blacks now make up 2.2 percent of the student body, down from 4.4 percent.”

Blacks and Hispanics also are underrepresented in city Gifted And Talented programs for elementary school children — though not as grievously.

Another one of the promises called for the administration “to work with the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein to expedite the construction of buildings 3 and 4 at the World Trade Center site.” The city says it accomplished that, with both building set for completion in 2012. But a report commissioned by the Port Authority projects that Tower 3 might not be built until 2030.

And sometimes the mayor sets the bar fairly low — “dumbing down” in education parlance. For example Bloomberg promised to “call for the governor of New York and New Jersey” to create new seats on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority for the city’s police commissioner. And so, indeed, the mayor says he has called for that — it doesnt mean he has gotten his way.

Then there is a question of what “launched” means. Bloomberg promised in 2005 to “reduce street homelessness and shelter populations by two thirds by the end of 2009 through a strategy of prevention offices.”

He gives himself a “launched” for that, saying the city continues “to work on a number of initiatives to reduce the shelter population” and concludes that “unsheltered homeless has decreased 15 percent since 2005.”

A little bit of grade inflation here? While the administration says unsheltered homelessness has decreased 15 percent since 2005,” more families are in shelters now than they were five years ago, according to the New York Times. While the mayor may be patting himself on the back, “City officials have privately expressed frustration at their inability to get a handle on the problem, despite efforts to expand homelessness prevention and introduce rental subsidy programs,” the Times reported.

Of course there are some clear-cut cases of promises kept. The city has opened small schools, rezoned Jamaica, lobbied in Washington for more federal Homeland Security funding and expedited development of Willets Point, among other things. There some may disagree with the policies but few would argue Bloomberg has not done what he set out to do.

By on July 14, 2009, 12:18 pm
In category: Community Development,Education,Electoral Politics,Housing | Comments Off on Promises Kept and Broken

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