Mayor Bloomberg gave his annual State of the City Address in Queens today, and to hear him tell it, everything is going great. He celebrated "new jobs at Kaufman Studios," and "new ball fields and facilities at Queensbridge Park." He did admit there was a recession; "I know how worried people are," he said. He described the mood of the citizenry as "proud of our progress but fully aware that it's not enough." That doesn't match up with what we've been hearing, which is more like, "terrified by our terrible unemployment, but fully aware that it's not as bad as it's going to get," but we probably travel in different circles than does the Mayor.
Mostly there was a lot of vague gush along the lines of "fighting poverty and homelessness with more innovative new ideas," etc. The first concrete proposal the Mayor offered for improving civic life was to expand the citizen-spying Lower Manhattan Security Initiative into midtown Manhattan.
The Mayor also told us about someone who lost her job and, thanks to a Workforce1 Center computer training program, got an even better job! Again, this sounds suspicious from what we've heard about city job training schemes, but we admit it's not impossible.
Bloomberg proposed to "help struggling immigrants right here in our own backyard" with better language and job training, which will be nice for them, and for the large companies who will employ them at low wages. He offered New Yorkers "a new public-private loan pool that will offer them a fresh start if they commit to sound financial practices," which sounds like a credit counseling scheme -- maybe he means this to be a moneymaker for the city.
There were some ideas that sounded good. There was an "NYC Safe Start" program for which Bloomberg has found five banks and five credits unions who will offer accounts that "won't require minimum balances, and they won't charge hidden fees," which is so much better than what evil monsters like Chase and Citibank offer that we can't believe he really means it. Also, a private-public partnership will create a "$10 million mortgage assistance fund that will help up to 1,000 middle-class families refinance their mortgages on reasonable terms." Someone will make a profit on this, we imagine, but it may be less obscene and ruinous to homeowners than what's going on out there now.
Bloomberg promised to build on the city's small-business assistance via New Business Acceleration Teams, to buy up more decrepit housing and make it into sound, affordable housing, to effect new programs for youthful offenders, etc. It mostly sounded familiar to us, but maybe we're just jaded. The Drum Major Institute's John Petro complains that Bloomberg doesn't "acknowledge that residents require more than just minimum-wage employment to survive and thrive," and proposes solutions like a living wage and a real affordable housing program -- which are also familiar to us, but only from dreams and liberal position papers. At this point we're almost resentful toward Petro for reminding us that we ever believed we'd get anything like that. Unless, of course, the next billionaire to rule us has a soft spot.