FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2008
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ADDRESSES WORLD BANK EMPLOYEES ON "BUILDING BETTER CITIES: NEW YORK'S EXPERIENCE IN URBAN TRANSFORMATION" AT WORLD BANK URBAN SECTOR DAY
The Following is Mayor Bloomberg's Prepared Text.
“I’m deeply honored by this invitation to address the World Bank Group’s Urban Sector. Your work you do in so many rapidly growing cities puts you center stage in the world’s most important drama.
“And you should be proud of the difference you’re making to so many that need society’s help. You are truly at the center of our rapidly changing world. This year, for the first time in human history, city dwellers will begin to make up the majority of the Earth’s population. This global urbanization represents a seismic shift in world affairs – and it’s happening at a breathtaking pace. Fifty years ago, fewer than 100 of the world’s cities had populations of one million or more people. Within ten years, nearly 500 will.
“For example, 50 years ago, China was still a largely agrarian nation. But by the middle of our current century, it’s expected that as much as three-fourths of the Chinese population will live in cities. I was there two months ago, and two things are true: They’ve made enormous progress – and they have staggering problems ahead.
“Such astonishing growth has thrust major new responsibilities onto the shoulders of those of us working in the world’s large cities. All of us, in every country, today face – daily and directly – the economic, social, and environmental consequences of explosive urban growth. In addition, we now have to deal with the forces of globalization and climate change. And we also must confront the challenge of providing all our people with the health and social services they need to create better lives for their families.
“As citizens of the world, our duties are great – but so are the opportunities for building a more secure and prosperous world for everyone: a world where anything that can be imagined, can be achieved – whether that’s ending illiteracy or hunger, or stopping the AIDS epidemic, or cleaning the air, or deterring corruption. The World Bank has a critically important role to play in these and other areas. So does the UN. So do the developed countries. And so do all of us who are lucky enough to have shared what I describe as the Great American Dream – a dream that also embodies the aspirations of people around the globe.
“Some people doubt that the world’s cities are up to the tasks before us. I don’t. Time after time, cities have shown an ability to overcome even the most daunting obstacles, and to mobilize and maximize the talents of our people. Today, I’d like to use the transformation of New York as a small example of what can be done – although God knows you help those with infinitely more serious problems in just staying alive.
“In the days immediately following 9/11, many thoughtful people believed that New York’s days of greatness were numbered. There were serious predictions that businesses and residents would flee the city wholesale, that our economy would never recover, that crime would once again take root in our city, and that New York was headed into an irreversible downward spiral of decline.
“Sound familiar? I would bet that all of you here have heard the naysayers and cynics tell you why your efforts at the World Bank won’t succeed – why you can’t succeed. We’ve heard the same in my city. But over the past six years, New York City has proved the naysayers wrong – and you will too!
“How? There’s no one answer, of course, no royal road to success. But I believe that four values which have helped transform New York provide lessons that are universal and transferable. They are: harnessing the forces of immigration and globalization; tapping the power of innovation; instituting rigorous and accountable governance; and having the independence to take on entrenched interests when they stand in the way of progress.
“Let me expand on each of those values, beginning with the long-term and continuing embrace of immigration and globalization. If you want to know the biggest difference between New York and the cities that never recovered from the job losses of the 1970s, I have one word for you: immigrants.
“Over the past 30 years, our immigrant population has more than doubled in size. Today 37% of New Yorkers – more than three million people – are foreign-born, and more than 70% of them have come to New York since 1980. Their ambition, hard work, and entrepreneurial drive continue to bring dynamic new life to our economy and a fresh new spirit to our city. New Yorkers understand that. Even after 9/11, when it would have been understandable for us to become fearful about the rest of the world, we have continued to welcome immigrants at a history-making pace. And they have more than repaid us.
“Just as important as this global movement of people is the increasingly crucial role that global capital plays in New York’s economy. We finance development around the world – and you see today other countries investing in New York. International – and multi-directional.
“The power of globalization played a big part in reviving New York’s fortunes over the past 30 years, and preventing us from going into a downward spiral after 9/11. And our success story is far from being a ‘one-off’ anomaly in today’s world. Just look at what India and China have achieved as they have become more urbanized and more fully re-integrated into the global economy. What this tells us is that the world’s cities emphatically do not need the restrictive new barriers to immigration or trade that many political leaders want to erect, especially here in the U.S.
“The cities that hope to succeed in the 21st century cannot close their doors to the world’s workers anymore than they can close their doors to the world’s capital or the world’s ideas. In New York, the free, global movement of labor, capital, and ideas defines our character, underlies our prosperity, and explains our comeback.
“Sadly, some of our national leaders are turning their backs on this formula for success. And if they insist on turning away the best and the brightest, and protecting jobs instead of promoting them, then the hard economic times that we are beginning to experience here in the U.S. will be with us for a long time.
“The choice is ours – and every country faces the same choice: Do we reap the benefits of globalization and address its difficulties honestly or do we scapegoat globalization and turn away its benefits? I believe we should be working to bring the benefits of globalization not only to the U.S., but to cities around the world where too many people remain isolated and impoverished – something that the World Bank’s lending policies can help achieve.
“One of the benefits of globalization is the ever freer movement of ideas – a trend that reinforces the second value I want to stress: the power of innovation. There are so many educated, creative, brilliant minds in our world today, capable of creating innovative solutions to many, if not all of the problems that plague us. We must foster this spirit of innovation and reinforce it at every turn.
“New York – and other cities, too – understand this. We are increasingly adopting one another’s innovative approaches to our shared challenges. This is especially true in two areas: reducing poverty and global climate change.
“In the U.S., we’ve been fighting poverty with pretty much the same arsenal of weapons for the past 40 years. And guess what? Not much has changed. That’s why innovation that promises to break this cycle of futility is so crucial. So far, there’s been precious little talk of innovation at the national level – in our government, or in our current political campaigns.
“But the world’s cities – including New York – aren’t waiting for others to act first. Countries around the world, especially in the developing world, are experimenting with anti-poverty programs that smash taboos and turn orthodoxies on their head – and some of them have had very promising results.
“That’s why New York has recently become the first U.S. city to adopt – on a trial basis – the kind of ‘conditional cash transfers’ that have been a success in Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, and other developing nations. And I’m pleased to see that Prime Minister Brown of Great Britain is now proposing a similar program for the United Kingdom. By offering conditional cash payments that can amount to up to one-third of household income, we hope to encourage low-income New Yorkers to stay in school, stay in their jobs, and stay on track to rise out of poverty.
“Nearly 5,000 families are now enrolled in ‘Opportunity NYC.’ This program is currently funded privately; if it becomes the success we hope it will be, we’ll invest public dollars in it. The World Bank has long been a leader in supporting conditional cash transfers, and I want to thank its staff for working with us as we designed and set up Opportunity NYC. That includes, in particular, Laura Rawlings of the Bank’s Caribbean and Latin American regional office.
“New York and other cities are also sharing innovative ideas about addressing an equally critical issue: climate change. Indeed, in many instances, cities are well out in front of their national governments in this area, too. For example, even though our national government has not ratified the Kyoto Accord, more than 700 American cities, including New York, have pledged to meet its standards.
“In the past year, I’ve met and talked with mayors of the world’s great cities, from London, to Mexico City, to Beijing. We recognize that, as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has written, when it comes to climate change, ‘It’s too late for later.’ So we’re not waiting for others to act first. Increasingly, we’re working in concert with one another, and adopting one another’s best practices in areas ranging from ‘greening’ our streets to cleaning our air.
“New York’s sustainability agenda – called PlaNYC – draws on the policies of cities around the world, from Berlin to Singapore. New York City will extend and encourage that exchange of ideas when we host a major two-day international conference on climate change and urban air quality in June.
“The World Bank Group has shown its own leadership on climate change, starting with the example you’ve set by becoming a ‘carbon neutral’ organization. Now your lending practices can support the world’s cities as we find innovative ways to shrink our carbon footprints, too.
“But to be effective, innovation has to be coupled with the third value that I want to stress: Rigorous and publicly accountable governance – governance that is transparent, efficient, and that makes decisions based on data. There’s a saying: ‘In God we trust. Everyone else bring data.’ I’ve found that in business and government, those are good words to live by.
“In New York City, we’ve not only used data to drive decisions, we’ve made it transparent – so that the public will be able to see where the problems lie. That’s why, for example, we’ve begun grading all 1,500 of our public schools – the schools, not just the kids – so that parents will know how their child’s school compares to other schools. If their children go to a school that’s failing, will they yell and scream until things get better? They should! And that’s exactly the point.
“Accurate, transparent, and continually collected data is also crucial to deciding when and how to most efficiently use scarce resources. Public safety is a prime example. During 2007, New York City had fewer homicides than we have had in any year since 1963 – cementing our hold on the title of ‘America’s safest big city.’
“We’ve done that by relentlessly mapping crime trends and deploying officers accordingly. And we’ve done that even as our police force has shrunk by some 5,000 officers over the past six years, and even as the police department has assumed extensive new intelligence and anti-terrorism responsibilities in the wake of 9/11.
“In American cities, just as in the global development community, some people will tell you that the solution to any problem is easy: More money. But in New York, we’ve learned that while more money is always nice, it also really is possible to do more with less.
“We can attack problems most effectively by rigorous analysis and a high-accountability approach: identifying the communities in greatest need.., driving resources to them, and holding front-line workers responsible for success. Such rigorous, accountable governance also allows us to direct funds that might otherwise be wasted to investments in the infrastructure that our growing city needs.
“To cite just one example: We are now on course to complete a third water tunnel that is vital to New York’s future. It’s a project that had stopped and stalled for more than 30 years – in large part because every time the economy slowed, the easy out politically was to cut infrastructure spending while maintaining spending on popular programs. This kind of approach will not solve the problems that we must solve. Through accountable governance, we’ve shown that it’s possible to sustain, and even improve, basic services, while also investing in the City’s future.
“Finally, let me turn to the fourth value I want to stress: political independence. In reforming our schools, in reinventing our social services, in area after area, we’ve been willing to touch the so-called ‘third rail’ issues that others have avoided. The reason, quite simply, is that the political independence of our Administration has allowed us to take on vested interests, and let the chips fall where they may.
“I’ve found that when you do this, the voters – even if they don’t agree with you on everything – will respect you, because they know that you’re making decisions based on the merits, not based on polls or partisanship or political calculus.
“A good example of how we’ve been independent – and one with global implications – concerns the largest single cause of preventable death worldwide: Tobacco. Over the past six years, New York City has been very pro-active against smoking – often in the face of stiff and vocal opposition.
“We’ve raised cigarette taxes, mounted aggressive public information campaigns, increased smoking cessation programs, and outlawed smoking in all public places, including restaurants and bars. And if you want a character-building experience, I suggest doing that, and then marching in a St. Patrick’s Day parade that goes past the city’s pubs. You’d be surprised how many one-fingered waves you get!
“But let me tell you, this is an area where political independence – a willingness to fight the vested interests – has really paid off. We’ve cut smoking among adult New Yorkers by 20% during the past six years and reduced teen smoking by 52%. That translates into a quarter-million fewer smokers, untold millions, short- and long-term, in saved dollars in health care costs, and even more importantly, saved lives.
“Now we need to write the same kind of success story worldwide. And to do that, your help is needed in supporting the city and national leaders who are willing to show political independence in the face of the powerful vested interests promoting tobacco use. As you may know, developing countries already account for 70% of cigarette consumption. And tobacco companies are stepping up their marketing in the developing world.
“As The Economist put it recently, ‘The tobacco industry is getting the world’s poor hooked before governments can respond.’ Unless we do respond, the result will be a public health calamity: One billion pre-mature deaths – from cancer, stroke, and heart disease – in this century, many of them in the cities where you work.
“In response, my foundation supported a recent World Health Organization study of tobacco habits and policies in 179 different countries. If we want countries to change their policies, we first had to know scope of the problem. That’s just the first step in what is going to be a long struggle, fought on many fronts. But as New York City has shown: This is a winnable fight – one that the world’s other cities and nations now must also join. Again, I ask you to join me in this effort.
“Globalization, innovation, accountable governance, independent leadership: Each of you in your work in cities around the world has the opportunity to foster these values. The 21st century will see an increasingly urban world – on every continent on our globe. Now it’s up to all of us to ensure that the residents of the world’s cities enjoy a safer, healthier, and more secure future.
“Every generation, in its own way, faces the challenge of enlarging the realm of human happiness and opening up new vistas of human possibility.
“When we talk about ‘building better cities’ in our world, that’s truly what’s at stake. We have the knowledge, we have the resources, and I believe we all have the will!
“I want to thank each of you in the World Bank Group for working to meet that challenge. Good luck to you all – may your efforts here, and in cities everywhere, be crowned with success.”
Stu Loeser/John Gallagher (212) 788-2958
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