I'm sure many of us remember only a few short years ago...when people were asking,
"Can New York City be governed?" "Is it manageable?"
No one asks that now.
Now people look at our achievements, and ask,
"How can we do what New York City has done?"
Where once crime was spiraling out of control, now New York City's dramatic crime reductions lead the nation.
Where once New York City was described as the welfare capital of America, we are now heralded as the nation's welfare-reform capital, with America's largest and most successful workfare program.
Where once New York's bloated City government stifled its economy, we now out pace the nation in redressing the imbalance between government and the private sector.
Where once jobs fled our city, we've now experienced job growth for two years in a row.
And that's not all: Tourism is thriving, Times Square is being revitalized, and businesses are investing in our city.
Just the other day, New York City was hit with one of the worst snowstorms ever, but the most important record it set was not for snowfall, but for the effectiveness, dedication, competence and performance of the people who work for New York City.
Our Command Center involved 20 agencies working together to save lives, keeping our City open for emergency operations, and opening the city altogether, faster than anyone expected.
It seemed as though our Sanitation workers performed a miracle, but it wasn't supernatural. Actually, it was a demonstration of their dedication, and excellent management by Commissioner John Doherty, who began his career 35 years ago as a street cleaner. And is now my version of Admiral Nimitz, who led the naval in the Pacific during World War II.
It was also an example of the very best in teamwork between the City and the State, which -- I might add -- in the presence of Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey Ross -- has been the rule, rather than the exception since Governor Pataki took office. His leadership on the recent watershed agreement and his courageous vetoes of special interest legislation have helped save the City billions of dollars.
In the recent snow emergency, Governor Pataki was in close touch with us to ensure that the State provided us with everything we needed. Lt. Governor McCaughey, please extend our thanks to Governor Pataki.
New York City once again is a success story...in fact...it is many success stories. In many areas, we are a model for the rest of the nation. We are the American benchmark for excellence.
Because we have a spirit of innovation that no other city in the world can match.
In my inaugural address, I said New York City was the capital of the world. Since that time, many people from other cities have disputed my claim. They've written me letters, complaining about my usurping the title "capital of the world" for New York City.
But last year, in his October 7 speech in Central Park, Pope John Paul II himself consecrated New York City as the capital of the world. So, let me just say to those who dispute our claim, "If you've got a problem with New York City being the capital of the world, take it up with the Pope."
We've set New York City on a new course. We've made great strides in reducing crime, stabilizing and expanding New York City's economy and reforming welfare, but there is more -- much more -- for us to do in each of these areas.
And there are many other areas in which we have to make substantial progress.
There are two which deserve our concerted attention. So for this year -- in addition to our other goals which we will continue to pursue -- there are two goals which must be paramount:
The first is to improve the lives of our city's children.
The second is to create jobs, more jobs and even more jobs. Because New York City can never have too many jobs, too many opportunities.
And those are the topics I would like to discuss today. Our plans for improving the lives of children include reforming the Child Welfare Administration from top to bottom; a radical reform effort in our public school system; and the most comprehensive anti-drug effort in the City's history.
Then I would like to talk about jobs, and how we intend to retain and expand job opportunities for New Yorkers through tax reduction, economic development and our workfare initiative.
The direction we've set for New York has enabled us to make our city a better place and I am confident that it will continue to get better and to serve as a model for the rest of the nation next year, and the year after that.
But we want to ensure that our city is a better place five years from now than it is today...and an even better city ten years down the road.
It can be.
But it won't be unless we start doing a better job of improving the lives of children. Because they are our future. And if we are concerned about the long term health and vitality of our city we must do more for them.
Everything tells us this.
I want to ensure that New York continues to do more than any other city in America to protect children. But more than just the amount of money or the quantity of resources, it's important that we do it better than we have in the past.
And I know we can do it.
Whether you agree or disagree with our approach or our philosophy, you must acknowledge that our re-engineering of City agencies has produced unprecedented results for this city -- certainly this is true in the areas of crime reduction, improving the quality of life, the cleanliness of our city and the expansion and retention of jobs and capital.
Now we must apply that same experience, tenacity and spirit of innovation to re-engineer the Child Welfare Administration, applying the lessons we have learned, so that we can do a better job of protecting children.
That is why we are devising a new strategy and approach for CWA...in much the same way as we devised a new strategy and approach for the NYPD, which has produced such a dramatic improvement in public safety for our entire city.
And that is why I have decided and am today announcing the creation of the City's first independent entity totally devoted to children's safety.
Today I have signed an Executive Order, which formally separates the operations of CWA from the City's Human Resources Administration, and renames it as the Administration for Children's Services.
I look forward to working with City Council to enact legislation to amend the City Charter and create the Administration for Children's Services as an independent City agency.
Starting in February, and until the City Council has a chance to act, it will operate as a separate administration by Executive Order.
With a budget of approximately $1.2 billion ACS will be the 5th largest City agency.
Leadership is more important than systems, plans or strategies.
We saw an example of that this week with John Doherty, and over the last two years, we've seen another excellent example of leadership with Bill Bratton at the helm of the Police Department.
That is why I am appointing Nicholas Scoppetta as Commissioner of ACS, and just like the Police Commissioner and the Fire Commissioner, he will report directly to the Mayor.
Nick has worked at all levels of City, State and Federal government with great distinction. His public career is well-known, but less well known is his life-long dedication to working for the protection of children. As a law student, attending night classes on a New York State Regents Scholarship, he worked days as an investigator for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In addition, he is a past President and current Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Children's Aid Society, on which he has served for 16 years.
And Nick Scoppetta has a very personal stake in ensuring that our City is a safer place for children. Born on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Nick was placed in foster care at the age of five, and lived in various institutions until he was 12 years old.
Nick has the experience, ability and commitment to make this new agency work.
The philosophy must change. And people are beginning to realize it.
The recent study commissioned by Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland makes clear that the philosophy of child welfare has been too rigidly focused on only holding families together -- sometimes at the cost of protecting children. That must change. And it will change.
The philosophy first, last, and always must be the protection of children.
Because when a child is abused...when a child's safety is in question, government must be pro-active.
That is not to say that family unification will not be an important goal -- but not when it endangers children. Protecting children must always come first.
Each and every caseworker will understand that the agency's top priority is protecting children -- period.
We must change the ill-advised rule that a child born with drugs in its system is not considered an abuse victim. Even though the child's mother totally abandoned her responsibility by using drugs in the last weeks of her pregnancy. We must now have a presumption that a child in that situation is the victim of abuse...to be dispelled only by evidence to the contrary.
We must vastly improve investigations and ensure that caseworkers receive complete information in a timely manner.
We must create a bridge between our domestic violence strategy, which has been so successful and the new strategy we're going to employ to protect children.
The City of New York has done more to change the approach to domestic violence than any other city in the country. We have a 24 hour-a-day hotline; we have more than 150 police officers specially trained to deal with domestic violence cases; we have health care workers in City hospital emergency rooms to spot situations of abuse; and we have a pilot program to give women who are abused cellular phones and alarm systems.
We've done more than any place in the country to intervene and reduce domestic violence. We've certainly done it to protect women who are victims of violence and to help them turn their lives around.
But we've also done it because in 70 to 75 percent of cases of violence against women, there is also violence against children. This must change. Children must be protected.
If we can reduce child abuse we will create a safer society five, ten, and 15 years from now...because domestic violence and abuse is a major contributor to the youth violence we are dealing with today.
If this city and country had made a serious effort much earlier to reach behind closed doors and reduce domestic violence and abuse, maybe -- just maybe -- we would not see so many 12 and 13 year olds committing violent crimes today.
What we are trying to do for domestic violence and victims of abuse is bring all of these strategies together.
A single agency devoted to protecting children under the leadership of a person who understands the vast intricacies of City government at every level is precisely what's needed to give New York City the best child protection services in the nation.
There is no rule, regulation, procedure or law that will escape scrutiny in our effort to ensure that ACS carries out its mission to protect children.
To that end we will involve the police department more actively and at an earlier stage in cases of abuse. Just like with domestic violence, we have to treat child abuse as a serious crime, and the perpetrators as criminals.
The death of Elisa Izquierdo and the horrifying details of her life shocked everyone in this city. A tragedy like this can only have meaning if it becomes the catalyst for reform. That is why we must make a concerted effort to prevent other children from suffering Elisa's fate.
We will work to change confidentiality laws, which too often act as closed doors hiding the truth about abused children. Just as our strategies have opened the door on domestic violence, now we must do the same for abused children.
That is why I have joined Governor Pataki in support of Senator Roy Goodman's legislation, which has now become known as "Elisa's Law."
Now, we need the help of individuals and communities, parents, families, neighbors and friends. Because, ultimately, the well- being of our children is a shared responsibility.
And it is for the well-being of our children that we must remake our public school system.
The system has an outstanding leader in Chancellor Rudy Crew, but the system known as the Board of Education is the most dysfunctional governmental system imaginable.
The reform we're proposing isn't just change for the sake of change. The fact is unless we make radical changes in the administration of our schools, the education our children receive will deteriorate.
The reason we have advocated so strongly for the abolition of the Board of Education is not for the abstraction of removing the Board of Education, but because the Board of Education has been a substantial hindrance to the delivery of support, resources and money to our schools.
But of much more significance, it creates impediments and requirements that totally devastate the morale of teachers and others who work in the system...because it's a bureaucracy determined to perpetuate itself.
It robs teachers, principals and parents in the system of their ability to create their own solutions.
And recognizing and rewarding excellence is the main idea behind an outstanding program called "Cool Schools," which just happens to have been established by my wife -- Donna Hanover Giuliani.
Each month Donna selects a school that excels in educating children. She personally visits that school to present privately- funded awards, which include a clock, t-shirts and a cash prize. It's become something many principals, teachers and students have told me they look forward to. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Donna for her dedication to promoting excellence in our public school system.
Several years ago we advocated abolishing the Board of Education. A political consensus is now forming in support of that position.
It starts with the abolition of the Board of Education, but it doesn't stop there. I'm willing to eliminate as much of the bureaucratic structure as we can get away with.
Anybody who wants to support removing the administrative and political structure that is stifling the education of children -- I'll be there with you, and I'll cross party lines to get there, as I have done whenever the interests of the City are paramount.
My vision would be a system where virtually all the resources go to the 1,085 schools...budgeted independently...so that each one of them has its own budget. That's what we mean by school-based budgeting. So that principals, teachers and parents decide how to spend education dollars, and are held accountable for the decisions they make.
When we are discussing education dollars with the City Council the main focus should be:
How much money do you need to raise reading scores at P.S. 62? (...where only 21.9 percent of the students read at grade level and 31.1 percent have adequate math skills.)
How much money do you need to increase the graduation rate at Eastern District High School? (...where the graduation rate is just 25.4 percent.)
How much money do you need to restore arts programs at I.S. 195? (...where there is one art teacher for about a thousand students.)
That's what the discussion should be about.
Not how much money it takes to feed and house more than 5,000 people at 110 Livingston Street.
Not how much money it takes to run 32 local school boards and to pay for thousands and thousands of hidden administrators.
Not how much money it takes to support contracts that are 10, 15 or 20 percent higher than they should be.
Not how much money it takes to store food in a warehouse for two years and let it rot before you use it.
Because it's in the schools and classrooms where things are happening that improve the lives of children -- not at 110 Livingston Street, not at the local school boards, but right there. Most of the focus should be about what is needed to make the schools effective in educating children.
That's the system that must be created. That's the reason for the debate...the confrontation...the difficulties. Because ultimately, improving education may be the most important thing we can do for children...and for our future.
And that is also the reason why we have got to turn around safety in the schools right now.
We've got a police department that leads America in reducing crime, and it's not being allowed to manage the Division of School Safety, which -- if it were a police department -- would be the ninth largest police department in the nation.
No one can learn or teach if they're worried about being attacked.
It just requires a basic understanding of human nature to realize that if you are frightened of being a victim of a violent crime in a classroom, you're not going to be able to teach effectively, you're not going to be able to learn effectively.
If we can abolish the Board of Education, dramatically move resources to the schools, and create school-based budgeting;
make the school system's budget accountable, as has been done in Chicago;
and reduce crime in the schools the way we have in the city at large...under the general supervision of the NYPD.
...then we can bring the same reform, the same spirit of success to our schools that we have to much of the rest of the city.
I am looking forward to working with the new Chancellor and the teachers, principals and parents to bring all of this about as quickly as possible.
Although we've have had success reducing drugs -- and we could not have reduced crime without having reduced the impact of drugs -- those changes are not systemic; they're not permanent.
And one particularly troubling statistic is that violent crime among young people is on the rise. Or -- put another way -- younger and younger children are committing more serious, violent criminal acts.
Much of it has to do with drugs. And we've got to change that.
We have every reason to believe that if we don't do something very creative here, with tremendous intensity, this problem will just surface again in the very near future.
When I ran for mayor in 1993 I was very concerned about drug dealers controlling the streets, and young people -- children -- seeing the example of the drug dealer being in control, and the police doing nothing about it.
There was an unacknowledged but very well-known policy of the police department not to allow uniformed police officers to arrest drug dealers.
Now we have a very different situation. Now police officers do make arrests. Drug arrests are up by 37 percent.
That's one of a number of reasons crime is down so much in the city.
Several years ago in Fort Apache, the Bronx, drug dealers controlled whole blocks in the community, and on the streets they were selling drugs. Young people saw those drug dealers in control of the streets, and they saw police standing by and watching, and their sense was that their role models were the drug dealers, not the police officers.
That's changed in the South Bronx. A neighborhood made infamous by Hollywood as a symbol of urban violence, is now an example of renewal and hope. The murder rate is down 57 percent. It's changed in many other communities in this city as well.
In fact, crime is down in poorer neighborhoods and minority neighborhoods even more than in the rest of the city.
For instance in East New York murder is down 65.6 percent; in Crown Heights the decrease is 63.8 percent; and in Flatbush the reduction is 73 percent.
I would like to recognize Carolyn Malone, the Director of the Patrolman Lynch Center in the 41st precinct who is joining us today. In addition to being the Director, in 1995, Carolyn was named one of America's Coaches of the Year by U.S.A. Today for her work as a Basketball coach.
And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of the four one, and to thank Carolyn Malone and all her colleagues from the Patrolman Lynch Center. Your cooperation has helped to turn this community around.
We're proud of your success in your community and in other communities throughout the city. But we've got to go much further.
We have to make these gains permanent.
Over the years, the City of New York has had some successes and some failures in fighting the scourge of drugs. Our new drug strategy builds on our successes and incorporates the lessons we've learned from our failures.
Our new strategy is aimed at having the same impact on drug organizations as we've had on crime in general, and to make the impact permanent.
An additional 1,000 to 1,200 specially trained police officers will engage in drug investigations and intelligence gathering. And will patrol neighborhoods and make arrests of low-, middle-, and high-level drug dealers.
These officers will target a specific area of the city, concentrate on the drug trade in that area, with a sustained effort until it is wiped out.
Then they will move on to another area, then another, then another...and possibly back to the first area.
Using the NYPD's advanced computer mapping technology, which is state-of-the-art, we will track the drug trade, doing our best to predict where it will resurface next...and drive it out of its new neighborhood.
By persistent and intensive pursuit we will strive for a real reduction in drug activity in our city. If you are a drug dealer we want to make New York City the worst place in the nation for you to do business.
Our program will also maintain and expand drug treatment programs, which is why we must advocate against funding cuts by the State in drug treatment programs.
This is not an area rife with abuse. And as you know I have no reluctance to eliminate areas rife with abuse.
People don't pretend to be drug addicts in order to obtain drug treatment. In fact, it's an area that has been given too little attention. Sure there have been some programs that have been ineffective and there have been some programs that have been downright frauds...but this city has some of the very best drug rehabilitation programs in the country. In fact, many of the very best drug treatment programs started here in New York City -- including Phoenix House and Daytop Village.
They're still here and they must be supported.
The key to our strategy will be a massive increase in enforcement at all levels, reliance on drug rehabilitation, and a new and intensive concentration on drug education.
The goal of our new anti-drug strategy is to protect children from the scourge of drugs and violence, and the pain and destruction they bring into the lives of young people.
We know we can be successful, because we already have done so much to make this a safer city for all New Yorkers.
Reducing crime is not just about improving New York City's reputation nationally and internationally, it's about improving the lives of millions of New Yorkers.
Buried on page C-10 in a Tuesday edition of The New York Times, (1/2/96), was an article which noted that the "stirrings of renewed strength" in the regional economy are centered in New York City.
It cited the resurgence on Wall Street, the boom in the hotel and restaurant industries and renewed business investment and development in our City...and one analyst was quoted as saying, "This was the best year in recent memory for New York City."
And that leads us to the other goal on which we are going to spend a tremendous amount of time and attention this year, which is to continue to promote jobs, more jobs and still more jobs. Because New York City can never have enough jobs.
And if we do that, then we will have achieved something that is worthwhile, not only for society at large, but for people.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
We also believe that, which is why we're offering a different approach to solving social problems than has been the case before.
Let me explain to you what it is, because this is a change in the guiding philosophy of this city.
I believe that a job is by far the best social program. I understand that not everyone can work. There are people who need help during a difficult time. And people who should be helped forever, because for one reason or another they can't work.
And there are times when the economy cannot produce enough jobs for everyone.
In all of those situations, government and private institutions should be there to help...and New York City should be ahead of any other place in the country in offering that help. That's been part of our tradition. It's one of the reasons why we're the best known and best regarded city in the world. New York is the world's most compassionate city...and it will continue to be.
However, our goal should be to try and provide a job for everyone who wants to work and to motivate those who do not. We should confront and reverse the cycles of dependency, which control too many people.
All of the things we're doing, with regard to the budget of the city and our economy -- the economic programs and the tax reduction programs -- are not for any academic, ideological or political purpose -- all of it is for the purpose of producing more jobs and a better future.
More jobs that give people an opportunity to take care of themselves and take care of their families and improve their lives.
That's why we reduced the Hotel Occupancy Tax. We reduced it because I was convinced when I was running for Mayor that the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which was the highest in the world, was depriving us of jobs.
And I was convinced that it was depriving us of jobs at the entry level, for people who are poor, for people who need a job, for people who need a start, for people who need an opportunity to take care of themselves and their families.
So, in cooperation with the state, we reduced the tax, by about a third, which is a massive reduction in a short period of time.
And that reduction has produced one success story after another. Because lots of good things have flowed from this one initiative.
Last year New York City collected more revenue from the reduced Hotel Occupancy Tax than on the higher tax of two years ago...
...because the tourism industry had its best year ever. And the reduced Hotel Occupancy Tax is one of the things that stimulated that recovery.
And it looks like the hotel industry is going to do even better this year than it did last year...because a lot of the effects of the Hotel Occupancy Tax reduction won't be felt until the end of this year, next year, or the year after.
That's all very good news for our economy. But the most important thing is that the hotel industry, and the restaurant industry, the entertainment industry, the retail industry, and the associated transportation businesses are all expanding as a result.
And even that doesn't really tell the story, because what does expanding mean? It means that there are more people working in hotels, more people working in restaurants, more people working in transportation -- it means paychecks for New Yorkers who need them.
But all of the things that happened this year -- the boom in tourism and the hotel industry, and the expansion in jobs that went along with it, were threatened with devastation by a strike.
Fortunately, that strike never happened.
And I want to thank the members of the hotel workers' union (the New York Hotel and Motel Trade Council), and the members of the Hotel Association of New York, because they displayed the kind of spirit that all New Yorkers should display: the spirit of cooperation, the spirit of working together...
...and an understanding by the union that their workers would benefit from a reasonable resolution, so that they also could have their best year ever, and so the union could put more people to work.
...And an understanding by the Hotel Association that it was also in their best interests to seek common ground.
I'd like to recognize Vincent and Vito Pitta of the New York Hotel and Motel Trade Council; and a number of the union members, many of whom were recently hired by an expanding hotel industry.
And Joe Spinnato of the Hotel Association of New York, a former New York City Fire Commissioner, whose leadership led to a reasonable and sensible resolution of the potential strike.
And what is the result of all of their efforts? The result is that jobs were preserved and even more jobs were created. And people who needed work, could find it. People who wanted a paycheck, so that they could feed, clothe and house themselves and their families could earn one.
In the same way that we reduced the Hotel Occupancy Tax, we eliminated the commercial rent tax in over four fifths of the city last year, working with the City Council.
But I want you to note how we reduced taxes...our approach to the reduction of taxes.
It's not to favor any particular industry, or group.
It's to give tax breaks that lead to more jobs.
That's why we eliminated the commercial rent tax in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and Manhattan north of 96th Street -- in order to help small and middle size businesses, who don't get as much attention and help from the City, as we often have to give to much larger businesses.
This tax reduction was intended to give these businesses more money so that they could stabilize themselves and grow, possibly to hire one or two or three more people, and to stimulate their neighborhood economies.
And our newest proposal to eliminate the sales tax on clothing purchases of $500 or less is predicated on the same philosophy. It is designed for the purpose of providing jobs and opportunities for New Yorkers.
Although on the surface it will appear to deprive the City of direct tax revenue...if you look at our experience with the Hotel Occupancy Tax...this is going to mean a substantial increase in employment in that industry, and therefore, ultimately an increase in revenues.
And -- just as we did to bring about the plan for the revitalization of Lower Manhattan -- in this case everyone is working together.
This is something that was first proposed by the Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, and it fits squarely with the philosophy of economic development that is shared by Governor George Pataki -- who has done so much for our state's economy -- and is also shared by Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and myself.
And most importantly, this is something that I trust will meet with City Council Speaker Peter Vallone's support, because it fits with his advocacy for reductions of the burden of taxation on New Yorkers, the most heavily taxed citizens in America.
I want to express my appreciation, not only to the Speaker, but to each and every member of the Council for so many areas where you and I together have created results which others thought impossible: Facing two deficits and resolving them, the clinic access bill, removing the glut of sex and porn shops from our City. In so many areas, we've had success working together.
The elimination of this tax will be another one of our success stories.
It's going to stimulate a lot more commercial activity in all parts of the city. And as sales increase for those businesses, they're going to employ more people...and they'll employ people at all different levels: sales clerks, supervisors and managers.
And next year we will be able to stand here and bring all the people who got jobs because of this sensible and wise action.
We've gone further and done more to help the small and middle size businesses of this city than any other administration. Because they are so important...and they're the core of our job base in the city. They provide two thirds to three quarters of our jobs.
However, in a city of seven and half to eight million people, you can't do it just with small and middle size businesses. In order meet our job needs we need large employers -- we need businesses that employ one, two, three, and even four thousand people and more.
We need to keep our large employers.
And when they leave, we need to replace them.
That's the reason for our economic development program.
This is the ability to provide jobs at a massive level for people who need jobs. This is about providing paychecks for New Yorkers who need them.
And we've had a great deal of success in our economic development program. We retained more businesses in our first year than in the previous four years combined. We're now at record levels in this city...thanks to the work of Deputy Mayor John Dyson and the others working with him.
We stopped the hemorrhaging of jobs and replaced it with the growth of more than 70,000 new jobs.
And even more important than that. Even more exciting. We're now seeing capital investment in the city -- much greater investment, much more quickly than I thought possible. We haven't experienced capital investment at this level in 40 to 50 years.
In Staten Island something is happening that just a few years ago people said could never again happen in New York City...and I delight in doing things that the experts have told us can't be done...because we do it over and over again...We now have a new manufacturing project in Staten Island...the largest the city has had in 40 or 50 years.
And this would not have come about without the determined efforts of Borough President Guy Molinari and Deputy Borough President Jim Molinaro. Their work in this area has produced results that will help not only Staten Island, but our entire city...
...Because this project is going to put a lot of people to work...just like Disney's investment in Times Square...just like ITT's and Dow Jones' investment and purchase of television stations...and just like the new network founded by CNN.
All of this shows, that unlike a couple of years ago, when capital was flowing out of the city...capital not only is staying here...it's flowing in.
Why is this important? Just so we can brag?
No. It's important because this is the way opportunity is created for New Yorkers...and the more we can make this happen...the more we can build on this...
...the more we are going to provide for people the single best social program there is: a job.
Our economic development program isn't corporate welfare...in fact...our economic development program is what leads to people escaping welfare...because it provides them with jobs.
And that's just what we've done for welfare recipients at levels that have never been done before in the history of this city...and at levels that outpace the rest of America.
Many, many people still don't know this, and it might even come as a surprise, but as I speak to you now, there are 103,000 fewer people on welfare in New York City, than were on welfare a year ago. I didn't say 10,000. I said 103,000.
What happened? What happened is that our philosophy that work is the very best social program has begun to produce results in the area of dependency and welfare.
We've started to turn it around in numbers and with a dynamic that has been unknown in the rest of the country, such that, even earlier in our Work Experience Program, U.S. News & World Report wrote,
"Democrats and Republicans wrangling over welfare should pay a call on New York City, [which has] shown the way by enforcing two simple reforms....effective screening....and work."
"New York's program has restored integrity to its system without denying benefits to those truly in need."
What a change in the image of the city. Just a few years ago New York City was being referred to as the welfare capital of America.
Now people are looking to New York City as the welfare reform capital of America...the workfare capital of America.
It isn't just that we've reduced the welfare rolls by 103,000 people, and that we hope to go even further than that, it's that we've put thousands and thousands of people who were on welfare to work.
Right now, there are anywhere from 19,000 to 21,000 program participants who are working for the City of New York in exchange for their benefits.
And the program is providing jobs for many of them. About 40,000 people have gone through the City's workfare program over the past year. And more than 15,000 recipients have found permanent jobs.
Again, it's all about jobs. It's about giving someone the ability to handle their own destiny...to handle their own life...take care of their own family...giving them the opportunity to develop the self worth that comes from having a job, and being able to take care of yourself...with the understanding that we cannot do that for everyone...that the ideal cannot be a reality for every, single person. But that's true of any ideal you have for society. And that's why the City of New York will remain the city that does more to help people in need than any city in America.
The municipal labor leaders in this city care about the ultimate good of the city and all of its people. They understand that a stable city can provide the most security for their members.
This spirit is exemplified by Stanley Hill, executive director of DC-37, and the dynamic Charlie Hughes, president of Local 372. Stanley and Charlie deserve tremendous credit for what they're doing with workfare.
One of the high points for me this year was to go to Charlie Hughes' Christmas party and to see the 32 people to whom he gave awards, people who had been on welfare, who had come into the workfare program and earned permanent positions within his union.
This is precisely what we're all about, which is understanding that providing someone with a job is the best thing we can do for them.
Together we have accomplished much for our city in the past two years: A dramatic reduction in crime, that leads the nation;
A reinvigorated economy, which provides jobs, opportunity and hope for millions of New Yorkers;
And a movement of people off welfare and into jobs at rates unmatched in the rest of the nation.
Just in recent days our City services once again demonstrated that the City is governable, manageable and can be a model for the nation, even under the greatest stress.
Now, we must dedicate ourselves to improving the lives of our children,
* We must protect our children. We will do that by making significant changes at CWA to ensure that it can fulfill its mission;
* We must educate our children. We will do that by remaking our public school system, by ensuring that education dollars reach the classrooms, and that our children have a safe and secure environment in which to learn.
* We must liberate our children from the scourge of drugs. We will do that by taking back our neighborhoods one by one, from the drug dealers who are draining hope from our communities.
And we must continue our mission to create jobs, more jobs and even more jobs...
* through targeted tax reductions that stimulate job growth in small and mid-size businesses;
* through our economic development program that helps us attract and retain the large employers our city needs for its future.
* through our Work Experience Program that leads the nation in moving people off welfare and dependency and into jobs and self- sufficiency.
Last Friday night, as I was leaving the scene of the fire in Rockaway that claimed the life of Jim Williams...three fire fighters came up to me...
...it was in the early morning hours...it was freezing...and everyone was in shock...
They were big, strong men...and they had tears in their eyes when they said to me,"We just wanted you to know, we did everything we could tonight."
Then one of them grabbed my arm and said, "Mayor, we did everything we could last night as well."
And as he held on to my arm, I could see the tears flowing down his face.
He was referring to a fire the night before, which had claimed the life of a little girl in Queens. Fire fighters had been accused of taking too long to respond to that blaze.
I knew then, as I know now, that those fire fighters had done everything they could to save lives in both tragedies. Because that's what the brave men and women of the New York City Fire Department do, every day of the year. They put their lives on the line to protect New Yorkers.
All New Yorkers can look to Lieutenant John M. Clancy and Fire Fighter James Brian Williams as examples of courage in the face of tremendous risk. These two heroes gave their lives to save the lives of others, and the risks they took and the valor they displayed can inspire a city ...
... Inspire a city to have the courage to support bold changes.
Because radical reform, even of systems in desperate need of change, involves an element of uncertainty and risk. And taking risks requires courage.
We've seen some of that spirit during this past week as our city came together to battle the Blizzard of '96.
I'd like to thank all the New Yorkers who pitched in to get our city up and running, especially those who provided critical services...
...including the doctors, nurses and healthcare workers...
..teachers, principals and school staff...85 percent of whom came to work yesterday...
...our Sanitation workers, who have finally gotten some of the public recognition they deserve...Their job is complex and difficult, and they do it better here than in any place in America.
...And also our Transportation Department workers, Transit workers, the men and women of the EMS, our 911 operators, the Sheriff's Department and the Department of Homeless Services, our police officers, fire fighters and the civilian work force throughout the city.
As we look forward to the challenges of the coming year, let us keep alive the spirit of cooperation and unity. Let's keep alive in our hearts and minds the spirit of bravery exemplified by John Clancy and Jim Williams.
Let us show the courage and fortitude necessary to make the tough choices, to squarely face our problems and our fears and move this city forward.
We owe that to ourselves, to each other, and most especially to our children.