One hundred years ago to the day Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island joined the City of Brooklyn and the various jurisdictions of Queens to unite our city. Today, we celebrate our centennial as a city of resurgence and a city of progress, as one city with one standard.
A city which has demonstrated the resiliency and uniqueness of the human spirit.
But four years ago, when I stood here and said "New York City is the Capital of the World," there was doubt.
There was fear.
There was the feeling that New York City's best days were behind us.
I didn't accept that.
Many of you didn't accept it either.
And over the last few years, in an exercise of human will and determination, you and I together have changed the direction of the City more than in any four year period in history.
And we should all be proud of that achievement.
New York City is now the city Americans most want to live in and visit.
Could you have believed that four years ago?
Now people say New York City is manageable and governable, and we are the undisputed Capital of the World.
A great opportunity now exists for us to make our changes last.
All that we have done, all that we must continue to do together, is based on continuing to liberate the human spirit, understanding that liberty is a balance of freedom and responsibility, of rights and obligations.
The spirit of New York City has undergone such a great change because more and more New Yorkers today are freer and more independent.
They are able to make more choices for themselves.
Millions have been liberated from the reality and fear of crime.
Hundreds of thousands have been freed from lives of dependency on government welfare and are on the road to taking care of themselves and others.
Many students have experienced improvements in education and in so doing have acquired more control over their own lives and hope for a better future.
And many more people are now experiencing the very best social program of all - much better than dependency on government - that moral program is called a job.
The change in New York's spirit from defeatism to optimism is actually an overall reflection of the change in the lives of most New Yorkers.
When people are safer, working, off of welfare dependency, with schools improving, streets and highways cleaner, our beautiful parks maintained, hospitals better, taxes reduced, hotels, theaters and buildings going up, and new businesses opening - all of this liberates more and more people and improves their quality of life. The sum of those millions and millions of units of liberation and improvement in the lives of people is that the spirit of the City is now changed from "the best days are behind us" to "the best days are yet to come."
Now, it's our obligation to make that change in spirit permanent and to reach out and have it affect everyone, with no one left out, no one left behind.
This is our agenda for the next four years: to make permanent the changes that made people more independent, to ensure that those changes reach more and more New Yorkers - improving their quality of life - and to enable as many New Yorkers as possible to take advantage of the beauty of the City that we create together.
As our City enters the 21st Century it must continue to be America's safest large city so that our quality of life continues to improve and our people are secure in the most basic civil right of all, public safety and domestic tranquillity.
There are some that would say that we have been so successful in reducing crime, let's declare victory and decrease the effort.
My approach is different.
To maintain our level of safety, improve our quality of life even more, deal fatal blows to organized crime and to end the drug trafficking we have known in the past, now is the precise time to increase our efforts, to put on more pressure, to fight even harder.
We will push very hard for significant changes in state and federal law, including:
Police Commissioner Howard Safir, who has had an exceptional record of success, should be given the opportunity to make that success permanent. To do that, we are going to add over 1600 new police officers to our legislated target of 38,310. The NYPD will reach 40,000 officers and be at its greatest strength in history.
We will add five more drug initiatives to the four presently operating, more than doubling the resources devoted to those initiatives since my announcement of our anti-drug offensive on October 1, 1997.
This will allow the Department to bring unrelenting pressure on all drug dealers in all five boroughs and drive them out of this city. There will be no place left for them to hide.
It will also allow the Commissioner to add police officers and other resources based on the NYPD's award winning Compstat program, which is designed to deploy police where they can reduce crime and improve quality of life the most.
Together with Police Commissioner Safir, we will build on the great reductions in crime throughout the City to also break down the remaining barriers between the police and the people they serve so that all police treat our citizens with courtesy, professionalism, and respect.
At the same time we expect communities who wish and desire more respect from the police, to support the police when the police are unfairly accused or attacked by those who make a career of transferring all blame to the police.
Respect grows and flourishes when it is mutual.
We must build on the success already achieved by Chancellor Rudy Crew and his fine team and complete projects already underway, ranging from Project Read to Project Smart Schools, to providing greater seating capacity for students, making arts education a required part of the curriculum, and continuing to implement school-based budgeting.
This system is about children, and everything must serve their interests.
We must end principal tenure.
We must stop social promotions.
We must continually raise standards. We've learned in our City if you expect more, you get it.
We must encourage and expand public school choice, as well as charter schools - which are shaped by teachers, administrators, and parents alike.
We also have a moral obligation to the parents of this city that when they entrust their children to our public schools, their children will return home safely. That is why I believe the NYPD - the most professional law enforcement agency in the world - should have the primary supervisory role in securing the safety of our children in our public schools.
The Board of Education is responsible for the education of public school children - and the Mayor shares in this responsibility. But the Mayor's responsibility goes beyond this - the Mayor is responsible for all of the City's children. We have more than 265,000 non-public school students citywide, representing 19.8 percent of our total student population. Taken alone, this would be the fifth largest public school system in the country.
We must continue to provide as much help for them as is consistent with the limitations of the Constitution, including continued support for the School Choice Scholarship Foundation, which is providing children and parents with the opportunity to exercise more freedom, in this case in selecting the school of their choice.
We will continue to support alternatives, competition and options in an effort to challenge this entire system, public, parochial and private, to improve education.
The anti-business city has been replaced with the pro-business city because being pro-business is being pro-jobs. We must now continue and complete this transformation by implementing even more dramatic reforms as we enter the next century.
Over the last four years, we have reduced or eliminated 16 separate taxes, and returned over $1.1 billion to the private economy. Our financial plan already provides for a total of over 1.6 billion in tax relief by fiscal year 2001.
Today the tax burden on New Yorkers - the percentage of tax as a share of personal income - has been reduced to its lowest level since 1970.
These tax cuts have helped New York City register the greatest percentage private sector job growth ever.
And over the last four years, we have done something else unprecedented in City history - we've not only held the growth rate of City government spending in check, but we've kept it below the rate of inflation, all the while making record tax reductions.
All of this has helped us dramatically restructure our budget from the one we inherited from the prior administration with immediate deficits of over $2 billion, with budgets today producing record surpluses and providing the largest reserve and cushion in the city's history.
Because of this success, for the first time, tax cuts are considered an important part of our basic economic philosophy.
Having already succeeded in convincing the State to drop the sales tax on clothing purchases of $100 or less starting in late 1999, now we will urge them, in the upcoming session, to drop the tax for all clothing, including footwear.
Both Speaker Peter Vallone and the City Council deserve great credit for the leadership they have shown in dealing with the budget, taxes and the economy.
And to build further on that record, we will strive to reduce or eliminate more taxes with the focus always on creating jobs.
It will be an important part of our agenda because high taxes are still costing us jobs.
At the same time, in addition to reducing the actual amount of taxes, we will shortly announce a task force to make recommendations about restructuring our tax and regulatory system to reduce the number of both taxes and regulations that burden our businesses and deter economic growth.
In addition, we will continue to eradicate the influence of organized crime, which for too long has taken money out of the pockets of legitimate business people and put it in the hands of criminals. In addition to ensuring the success of our reform of the private carting industry, the Fulton Fish Market, and the wholesale food markets, we will propose similar reforms for the garment industry, the construction industry, and the air freight industry.
And we will advance key new economic development plans like the Broadway Initiative, which will modernize theaters and create more performance art space, as well as the development of Hudson River Park, the New York Coliseum site, and the freight rail tunnel and hub port. We will commit ourselves to keeping major city institutions like the New York Stock Exchange - the Yankees and the Mets - the institutions that help keep us the capital of the financial world and the capital of the business world.
We have already transformed ourselves from the welfare capital of the nation to the workfare capital.
Work has once again returned to the center of New York City life.
It's always been strange to me that for years, those who supported increasing the number of people on welfare and did nothing to address the growing numbers of dependent people were described as progressive. It's true that welfare is a necessary and decent alternative for people at certain times in their lives. But by no means is welfare ever "progressive." For an individual, remaining dependent on welfare is retrogressive.
Over the last four years, we've seen a major philosophical shift take place in the City, so that we've come to understand that a truly progressive city does not invite and encourage dependency. A truly progressive city moves the maximum number of people to self sufficiency through work as soon as possible, having the compassion also to understand that there are some people who need permanent help and providing that help more generously than anywhere else in the nation.
In the next 120 days, we will propose programs intended to make our welfare reductions permanent, to increase them, and to emphasize involvement in the workforce as a lasting answer to dependency.
People who are unemployed and seeking help from City government will no longer come to a welfare office, but rather to a job center.
Everything that we do must be oriented around the centrality and importance of work in people's lives. Work gives people self-worth; dependency robs them of it.
Never again will we repeat the mistakes of the past and let able-bodied people remain dependent for generations.
That's not helping them. That's forgetting them.
That's not compassion. That's guilt.
While government dependency is a major threat to the self-sufficiency of people, the greatest threat to our individual and collective autonomy, without question, is drug abuse. We cannot afford to shy away any longer from calling drug abuse what it is - a moral crisis for the nation. Drug abuse enslaves the mind and destroys the soul, causing people to abandon their duties, their children, their friends, their jobs, their education - everything that is worthwhile in life, everything that makes a City great.
With a comprehensive set of programs focusing on substantially intensified law enforcement, tough but fair treatment, and innovative prevention and education programs that pay special attention to our children, City government is attempting, like never before, to root out drugs from our neighborhoods and schools.
Four years from now, we want newspapers and magazines around the nation to write the same stories about drug reduction that they are now writing about quality of life, welfare reform, crime reduction, and job growth in the City.
Successfully combating drug abuse is the most important way to ensure a healthier, freer, and more independent future for our children. And if we can accomplish this, we will once again lead the way for cities around the nation, and achieve what America as a whole has not yet been able to accomplish.
Quality of life is not so much a destination to be reached as a direction in which to strive. Quality of life is a continuous process. It demands an ongoing effort. We will never reach the perfect ideal but we must fight the battle anew each day. We must never lose sight of where we have been or how far we have yet to go.
What we are trying to do is give all New Yorkers the ability to choose how they want to live their lives.
Our commitment now is to reach out to all New Yorkers, both those who have experienced the liberation and improvement of the last four years and those who have not. All New Yorkers deserve to experience the self-fulfillment of a city of opportunity and have the blessings of political and economic freedom enlighten their lives.
To all New Yorkers we commit our tireless efforts to give them the opportunity to make the American dream - the New York dream - happen for them and their children.
We New Yorkers of 1998 have an additional responsibility and opportunity which derives from the great wealth, power, talent and energy we possess.
The greatest and most successful cities have always been those in which the arts have flourished and grown.
It is in the music, drama, dance, paintings, sculpture, and architecture created, and in the writings of our philosophers, theologians, poets, novelists and historians that we define ourselves for future generations - not only for future generations of New Yorkers, but of Americans and people around the world.
The most precious legacies of great cities are the great works of art they give the world.
Let history say of us that we used our great wealth and strength to support the creation of beauty and that, more than any time before us, we made the opportunity to experience beauty enter the lives of all New Yorkers to lift them to a greater understanding of the uniqueness of their humanity.
If we can do this, and all that we have pledged today, we can fulfill the oath of ancient Athens, the "Athenian Oath of Fealty," to leave our city better than we found it. Not only for the next four years but for decades and generations to follow. Not only for most New Yorkers, but reaching out to all New Yorkers - no one left out, no one left behind.
On the day of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's first inauguration he took this oath of Athens. I would like to take this same oath today. It reads: "We will never bring disgrace to this, our city, by any act of dishonesty or cowardice nor ever desert our suffering comrades in the ranks. We will fight for our ideals and sacred things of the city, both alone and with many. We will revere and obey the city's laws and do our best to incite a like respect in those above us who are prone to annul them and set them at naught. We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public sense of civic duty. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this city not only not less, but far greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."
And now, to this noble pursuit I dedicate the next four years of my administration: to create a greater and even more beautiful city. I ask God to bless us and our great city - the Capital of the World now and forever.