Thank you very much for the very, very kind words, and now see if that's reflected in the attitudes of the cab drivers in the city.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and to congratulate the Manhattan Institute on 21 years of enormously important work. Because although my administration has made a lot of changes, and I think has to a very large extent participated in creating the new paradigm of the way urban government can operate, that would not have been possible in a vacuum. It would not have been possible to do it all at once, all in one day or two days or four or five years. It required years and years of alternative thinking and of being willing to lay out different ideas, different approaches.
And for reasons that I still don't understand, and maybe all of you can understand it and, upon reflection, understand it even better, in many ways New York, America's largest city, America's most diverse city, probably America's best educated city, certainly in many ways its most thoughtful city-we have more citizens who think, write, philosophize and think of themselves as being open to all ideas and many different ideas-but in a very, very strange, contradictory way New York City had become probably America's most rigid city intellectually. It may still be America's most rigid city intellectually. We have the hardest time accepting new ideas, new thoughts, particularly if they're contrary to what gets reinforced as established wisdom in social circles and elsewhere.
And I see that rigidity all the time. I have for years, and I've seen it quite a bit as the Mayor of the City of New York.
The Manhattan Institute and the "City Journal" has helped to shake up that rigidity. It's allowed us to think thoughts that were impossible for New Yorkers to really embrace in large numbers in the past. And without that, without that kind of thinking and without those thoughts being out there, the kinds of changes that we've made just would not have happened as quickly or as effectively.
And let me see if I can simply describe-I mean, there are many ways in which you can describe this. But I think that maybe the biggest change that has happened in the city is, 20 years ago, 25 years ago, and up until the last four or five years it was quite common to refer to the City of New York as follows:
The City of New York is unmanageable and ungovernable. And then people would just shake their heads and agree. Very, very intelligent, very successful, very thoughtful people would just agree that New York City is unmanageable and ungovernable. At least three books were written about it in the last 25 years, about the City of New York being unmanageable and ungovernable.
Now, just think of what that means. What unmanageable and ungovernable means to a politician is, if you can convince people that something is unmanageable and ungovernable, then you are totally unaccountable. Right? Because people have no expectations for you or for your institution except for things remaining about the way they are. And even if they get worse, then the answer is things are ungovernable and unmanageable, not that you have any accountability for it.
I was just with Governor Hugh Carey and I remember something he said to me about the City of New York. I don't remember whether it was in 1989 when I was running for Mayor or 1993 when I was running for Mayor. The two experiences merge in my mind, with one distinct difference. I like the second one better. But I remember his saying to me that the Financial Control Board made a very, very important contribution to bringing the City out of the bankruptcy that it was in, because the Mayors, Mayor Beame and Mayor Koch, felt really comfortable because they didn't have to make decisions. And all the tough decisions could be attributed to the State. The State was the one requiring them to lay people off. The State was the one requiring them to restructure. The State was the one requiring them to cut programs and reduce employees, which I guess was a terrific way to get through a crisis, and I very much credit Governor Carey with getting us through the crisis, because he had to make the tough decisions, the ones that get you in trouble and the ones that you get blamed for.
But essentially what it did was, it let the City off the hook completely for building into its own political structure the ability to make difficult decisions. So as soon as the State lifted the pressure-I mean, the City, while the pressure was on, reduced employees by about 30,000 or 35,000. And then, as soon as the pressure was off, all of the good that had been done with the restructuring of the City of New York starting about 1982 or 1983, it just began moving very much back in the other direction. And by the time you got to 1987, '88, '8, '90 and '91, the City not only employed considerably more people than it did at the height of the fiscal crisis, but it was actually spending two and a half and three times more money in all different ways. And therefore the changes hadn't made any kind of fundamental difference.
What I think we are trying to replace it with, and I think we've been successful in many ways, in some places much more successful than others, is to try and make the City of New York accountable. Because accountability replaces unmanageability. Accountability basically says a city is no more difficult to run than any organization. Every organization is difficult to run. Every organization has difficulties in getting to the precise goal that is intended for it, but that doesn't make them unmanageable. It means you have to be accountable, you have to be honest, you have to lay our what you can achieve, and then try to proceed in order to accomplish that. And in doing that you rebuild people's confidence in government.
Now, a couple of examples. The most obvious example is the way in which we now handle public safety in the City of New York. It was the most important thing to change because it was the thing that was deteriorating the City the most. And I felt that if we could change that, both the reality and the perception of it, there was virtually nothing else that couldn't be changed in a similar way.
In 1990, after I had been defeated as Mayor, I took a trip to London. And I gave some speeches there on securities law. And after the speech was over-most people sleep during speeches on securities law-they asked me a few perfunctory questions about what I had been talking about. But then really what they wanted to ask me about was the enormous amount of crime In New York City.
And one man produced for me a little folder, a little thing he had that he had gotten from his travel agent. And it was ten tips for avoiding being the victim of a crime in New York City. Now, this does not encourage you to go to a city when you get ten tips. And one of the tips was, do not make eye contact. Remember that one? Don't make eye contact. Imagine being told to go to a city and don't look at anybody.
Do you remember that? You remember that. Don't make eye contact. Do you realize what that says about a city and what a deteriorated place it is where human beings are supposed to come together, human beings are supposed to thrive in a city, culture is supposed to grow, human contact is supposed to create new and better ways of doing things, and you're told don't make eye contact.
So it seemed to me that the most fundamental thing we had to do was to start getting New Yorkers to at least not be too afraid to make eye contact. And if we could do that, then a lot of other things would happen.
So we did it in several ways. And there are a number of different things that you can look to to describe the turnaround. But the most important thing is we arrived at a new way of measuring what society wanted from the Police Department. For years, the idea was that what society wanted from the Police Department were a lot of arrests and a lot of police officers making a lot of arrests. That actually isn't a bad measure, but it isn't really what a public expects from a police department.
What the public wants from a police department and from its city government, it actually wants a Platonic ideal. The ideal that it wants is no crime and perfect safety.
Well, you can never arrive at no crime and perfect safety. So really what it's entitled to is as much reduction in crime, as much safety as a human institution can produce. And by using crime statistics instead of arrests as measuring the success or failure of a police department, and by doing that in a very, very complete way, and in as honest a way as possible, what essentially we did was to tie the accountability and the measurement of the Police Department to the realistic political goal that people had for the Department.
So every day we measure 76 precincts in New York City, and what we're measuring is, have murders gone up or down, have rapes gone up or down, have car thefts gone up or down, have-what has happened in all of these areas in which the public expects its police department to perform and are they in fact making the city safer.
And then you can subdivide it into accountability. Accountability for the Mayor, because if crime is going up then the Mayor has to have an explanation for the people of the city. Accountability for the Police Commissioner, who's going to have to explain that to the Mayor. Accountability for the 15 precinct commanders in which crime has gone up as opposed to the remainder, in which crime has gone down. Why has that happened and what plan do you have so that if it is happening you have some understanding of why it is happening and what can you do about it?
And that's the Compstat program that has won all kinds of awards. It's built very simply on taking something that was unaccountable before and making it accountable, being willing to be measured, being willing to be tested.
Bureaucracies have a terrible time with this. Because the minute you arrive at realistic, objective tests, then people have to perform. And it's much easier, like the Mayor didn't have to perform when the City was unmanageable, bureaucracies don't have to perform when there are no measures of whether they're achieving or they're not, and you're not willing to set out those measures in advance.
So let's look at welfare for a moment, because that's another area in which the same principle operates, maybe in a very, very different context.
New York City looked upon welfare as something not only that people were entitled to, but that people should be encouraged to get. People should be encouraged to be on welfare. New York City-and when I say New York City, I mean the prevailing political wisdom in the City of New York. Remember the era in which politicians who supported expanding welfare were described as progressive. I just want you to focus on the word progressive for a moment and connect it to welfare. Because there was a tremendous disconnect between reality and political description, which means a tremendous disconnection with politics for most people.
Welfare is many, many things, and many different things to different people. But the thing it is not in the life of a human being or a society is progressive. When you are moving people from work to welfare, when you're moving people from being able to take care of themselves to being dependent on someone else to take care of them, a society is not moving in a progressive direction. It's moving in an opposite direction.
A society that's moving in a progressive direction is a society in which there are increasing numbers of people able to take care of themselves, and consequently able to take care of their families, or maybe able to take care of increasing numbers of people: their families, their parents, their in-laws, their neighbors, and others. That's a society that's moving in a healthy direction.
So we described politicians who encouraged and expanded welfare as progressive politicians, without really thinking whether it was making progress in society. So we ended up eventually, by the end of the 1960's-we started the 1960's with 200,000 people on welfare. We ended the 1960's with 1.1 million people on welfare. And it happened not by something happening in our economy that said that we needed that many more people on welfare. It happened because of deliberate government policies and programs, thinking, philosophy, outreach, approach.
The City of New York was actually quite successful in achieving what it wanted to achieve, which was to encourage the maximum number of people to be on welfare, and then lost track of it for 30 years, so that they became dependent, in some cases into the next generation.
And the answer to it when I was first starting to think about this seriously, which was in the early Nineties, after I had lost the election and started thinking about running again and what would I do if I got elected, the only answers that I could find in the budgets and management reports and approach of the City of New York about what to do about a city of 7.3 million people with 1.1 million people on welfare, the answer to it was, from city government, we have to put more people on welfare. We have to get more money from Washington so we can put more people on welfare. And projections were that we would go to 1.5, 1.6 million.
Now, this was a total inability to be accountable or to figure out what people really want from a welfare system. Part of it had to do with the fact that the welfare offices were deemed successful if they had more people on welfare. If you ran a welfare office, you ran a bigger office, you had more employees you had more desks, you had more pads, you had more pencils, you had a bigger budget and you had more authority if you had more people on welfare. Which would lead very quickly to the conclusion among people at welfare agencies that it was desirable to have more people on welfare, that this was a good thing for them and ultimately a good thing for the City.
Except the way it was playing itself out was we had the maximum number of people dependent on government, and then unfortunately the maximum number of people unable to take care of themselves. And I emphasize when you're unable to take care of yourself, very often you become unable to take care of your family. Or, put another way, when you're unable to take care of your family materially, very often people lose the ability to take care of their families spiritually and in other ways, because of what happens to their self-worth, what happens to the interior of them, what happens to the ability of a person to get a sense that they can be responsive and responsible and have responsibility for other people. Tremendous deterioration.
Another way to look at it, because I'm going to explain to you how we've changed it, is if you have the maximum number of children growing up in an environment in which they do not see a parent or parents going to work, how do you establish the work ethic? How do you do it? Where do you think the work ethic comes from?
When it's taught abstractly, there's always a tension about it that most often doesn't work. The way you learn the work ethic is before you even remember anything, except maybe through deep psychoanalysis, you see your mother, your father, everybody else around you going off to work. And you learn it at a very, very early age. And you learn how to deny yourself immediate gratification for long-term reward, which is, after all, what the work ethic is all about.
If you don't establish that in the home at a very early age, yes, it can be established, but, not, it can't be established with the maximum number of people in the most effective and the most healthy way possible.
So we were doing incalculable damage to ourselves business expanding welfare to the maximum number under the name of progressive. So we began changing that, a change that is still not recognized and still not valued for the deep emotional and healthy, emotionally healthy direction in which this is now moving this city. Because it is so contrary to the philosophy of the people that moved us in the other direction in the first place.
We now have 480,000 fewer people on welfare. That's a massive turnaround. That's larger than the population of most cities in America.
If I had stood here six years ago-I think that's when I ran for Mayor, six years ago-if I had stood here six years ago and said, as I did about crime, I'm going to reduce crime, I'm going to make the city safer, I'm going to bring jobs back, I promised to do that and a bunch of other things. But I never promised that I would reduce welfare by 400,000 or 500,000 people. If I had said that, I guarantee you that the next day you would have read at least an editorial-I won't tell you which newspaper-saying that the Mayor is insane-well, you've read those editorials, anyway-and that he's making wild campaign promises. And that if that should ever happen the City will be in chaos. Homelessness will be four times what it was before. Crime will be three times what it was before. And the City will not be able to function. Because there was an assumption that we needed to have 1.1 million people on welfare.
Now, I ask you, just look at the City right now. Try to look at it in as, you know, broad a way or apolitical or unbiased a way as possible. And whatever you can say about the City right now, it certainly isn't much worse than it was six years ago, but there are 460,000 fewer people that are dependent on the City of New York for their income today than just four years ago.
And the City is functioning better, by everyone's, I think, estimate. Some people feel it's functioning much, much better. Other people feel it's functioning somewhat better. But it certainly isn't in chaos. Maybe, just maybe there was something wrong with our political philosophy that got us into that position in the first place. And what is the major change that's been made?
The major change that's been made is also accountability. It's to say to the Mayor, to the people that run HRA, to the people who work for HRA and to the people who seek their services, we all have to be accountable. The purpose of welfare is to help people temporarily. The best result for welfare is to have someone working as quickly as possible.
So what we do now, and I hope all of you will come and see this. Jason Turner will be happy to have all of you see it on an individual basis. We can't do this all together. But I'd love to have you come and see the new job centers that are opening in the City of New York. We've changed the name of welfare offices, taken down the sign. We no longer call them welfare offices. We call them job centers. The sign on the door says job center when you walk in. And when you walk in seeking welfare, what we want to do is engage you in a conversation about work. When did you last work? What kind of work do you do? What kind of work would you like to do? Work, work, work. Help you to be able to stay in the work force, rather than preside over the deterioration of the work ethic. And ultimately, if you let it go too far, the deterioration of your personality. We want you to remain connected. We want you to stay in the work force. We fight very hard to do that. And I think we're accomplishing it.
We're changing the former welfare workers into, first and foremost, employment agents. Their success is measured by not how many people they have on welfare, which, after all, is a failure for society and a failure for the person. Their success should be measured by how many jobs do they find for people. Which office finds the most jobs for people. That's the office that should get the bonuses. Which welfare workers find the most jobs for people. They should get the incentive pay and the additional amount of money. And they should be an example for the other welfare workers, because, after all, what are they really trying to do. They're trying to help somebody help themselves by not becoming dependent, which can be a very powerfully destructive force.
I think that there are still people in this city that resist that dramatically, and I think there must be some, I almost think there must be some reason why they feel it necessary to have large numbers of people dependent on them. Because I think the notion that a society should move toward, ultimately, the maximum number of independent people is such an obvious one. But, in any event, those changes are being made. I don't think those changes could have been made if it wasn't for organizations like yours, a think tank-is it okay to call you a think tank? I don't know if that's a good thing or-am I going to get in trouble for saying think tank, the way I get in trouble every day for saying something that's politically insensitive or . . .
That's right. This is the Manhattan Institute. I don't have to worry about that.
Now, those are areas in which we've had a lot of success. And I could illustrate other ones having to do with economic development and reduction in taxes and areas where I'm very satisfied that we've turned the City around, moved it in a different direction. And even if it doesn't remain totally going in that direction for the next three to four to five years, we've created a different standard of measurement, so that whatever happens in a next administration, at some point there is no longer the escape that the City is not manageable, because the City was managed. And therefore you'd better be able to manage it in the future if you want to remain Mayor of New York City.
So I think we've made a lot of useful progress there.
The area where, as I think you know, I'm the most frustrated and most disappointed is in the educational system. Because I don't think we've made the kind of progress that we should make or that we deserve to make for the children of our city. And I really think that we have to ultimately redefine the American political division over education. Because this is not just about New York City and it isn't just about New York State. It's about the entire country.
And there are many ways in which you can express the different parts of this. But here's where I think the dividing line is. I think on education, on the policies, programs and politics of education, you either believe that it's essentially a school system or a large number, thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions of schools that need help, need support, need some guidance. But that's what we're really all about, those schools doing well and the children doing well. Or, more important than the school system is the job protection system, the job protection monopoly. And that, sure, schools should succeed. But if schools aren't succeeding, it's more important to protect jobs and protect the large job protection system and monopoly that has grown up over a period of time.
I see it expressed every place that I go throughout the country. Different sets of issues. In New York maybe the most dramatic example of that is the resistance to ending principal tenure. How could you possibly resist ending principal tenure? How does principal tenure make any sense in a system that's about are we educating children more effectively? You have principals in the New York City school system that are running schools in which they fail year after year, the principal fails to be a good manager, a good leader, a good chief executive, year after year after year. That principal keeps their job, just like a principal who has taken a school, turned it around, and done a great job of it.
Or, put another way, if it were a business with 1,000 subdivisions, which is ultimately the way you could look at the Board of Education, and 300 of those subdivisions were losing money, and they had been losing money for the last five to ten years, how could you possibly turn that business around for the good of the stockholders if you couldn't remove the 300 people that had been running those subdivisions into the ground for the last five or ten years? And if you had a system like that, then it would be a job protection system, not a business.
Well, that's essentially what we have in New York City. We have a very, very well protected job protection system. And that's what it is, unfortunately, in much of the rest of the country. By maintaining principal tenure, by maintaining teacher tenure, by not allowing principals and teachers to be paid in accordance with the success they have in the development of children. Which, after all, we do measure. We measure it maybe imperfectly, but we measure crime reduction imperfectly. We measure job growth imperfectly. We even measure profit and loss imperfectly. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to do it and that they shouldn't have significance.
A principal that runs a school in which reading scores and math scores have gone up should be a principal that's rewarded more than a principal that runs a school in which reading scores and math scores remain the same. And a principal who runs a school in which reading scores and math scores haven't improved in five years should do something else for a living. Because obviously they can't do the job of being a principal effectively.
And the resistance to that says to me, when we talk to each other as just regular human beings, intelligent human beings and not in the prism of all this partisan politics and rhetoric and posturing, it says to me that if you're a politician that, if I'm unwilling to consider doing away with all the job protection rules that exist in our school system, then don't tell me you really care about children. Because I know this business well enough to know that what you really care about is maintaining the job protection system because you're too afraid to break it because of the pressures that exist on you.
And what we need to do is challenge that job protection monopoly with every alternative possible. I think that the work that you've done in making available to information about what's gone on in Milwaukee and what is now going on, hopefully, in Cleveland and in Detroit and in other parts of the country, so that we have some degree of choice in our educational system, it's not going to happen tomorrow and it isn't going to happen the next day. But I'll give you a prediction. Within the next four to five years New York City will have some form of a choice system. It's just going to happen.
You know why it's going to happen? Because the bureaucracy is unwilling to make even the sensible changes that should be made, so that that doesn't become increasingly more necessary. It's unfortunate. Or maybe it's fortunate. I don't know how things work out in human affairs, but that's the reality of it.
The reason that I've advocated very strongly in favor of trying to do in New York what they're doing in Milwaukee is because I want to get the City ready for it. I want people in the City to learn more about it, I want them to understand better. I understand completely the resistance to it. I know exactly where it's coming from. I realize that it can't happen tomorrow or the next day. And even if I could get the votes for it, which we're not quite there yet, but even if I get the votes for it we'd be in court two or three years litigating it.
But that's a good thing. It's a good thing because it's getting the people of the City to consider an alternative from outside of New York City that's working well and that actually moves us a little further along the whole continuum of true progress in America.
We make true progress in America when we find a way to responsibly give people more freedom, when we responsibly give them a little bit more control over their own lives then people really surprise you and they do a great job of it. And the whole notion of choice is really about more freedom for people, rather than being subjugated by a government system that says you have no choice about the education of your child. A rich person does, but a poor person doesn't. And when you can start equalizing that somewhat more, return more choice, return more freedom and discretion to people, you see a society making progress.
That battle isn't won. That isn't even one in which we've turned the corner yet. But I predict to you that over the next four to five years we will, and the Manhattan Institute and the "City Journal," like in so many other ways, will have shown the way much, much earlier.
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