By Connor Adams Sheets
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was sworn in Friday afternoon for a controversial third term as the city’s most powerful official during a chilly ceremony in the shadow of City Hall.
His remarks, while shorter than his last two inaugural addresses, did give some indication as to what his agenda may focus on for the next four years.
Bloomberg, a high-profile national politician following an anticipated presidential run in 2008 that never materialized, said he hopes to use his influence to help make comprehensive immigration reform a reality.
Having already led the charge against smoking, trans fats and illegal guns, he said his hope for his final term is to help lead the nation in addressing the broken, inefficient immigration system.
“Now we’ll set our sights on another national issue that affects New Yorkers in profoundly personal ways: immigration reform,” he said to loud applause from a platform in front of City Hall. “No city should hold these principles higher aloft than this city of immigrants.”
He also introduced a new initiative to stave off stagnancy and to combat a lack of new ideas by switching senior staffers among the city’s various agencies.
“For three weeks, every first deputy commissioner will become a deputy at another agency, one they regularly work with, and they will work directly with that agency’s commissioner side-by-side 24/7,” he said. “Each deputy will report directly back to me with recommendations for ways their own agencies, and the agencies they’ve been assigned to these three weeks, can work more closely together to improve their performance.”
But his speech also looked to the past, and the billionaire mayor indirectly acknowledged the unconventional route that brought him a third time to the inaugural podium, from the extension of mayoral term limits to spending more than $100 million on his re-election.
“I understand that this term is a special opportunity, one that comes with enormous responsibilities. I realize, too, that the building behind me is yours, and the job in front of me is to listen and lead,” he said. He later added that “conventional wisdom holds that by a third term, mayors run out of energy and ideas. But we have proved the conventional wisdom wrong time and again, and I promise you we will do it one more time.”
The city’s new public advocate, Bill de Blasio, who replaces Betsy Gotbaum, was also inaugurated Friday as was former Councilman John Liu, a Flushing Democrat and the new city comptroller who became the first Asian American elected to a citywide office.
The two-term Democratic city councilman from Brooklyn began his career as an aide to former Mayor David Dinkins. He has dedicated much of his political life to working to help the less-advantaged have access to education and affordable housing.
His remarks carried on in that tradition, but positioned him in a way that could lead to disputes with Bloomberg, who told the Staten Island Advance editorial board in October that the city “should get rid of the public advocate. It’s a total waste of everybody’s money.”
DeBlasio’s most pointed criticism came when he said he wants to see more parental involvement in education, a key priority of Bloomberg’s first two administrations.
The public advocate also said he will work to end “the disconnect between the people and City Hall” and criticized the city’s development environment, saying residents should have more say in who builds what in their neighborhoods.
“My office will be a place where the voice of the people speaks loudly. A place that helps organize communities to play a more meaningful role in our city government. A place that unlocks the mystery of government and refuses to stand by when a New Yorker could have been helped, but wasn’t,” he said.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.