Well, that got me to decide that now is the proper time to write something that I’ve been thinking about for several months now – the time spent as mayor of New York City by Rudolph Giuliani.
Mr. Giuliani is a Republican running for President and is basing his campaign on his being “America’s Mayor” – a term given to him following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Well, I give Rudy some credit for being out there in the public eye after what happened – in contrast to our fearless leader, President George W. Bush, who ran and went into hiding.
A lot of other don’t agree with the America’s Mayor thing, though. The firefighters of New York City, who lost over 200 of the their ranks on 9/11 and were the true heroes of the day (along with the police department), do not support Rudy, saying that he bungled the handling of the 9/11 attacks and are asking what was it that he did that was so heroic. (You can read about it at http://www.rudy-urbanlegend.com/ and
http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=real_911_heroes_speak_out_against_rudy if you want.)
A lot of others weren’t thrilled by Rudy, either, including the man shown in the photograph above. I made this photo on the street near City Hall during Rudy’s time as mayor. I used to carry around with me a point & shoot camera loaded with B&W film, and this scene just begged to be photographed.
I suspect that the man holding the two placards was an artist and was protesting Rudy’s desire to create a commission to prevent art that it deemed ‘indecent’ from being shown at publicly-funded institutions. (Any artists reading this should take note.) This whole thing began when a painting of the Madonna (Jesus’ mother, not the singer) by African artist Chris Ofili was displayed at the Brooklyn Museum. The artist (himself a Roman Catholic, I believe) had used elephant dung – a material traditionally used by African artists – as part of the artwork, and naturally this created a great uproar in the media from religious conservatives – and from Rudy, who wanted the painting removed.
Listening to the media and the painting’s critics, you’d think it was a very traditional Western representation of the Madonna that had had gobs of shit splattered all over it with anti-Christian abandon. Instead, the painting is very African-looking in style and the elephant dung does not seem out of place at all. (See the painting at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~museum/armory/ofili.html .) Thankfully, Rudy lost his court case to have the painting removed and the ‘decency commission’ was never formed, but the whole incident should tell you something about Rudy’s views towards the arts.
Here are a few other things about Giuliani’s years as mayor that you are not likely to hear from his campaign:
1) During the term of his predecessor, David Dinkins, Giuliani held a rally of police officers on the steps of City Hall protesting the ineffective mayoral leadership of Mr. Dinkins. However, when he became mayor himself, Giuliani prevented anybody else from holding rallies or events in front of City Hall to protest his work as mayor. (In other words, do as Rudy says, but don’t do as Rudy does.)
2) In the midst of rather bitter contract negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers, Giuliani reportedly said that only he truly cared about the education and well-being of the city’s students and that the teachers did not. However, when his favorite sports team, the New York Yankees, won the World Series, Giuliani actually told kids that it was okay for them to play hookie and skip going to school to attend the parade he was holding for the Yankees. (Yep, Rudy sure cared about the students’ education. They must have really learned a lot how to read, write and do math at that Yankees parade.)
3) Shortly after 9/11, when the city’s economic future was on shaky ground and the City government needed to hold on to as much financial resources as it could, Giuliani gave $25 million tax breaks each to both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets baseball teams as a going-away present when he left office. (Hey, I’m a big baseball fan myself, but whose financial well-being should the mayor be thinking of: that of the people and their government or that of some very wealthy sports franchise owners? Obviously, Rudy felt that the owners needed it more.)
4) When Giuliani left office as mayor, he had all of the records of his mayoral administration – over 2,000 boxes worth – carted off to his private warehouse to ‘organize’ them. The fact that these are public records belonging to the people of the City of New York and not to Giuliani himself evidently was given no thought. (After all, if a man like Rudy will be running for President of the United States, I don’t blame him for not wanting anyone to go through those records and finding anything incriminating against him and his adminstration.)
5) Finally, while thinking of writing this posting last month, I came upon this news story which echoes the previous paragraph but goes even further: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/12/21/ap_impact_giuliani_secretive_as_mayor/ . According to this story, not only did Giuliani have all of those records carted off to have who-knows-what done to them, but his adminstration was one of the most secretive ever regarding the release of public information – even though his campaign claims that it was the most open and transparent!
Of course, there are many more things about Rudy’s years as mayor that you won’t be hearing from his campaign. To be fair, I did think that Giuliani’s first term as mayor was a definite improvement over that of his predecessor, which as I said was pretty ineffective (though Dinkins did initiate the addition of more police officers to the force that helped the crime rate drop during the Giuliani years). As I recall, it wasn’t until his second term that he began to really act power hungry and like a megalomaniac. Personally, I prefer his views as a moderate conservative over those of his even more conservative Republican rivals, but having seen him for eight years – not as the fictional “America’s Mayor” but as the real life mayor of New York – I would not want Rudy Giuliani to be President of the United States.