New York City's Mayor Reports on Progress Of Proposed ~Reform and Renaissance' Plan
Attempting to show that actions speak louder than words, Mayor David N. Dinkins of New York City yesterday presented his first monthly milestone report on the city government's "Reform and Renaissance" program that he announced with great fanfare this past summer.
The report, made public at a press conference in the Blue Room of City Hall, covers the progress of 51 projects Mayor Dinkins high-lighted in his televised speech to New Yorkers on July 30.
Two areas in the report highlight a proposed sanitation authority and a bridge authority.
Absent from the report's pages was any discussion of the much ballyhooed city bond investment program, whereby investors could buy city bonds as mini-bonds for $250. The investment idea had been presented by James A. Lebenthal, chairman of Lebenthal & Co., to Mayor Dinkins just after his July speech and his call for a day of one-on-one meetings with New Yorkers to discuss new ideas for the city.
The mayor said the investment program was "close to his heart" but that it required more study, especially in the area of market liquidity for these securities.
The mayor went out of his way to say that the report was not a financial plan or budget document, but rather was a blueprint of the program to reshape the way in which the city does business. Results may either save the city money or improve the quality of services it delivers.
"The point of the program is to establish a new approach to management and government - to declare that there are no ~sacred cows' - that everything for new and more effective ways to reconfigure city services," Mayor Dinkins said. He noted that his name appears on the report as a way of showing that he takes "full responsibility" for the plan and that he expects the people of New York City to hold him accountable.
But he pointed out to an audience, made up mostly of city officials who had gathered for the late morning press conference, that "if you peruse the pages of the report, each of you will find your own names beneath the projects you have been selected to lead. That's my way of holding you accountable.
The creation of a surface transportation authority is currently under review, the report says, and it would be financed by tolls collected on the city's East River and Harlem River bridge crossings.
The Mayor's Management Advisory Task Force, a group made up of public and private officials, is expected to make its recommendation on the authority to Mayor Dinkins next month.
The report noted that electronic toll collection technology now operational elsewhere in the country may make it possible to collect tolls on the bridges without creating "negative environmental consequences."
And in December, the task force will make recommendations on the creation of a solid waste authority. If created, the authority would collect and dispose of all residential and institutional solid waste in the city. The authority most likely would use bonds secured with user fees to construct, operate, maintain, and finance the equipment for such services. According to the report, the fees would be phase in gradually, with the initial start-up costs of the authority being paid for by the city.
A spokeswoman for state Comptroller Edward V. Regan said, "This report represents a promising first step on implementing the many initiatives that the mayor described in his speech.
"We hope subsequent reports will show significant progress towards meeting those goals," she added.
"The good news is that the mayor has concretized his program and laid out how it will be implemented," said Charles M. Brecher, director of research for the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog group. "The missing piece to me is the bottom-line connection to the financial plan and, more specifically, the work force reduction plan: How will these initiatives bring down the size of the work force while protecting services?"
Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's Corp. yesterday weighed in with its review of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's ambitious $7 billion capital plan for housing, infrastructure, and economic development to revitalize New York City.
The rating agency said that the proposal, made earlier this week, offers the potential for economic growth and the creation of jobs. However, the state's ability to implement the plan is unclear, and some aspects of the plan could affect the state's credit quality.
Further bonding for the proposed capital program by either the state or the city would increase already heavy debt service burdens and exact an additional debt service toll from already strained budget, the rating agency said.