No Money for a Hospital?

No Money for a Hospital?

By Ed Koch - October 20, 2009

I see no difference between the lack of concern displayed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to the plight of the residents of New Orleans.

George Bush flew over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and was photographed looking down at it. Barack Obama visited the city for four hours on his way to a fundraiser in San Francisco. A person in the audience at a New Orleans town hall meeting asked the President for help in securing funds for the remaining hospital so that it could handle all situations. His reply that he could not write a check to pay for expanded services to the city might be technically correct. However, there are many things the President could do to enable the hospital and its staff to provide a full panoply of services.

For example, if President Obama could enlist the assistance of Acting Deputy Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Robert Williams, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control, Thomas Frieden, and the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, I have no doubt that they, together with local and national officials, could come up with a plan to make the hospital a full-service facility, and obtain funding from FEMA or Congress.

Obama's staff took him to New Orleans without first finding out what the city needed and what he could bring. The President's staff should pay for their incompetence in New Orleans with their jobs. Lecturing the crowd in New Orleans on the U.S. Constitution preventing him from "writing a check," sounded like the equivalent of George W. Bush's foolish statement, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job." When will President Obama fulfill our expectations?

When I was mayor of New York City, I was called to Washington, D.C., by President Jimmy Carter. He wanted my advice on how to deal with a rift he was having with the Jewish community concerning a vote sanctioning Israel on Jerusalem. He stated he was unaware of the vote but the U.S. representative at the United Nations, Donald McHenry, who cast it said it had been read to the President and approved by him. I told President Carter that I could not help him, but that he could help himself by holding a televised press conference at which he would reassure the Jewish community of his support for the State of Israel. He declined to do that.

However, he did respond affirmatively to my request for New York City, which was then in dire economic straits. He undoubtedly thought it would be helpful to aid the largest city in the U.S., which usually voted overwhelmingly democratic, and found about $70 million in budgetary aid that he made available. I have no doubt President Obama could help to immediately create a full service hospital for New Orleans.

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Why haven't the people involved in the banking crisis that nearly wrecked the U.S. financially been indicted? I was delighted as were so many others that Bernie Madoff - who was not involved in the banking crisis but in a Ponzi scheme, got 150 years. Some of those involved in the banking crisis -- with the institutions responsible described by the Secretary of the Treasury, Hank Paulson, under George W. Bush, and Timothy Geithner under Barack Obama, as "too big to fail" -- surely committed criminal acts while violating their fiduciary duties. So why aren't they in prison or at least awaiting trial?

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Why hasn't the Baucus bill done anything about tort reform? The answer undoubtedly is that members of Congress receive millions of dollars from the attorneys in this country and will not support tort reform which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would save $54 billion over a 10-year period.

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I thought you would be interested in an op-ed I wrote that appeared in the Daily News on October 18.

"In less than three weeks, New Yorkers will decide if Michael Bloomberg deserves a third term. Many political observers believe a third term in City Hall is jinxed and doomed to failure.

Many of those "jinx" prophets refer to my third term as an example of the city going awry. They recall the corruption in the Parking Violations Bureau, the conviction of Stanley Friedman, and the suicide of Donald Manes.

In reply, I point out that Friedman was the Bronx Democratic leader, independently elected by that party and not appointed by me.

Manes was the Queens borough president and Democratic County Leader - also not part of my team.

Even my critics agreed that I was in no way aware of their corruption but, of course, it marred my third term because it happened on my watch.

On the other hand, monumental legislation was adopted during my third term - which I won with 78 percent of the vote in the general election - and we engaged in a lot of initiatives.

Let me cite four that have stood the test of time: My $5.1 billion housing program created at least 150,000 new or substantially rehabilitated units and perhaps 100,000 more renovated units for low-and-moderate-income tenants; the Campaign Finance Board provided public funding for city elections; the prohibition of smoking in restaurants, except at the bar area; and, the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Of course, there are problems inherent in a third term, and strong mayoral leadership is needed to overcome them.

They include retaining the good commissioners you appointed, finding new people who are the best and the brightest to join your administration's third term, completing programs and coming up with new initiatives.

The question is whether Mayor Bloomberg can prove the "jinxers" wrong and go on to even greater success.

Michael Bloomberg has a remarkable record of achievement. He undoubtedly will expand his housing program beyond 165,000 units of affordable housing and build on his school successes.

His expertise will be desperately needed to guide the city through its financial crisis and estimated $5 five billion budget deficit the city will face in the next fiscal year.

There is a great deal to do in this city that never sleeps and that never remains the same: Finding jobs for people who need them, delivering services with fewer resources, building schools, housing and parks and maintaining the city's roads and bridges are top priorities.

The success of a third term depends on the mayor.

Michael Bloomberg, taking into consideration his accomplishments to date and what he could do in a third term, could join LaGuardia - the gold standard for mayors - in the Hizzoner Hall of Fame."

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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