Mayors probably don't get much time to read things that aren't about their own cities, so I'm writing to flag a couple of things I thought you ought to see.
One is a story in The New York Times, relating how a series of scandals and investigations is hamstringing the New York City government -- tying up its personnel, complicating its inner workings and demoralizing its officials.
The other is a speech, which Pat Moynihan made at a dinner of the New York State Democratic Committee.
Let me say right away that the problems facing your government seem small compared to those rotting the "Big Apple." And I'm certainly not suggesting that you should take political leadership lessons from Ed Koch. I'm simply warning you that when things start to go bad, the impact can be disastrous eve for those parts of the government far removed from the scandal. Look at the Times piece:
"Formality and painstaking review often have overtaken the informalities of a traditional system of doing business that was based on accessibility, familiarity and a trust born of pragmatism. In the last 10 years, in many ways, there has been an even greater reliance on the system as the city, recovering from a fiscal crisis and an ailing economy, sought to accommodate business more and to cut bureaucracy."
No more. Everybody's running scared, more concerned with playing Cover Your Anatomy than with getting the city's business done. Meetings last longer, the public grows more suspicious, and good employees get harder to come by.
That's part of it -- a change in attitudes. The other part is a change in procedures. For instance, a new top- level panel of advisers must now look at all non-competitive contracts over $10,000.
You get the picture.
Now, as I said, you haven't had anything like the scandals in New York, which culminated in the recent suicide of the Queens Borough president. But you've had enough. Your former deputy mayor is in prison for stealing public funds. A hospital procurement chief has been charged with taking a $2,500 bribe. An Employment Services supervisor has pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy in the conversion of public money, and the director has quit. There are others, leaving aside those scandals that are merely personal (drug abuse and such) as opposed to crimes of graft.
You have said some strong words, you have defended the system that ferreted out the wrongdoing, and you have reminded us that the scandal has not touched you personally.
But that isn't enough. Ed Koch is clear of personal scandal, but his government is in a mess. Like Koch, you have instituted procedural reforms, but procedures are not the problem. The problem is that you seem to have attracted too many people who view City Hall as their private cookie jar. The problem is that too many of your high-level appointees seem to believe that while you won't line your own pockets, you are willing to look the other way while they line theirs. You've got to set them straight or else get rid of them before they get rid of you.
Oh, yes, I mentioned the Moynihan speech. He told his audience that he has made it a rule as senator to see to it that the toughest people he can find are appointed federal judges and prosecutors for the state, and that he has given them this hard-bitten advice: Show no mercy.
"Let the grifters and the boodlers and those who were merely playing piano downstairs hear this," he told his fellow Democrats. "Pray God you do not appear before one of the judges I have chosen for the federal bench, for almost the first of their convictions is that public corruption is more than crime; it is betrayal, and it is contemptible and unforgivable."
My advice is that you take steps immediately to make sure that your own "grifters and boodlers," and those tempted to join them, learn to fear you more than they love public money. It isn't enough that you be clean; you have to show your willingness to clean house.
For the sake of your own reputation, for the sake of home rule and for the sake of all who look to you for leadership, I commend to you Pat Moynihan's hard-nosed advice regarding those who are intent on ripping off the public treasury:
Show no mercy.