'We Dream Big Dreams'
These "maverick mayors" are strong-willed, idealistic, and
they seem to be getting the job done.
October 23, 1994
ACROSS THE NATION A
GROUP OF tough, talking political outsiders, ideological mavericks and
confrontational innovators is taking over city halls. Faced with huge
deficits, failing schools, job losses and violent crime, these mayors
are balancing budgets, bringing back investment and and jobs, and
trimming city contracts.
Ed Rendell in
Philadelphia, Richard Riordan in Los Angeles, Bret Schundler in
Jersey City, Michael White in Cleveland and Rudolph Giuliani in New York
have adopted a take-charge approach to the tough business of turning
around their cities.
Who are, these guys?
Described as strong-willed, determined, inventive and sometimes
unpredictable, they are individualists who do-not fit into familiar
political molds. "I think we're all pragmatic-idealists, and what
we'd all say is that what you see is what you get," says Michael
White. "We are what we are. We dream big dreams."
I traveled around the
country to visit it these mayors, to find out how they are changing city
35, a conservative Republican millionaire, is in his first full term as
mayor of Jersey City, an overwhelmingly Democratic town.
Schundler has a variety
of schemes to attack the city's problems. For example, he wants to stage
vendor conventions where companies that provide maintenance or cleanup
services would have sales booths at which to pitch their services.
Neighborhood groups would vote for the company they want and the city
would pay for it.
He is particularly keen
on voucher systems. "I'm for changing the welfare system by
providing vouchers for health, housing and food for those who have
little or no income, and tax credits for those who have income,"
Schundler told me. "If you do get a job, the voucher decreases but
doesn't disappear. The way it is now, 41 percent Of my people are on
public assistance. If they get a job, they lose medical coverage, and
their income is cut in half. That shouldn't happen."
Schundler is a champion
of school vouchers, despite critics who say vouchers would destroy the
public school system. "My poorest citizens should, have the, same
opportunity as richer persons to be able to afford to choose the best
school available for their children," he said.
When he took office,
Schundler voluntarily cut his salary from $60,000 to $30,000 and
promised not to accept a pay raise any year he failed to cut taxes. (His
salary is now up to $45,000.) A former Wall Street investment banker,
Schundler made his first million before he was 30. Before that, he
worked on Gary Hart's Presidential campaign but became disillusioned
with the programs put forth by the Democrats. He got back into politics
to work for change. "What I want to do is give the people in this
city the power to make decisions governing their lives," said