NEW YORK, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor of New York by virtue of his own vast spending and splits in his opposition, and it's safe to say that no previous mayor has had so few obligations when he came to power and has given so little indication of where he wants to take the city.
He won the mayoralty with Rudy Giuliani's endorsement, so Bloomberg has been free to take advantage of being not-Giuliani once in office, going so far as to visit Al Sharpton on Martin Luther King Day.
The result of the new Mayor's reaching out is shown in polls that reflect him having two-thirds supports in every ethnic group, with only 5 percent not approving of his performance and the rest of the voters undecided.
Actually, this is nothing new. In changing the role of mayor from raising temperatures to reducing them, Bloomberg is following the pattern of New York history.
New York has had for many years a regular alternation between what might be called Type A and Type B Mayors.
The incarnation of the Type A was, of course, Fiorello LaGuardia, New York's first three-term mayor, whose constant exhortation and hectoring of the public made him famous.
The second three-term Mayor, Robert Wagner Jr., was in the incarnation of the Type B mayor. He didn't want the public excited and did his best to calm the polis. Sometimes weeks at a time would pass without the mayor being in the headlines.
After 12 years of Wagner, the city turned to John Lindsay, a man who promised more excitement. Too much, indeed, as it proved, and Lindsay was succeeded by Abe Beame, a man who made Robert Wagner seem exciting.
Beame, of course, was run over by the fiscal crisis, and was succeeded by another hectorer, Ed Koch. Twelve years of Koch led to David Dinkins, another man who promised, and failed, to bring quiet times, and was defeated by Rudy Giuliani, who took "Type A personality" to a whole new level.
Bloomberg, no matter what crises he may face, is doing his best to calm the city rather than polarize it. Whether that will be possible when he has to make so many unpleasant fiscal choices remains to be seen.
Bloomberg gave his first State of the City speech without the props and the adoring audience that Giuliani provided himself. He spoke at a regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council, and in a low-key style.
Although the presentation was unexciting, the content featured a number of controversial ideas. These included continued support for term limits, which disappointed a City Council whose new leader will be term-limited out in just two years, a renewed call for mayoral control of education and for the abolition of local elected school boards, "tort reform" to limit the half-billion dollars a year the city pays in settlements, and a new 311 number to reach city agencies through a "Citizen's Service Center."
In fact, many of the most controversial ideas depend not upon what the mayor wants but on what the state legislature will accept. So far, they have agreed to postpone local school board elections, and it looks as if the mayor will not get abolition of the Board of Education, but will gain effective control through a majority of appointments to the board, instead of the two out of seven that he gets now.
Besides mayoral control of education, Bloomberg followed Giuliani in proposing to enlarge the Javits Convention Center, extend the No. 7 subway past Times Square to the west side of Manhattan, and bidding for the 2012 Olympics.
The speech reflected the new mayor's business background in several ways -- almost every media outlet compared its tone and content to that of a CEO's report to his board, and the new mayor added the innovation of "mayoral product placement." He specifically praised American Express for going back to its offices, saying, "Just let me tell you, I've started to use only my American Express card after Ken (Chenault) made that commitment, and I urge you to do it, too."
The mayor also used business slogans, such as his statement that:
"THESE ARE HARD TIMES.
WE MUST BE HARD-NOSED.
WE MUST BE HARD-HEADED.
BUT WE CAN NOT BE HARD-HEARTED."
In his first weeks in office, Bloomberg could make headway by simultaneously being "not-Giuliani" and Giuliani's chosen successor. But that approach can't last forever.