Former Mayor Adjusts To New Role in City
Two months after his electoral defeat forced him to retire as mayor of the nation's largest city, Edward I. Koch is still doing OK.
"I am having a ball," he says of his new schedule, a 12-hour day which includes plenty of activities to keep him in the public eye during his post-mayoral career.
In addition to co-hosting a local TV show and doing daily radio commentary, Koch is an adjunct professor at New York University and writes a weekly column for The New York Post--a contribution he says has boosted the tabloid's Friday circulation by 15,000.
Assertive as ever in an interview with The Crimson yesterday, Koch has lost none of his flair for wisecracks in recent weeks, and claims he has lost none of his popularity. The only thingthe three-term mayor will admit to having lost is23 pounds--courtesy of a diet plan which he nowendorses on television.
And unlike the city's two former three-termmayors, Fiorello H. LaGuardia and Robert F.Wagner, Koch maintains that his fall from officehas cost him none of his popularity.
"It took about eight years for each of them toreestablish themselves in a positive light," Kochsays. "It took about eight weeks for me."
"I am more popular today than I have ever been.Why? I don't know. Maybe they miss me," he says.
While the national media have focused on NewYork as a center of racial tensions anddrug-related crimes, Koch maintains that theseproblems have often been exaggerated.
He acknowledges that racially motivated crimeslike the alleged gang murder of a Black youth inBensonhurst last summer are indicative of seriousproblems, but he argues that race is a factor inonly a tiny minority of the city's violent crimes.
"They overstated what in fact was takingplace," he says, citing recent polls that showedless than 4 percent of New Yorkers listing racerelations as a top concern.
"That doesn't mean race relations are what theyshould be," Koch cautions. "They're obviously not,but they're far better in New York than they arein Boston or Chicago, or L.A. or Washington D.C.But in New York City we constantly talk about itso that the rest of the country thinks its aboiling cauldron."
The inner-city problems that do exist, Kochmaintains, can only be solved by strong punitiveaction from both local and federal governments.More jails and better prosecution are the answerto the drug problem, he says, rejecting the notionthat the society can stop the demand for drugs byimproving urban conditions.
"It's as though, if people are poor, they'regoing to take drugs," Koch says, and immediatelycounters, "Rich people take drugs. And all poorpeople do not take drugs. Most poor people do nottake drugs. Most poor people don't commit crimes."
"And so when people try to blame society forthe actions of individuals who, or commit crimestake drugs, what in fact they're doing is you'regiving those people a pass. You're sayingindividual and personal responsibility is not apart of it. I think it is."
"My humble judgement," he adds, muttering underhis breath.
In hindsight, Koch still defends his outspokenstyle as mayor. The people of New York, he says,demand that a mayor take a vocal stand on almostevery issue, even foreign policy matters.
"If you have 175 different races, religions andethnic groups, and they all have differentaspirations, and they want you to speak out--theIrish on Northern Ireland, or the Hispanics onNicaragua or Cuba, Jews on Israel, Blacks on SouthAfrica. Now supposing the mayor said, 'well that'snot my job.' They'd throw him out. It is his job."
"And every mayor has spoken out on theseissues. Robert Wagner would not meet with King IbnSaud. [Former mayors] Lindsay and Beame hadcomparable situations."
"I maybe have more"--Koch searches for aword--"flair at getting attention paid to mycomments."
Many maintain that it was this flair--ofteninterpreted by critics as the result of a massiveego--that accounted for Koch's popularitythroughout much of his 12-year tenure of mayor.But Koch still argues that he did an excellent jobas mayor, better, in fact, than he expects currentMayor David N. Dinkins to do.
"I thought I was a pretty good mayor, and thatI governed the city well, and I think if you askmost people, I think you would find that a lot ofpeople miss me.
"That's at least what they tell me as I walkdown the streets," he adds.
Even so, Koch does not hesitate for a momentwhen asked if he has any plans to seek electedoffice in the future.
"Never," he says, with an air of finality. "Igave 25 years of my life to public service."
"I have given blood at home and at the store,"he adds.