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The Flower of the Tiger?


Voters in New York City will parade to the polls today in the climax of what has been the most sizzling mayoralty campaign in recent years. Entertained by the antics of this country's liveliest one-man gang, Fiorella LaGuardia, and beset by the fury of Tammany's revivified tiger, they will find themselves forced to choose between factions which are a lot more clearly delineated than the New York Democratic machine likes to admit.

LaGuardia and his running-mates have put themselves up for office on the strength of their thorough adherence to the foreign policy of the President, and on the basis of their record in office during the past eight years. From a near-bankrupt political football--with unpaid bills of some $100,000,000 in 1934--the nation's largest city now boasts a healthy bank balance of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. During this period, tremendous administrative economies have been effected, though the public works program has caused an increase in the amount of the annual budget.

LaGuardia and his Commissioner of Parks, Robert Moses, have carried out a program of civic improvement which has been unparallelled in the city's history. In eight years they have built 92 new school buildings, 25 hospital buildings, 325 playgrounds, 8,215 acres of new parks, 14 giant low-rent housing developments, 77 miles of subway tracks, and 21 new bridges and viaducts--five of them enormous revenue-producers. The administration has put into effect a far more efficient system for administering relief and welfare agencies than the city had had before--a program widely copied in municipalities throughout the country.

In its strongest bid for regaining power since the "Little Flower" first became mayor, Tammany has put up as his opponent Brooklyn's District Attorney, William O'Dwyer. Though he has denied official tutelage by the redoubtable Tiger, there can be no doubt that Tammany looks upon him as its candidate. All the ward-heeling machinery which has been growing rusty since La Guardia made up his mind to do away with that kind of a machine age has sprung once more into action. Every Bronz big-shot and Brooklyn saloon keeper who has a finger in the Tammany pie is licking his chops in anticipation of an early feast after a long famine.

Two other factors are aiding O'Dwyer's cause. The first, active support by America-Firsters, Bundists, anti-Semites, and the like, is apt to prove a negligible influence in determining the ultimate outcome, and O'Dwyer has consistently repudiated such support. The second factor working in his favor is the alarming apathy on the part of New York's voters, many of whom have come to take LaGuardia so much for granted that they don't bother to vote for him. This year's low registration figures are ample testimony to this.

LaGuardia is a slim favorite to cop today's election. If he does so, it will mark a notable victory for local democracy over the smooth efficiency of a top-notch political machine. The whole election represents a satisfying change from the local mayoralty campaign, in which there are neither clear-cut issues nor outstanding candidates.

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