A Mayor and His Word

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City preempted his critics recently by issuing a scorecard on how well he's fulfilled his campaign promises since taking office two years ago.

Out of a whopping 380 promises made in 2001, Mr. Bloomberg said 80 were complete, 224 were ongoing, or just about to be started; 55 weren't yet begun, and 21 (some of which the mayor admitted turned out to be bad ideas) had experienced "flip-flops."

Bloomberg's immense personal wealth affords him a freer sense of public self-criticism (his livelihood doesn't depend on his mayoral salary). Still, voters can respect his honesty and openness as long as his scorecard announcement doesn't carry a whiff of political machination.

Judging an elected leader's work simply by the numbers, however, isn't always sufficient. Not all promises carry the same value. Nonetheless, in making this semi-confessional, semi-boasting announcement, the mayor offered up a useful model for other elected leaders.

During the campaign, the former businessman made sure that his promises were specific rather than vague. He recently told voters that their elected representatives must not only talk about the integrity needed to win high office but act demonstrate it.

He showed humility in acknowledging that it's sometimes nearly impossible to actually execute some promises once the realities of office set in. In fact, most politicians already know they've likely overpromised to voters, and aren't so willing to fess up. Bloomberg noted that he's already had to break a promise not to raise taxes in the face of the city's huge fiscal crisis.

Midcourse admissions, like Bloomberg's, can make room for mid-course corrections, too, and that's healthy for government.

Accountability is an operative watchword in politics these days. Perhaps the New York mayor can help other elected leaders take that word to heart.

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