Deputy Mayor Asks and Tells: How Can New York Save Money?

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Stephen Goldsmith, New York City's deputy mayor for operations and author of The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good, talks about the city's recent request for cost-cutting suggestions.

Mayor Bloomberg hired Stephen Goldsmith to be his deputy mayor of operations earlier this year. Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis and a domestic policy advisor to the 2000 Bush campaign, earned a reputation as a leading innovator in social entrepenurship and public-private partnerships to tackle urban problems. Now he'll be doing it in New York. He says New York City is one of a kind, but it does face similiar issues as other cities.

Labor-management partnerships were a driving force of innovations and cost savings while he was working in Indianapolis. He says he hopes these principles will apply to New York as well. He says there are many ways to look at how we solve the budget crunch.

One is how is one saves money in terms of efficiency. Another is how we do a better job of customer service in our basic responsibility. Another is who owes fines and other fees to the city that could be better and more smoothly collected. And another is what are the big transformative ideas that will allow us to save a substantial amount of money or earn a substantial amount of money that doesn't require pain from labor or pain from taxpayers. There's a lot of natural assets in this city and in the government.

An example of these natural assets, he says, is the upstate water supply. It's a potential source of electricity that could save the city money and even make the city money.

Some callers had ideas for Goldsmith too: turning lights out and escalators off at night in school buildings or using LED lights in the MTA and city buildings.Goldsmith loved the suggestions and that will consider them as he moves forward in the planning.

This is great! If I'm just quiet and people call in, the budget will be balanced by the time I leave this show! This is really good!

In response to these calls, Goldsmith said part of the path to efficiency is individual responsibilty.

Each building, the tenants in that building, need to be responsible for their energy budget. So, the city has one energy budget, but when people are responsible in a building for their own costs, they take better care of that building.

This, he says, can help save the city money. Another listener suggested bike licenses and permits as a source of revenue, a touchy subject for Goldsmith, and for New Yorkers, but he did say the city already has too many licenses and permits. He offered a carefully worded alternative.

We could do a better job with traffic enforcement and enforcement against bicyclists that don't follow the rules and write more tickets for that. So I think we could produce the conduct we want to produce without the regulatory apparatus.

At the end of the show, Brian Lehrer asked Goldsmith if he had any plans to be mayor again...maybe of New York? No, thanks, he said.