Ed Koch, the colorful former New York City Mayor, easily still the most recognizable politician from the Big Apple, has passed away at the age of 88. Koch was a self-defined Liberal Democrat who reached across the aisle in both his political machinations and his political philosophy. Koch had a long career that saw him serve in the US House of Representatives, after being the man who defeated the last candidate of Tammany Hall in the early 1960s, before serving multiple terms as the city’s Mayor. He was also a television judge, and after retirement, something of a king-maker in New York politics. The New York Times has a long and New York Times-y piece on Koch. Worth the read in spite of it. Some segments of note:
Confronted with the deficits and the constraints of the city’s brush with bankruptcy in 1975, he held down spending, subdued the municipal unions, restored the city’s creditworthiness, revived a moribund capital budget, began work on long-neglected bridges and streets, cut antipoverty programs and tried to reduce the friction between Manhattan and the more tradition-minded other boroughs.
Re-elected in 1981 with a record 75 percent of the vote — he became the first mayor in the city’s history to get both the Democratic and the Republican nominations — Mr. Koch markedly improved the city’s finances in his second term. Helped by a surging local economy, state aid and rising tax revenues, the city government, with a $500 million surplus, hired workers back and restored many municipal services. He also made plans for major housing programs, improvements in education and efforts to reduce welfare dependency.
Funny how we hear time and again how such measures will never work to bring down debt and increase revenue. Indeed, Koch’s dealings with the unions would make the Left positively HOWL today. The Times article also describes in several places where Koch’s ceasing of wasteful and ineffective anti-poverty programs and other efforts to end welfare dependency in part caused the Black community to dislike Koch. That theme is now writ large across the American national political landscape.
Another revealing passage about Ed Koch:
He was drafted into the wartime Army in 1943 and earned two battle stars in Europe as an infantryman. After V-E Day, because he could speak German, he was sent to Bavaria to help remove Nazi public officials from their jobs and finding non-Nazis to take their place. He was a sergeant when discharged in 1946.
Mayor Koch was a colorful, at times controversial, but always newsworthy character. And, I always sensed, he was a far more interesting man than the sound-byte news media portrayed him. Koch was definitely a part of the political scene far beyond the borders of the boroughs of the city he loved.