Giuliani’s pep rally

Federal Justice Minister Vic Toews sent his regrets that he couldn’t be present, saying he had a good reason. Fittingly, the “law-and-order” Canadian cabinet minister in a message told the audience at the Winnipeg Convention Centre that he wasn’t able to hear the “law-and-order” former mayor of New York speak because he was in Ottawa  to reveal new “law-and-order” legislation — mandatory minimum jail sentences for gun-related crimes and limitations to conditional sentences.

Rudy Giuliani was in town for the final event of City Summit to inspire local community leaders to “do better.” His six-point message to the 800 gathered at the Convention Centre was essentially, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Giuliani gained fame for his leadership in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Before this, he had also gained a measure of acclaim for reversing the perception of New York as a crime-ridden city into a safe city. 

At the time of his first term, Time magazine had run a cover story on “The Rotting of the Big Apple,” saying that there was not much that could be done to reverse New York’s decline, related Giuliani. It would never again be a great city, according to the article. Two books even proclaimed that New York was “ungovernable.” And, a poll showed that 65 per cent of New Yorkers wanted to flee the city, including pornographers, because of fear of crime, he added.

None of this boded well for his first term, but Giuliani said he was undeterred. “I got elected to reduce crime,” the potential Republican candidate for U.S. president told the Winnipeg audience.

His philosophy as New York mayor was the Broken Window Theory: one little broken window ignored leads to other windows being broken and the eventual collapse of the entire building. Espousing this theory, he made sure the NYPD paid attention to the small crimes prevalent on the streets that had previously been ignored such as prostitution, small drug dealing, etc.

Crime stats were analyzed to determine what was being done right — not the number of arrests, nor the number of people in jail, but less crime — and accountability was expected of precinct chiefs. He also increased the number of police officers from 32,000 to 41,000.

Giuliani also cut back on social programs such as welfare. His philosophy was to get jobs for able-bodied people on welfare — more commonly referred to as workfare. When he took office, nearly 1.3-million people, a seventh of the city’s population, were on welfare. He rewarded city officials who found jobs for people, again using statistical information to note who was performing to his expectations. To emphasize the new direction, former welfare offices were renamed New York City Employment Centers. The success of his program was gauged by a reduction to under 440,000 people on welfare. 

Using tax reductions and fiscal discipline, Giuliani transformed a US $2.3-billion city deficit he inherited to a multi-billion-dollar surplus. Within eight years, a record 450,000 new private-sector jobs were created in New York City. During his two terms as mayor, Giuliani was able to reduce overall crime from 65 per cent and reduce the murder rate by 70 per cent. 

“We changed attitude at the grass-roots level of society,” he said. 

He expressed pride that on January 1, 2000, Time reported on New York as a “great example of urban renaissance” — people wanted to be in New York and thought that things could only get better.

But, not everyone was happy about what Giuliani was doing, especially the black community and other minorities who were mostly affected by his programs, especially when it came to his “law-and-order” measures. The most controversial case was when an unarmed 22-year-old immigrant black man was riddled with bullets fired by four white policemen from the Street Crimes Unit. Thousands protested and Giuliani’s support for the officers involved in the shooting further enraged minorities in New York. An Amnesty International report documented police misconduct, brutality and racism in the city. 

During his Winnipeg speech, Giuliani said he took the advice given by his hero, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, that popularity polls shouldn’t determine positions people take. Giuliani said when you take risks people will oppose you and say “it can’t be done.” 

“(But) leaders have to look to the future,” he said. “It’s no different than business.” He also believes that when people are in positions of power, they have to lead from the front and know how to delegate, “but (also) have to accept responsibility when things go wrong.”

After his  re-election in 1997, Giuliani seemed to be in the political doldrums as a lame-duck mayor — that is until 9/11.

He shone in the face of adversity, rallying a city that had been torn apart by this heart-wrenching tragedy. His decisive actions on 9/11 resulted in Time naming him Man of the Year. French President Jacques Chirac called him, “Rudy the Rock.” Queen Elizabeth knighted him — he’s now Sir Rudy Giuliani. And, former First Lady Nancy Reagan presented him with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Freedom Award.

Giuliani only told anecdotes about 9/11 as a support for his six-point speech, which disappointed many at the Convention Centre. But, he did relate a couple of instances, such as the role of New York’s fire chief, who continued to co-ordinate his forces even after losing over 300 firefighters when the towers collapsed. Giuliani said others would have given up, but the fire chief soldiered on. 

“I only accomplished what I did because of the people,” Giuliani said. “I rested on the shoulders of giants.” Teamwork carried the day, he added. 

Giuliani received a standing ovation after his $100,000 pep-rally-style speech, but what remains to be seen is whether his six-points of encouragement will lead to local community leaders carrying through with a new “vision” for Winnipeg by adopting the former mayor’s call for a “can-do” attitude.