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Search for the Next Ed Koch

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A year from now, the campaign to replace Michael Bloomberg as mayor will be underway. Because of term limits the position is open, but at the moment the short list of viable candidates is short.

For the last 20 years, the city has been led by an imperial City Hall. Rudy Giuliani, who ran on his success as a federal prosecutor, did what many people thought was impossible. He took back the streets from gangsters and drug dealers. The cleanup and restoration of Times Square is a monument to his leadership.

In the terrible weeks after Sept. 11, Giuliani was the kind of take-charge general a city in crisis needed.

Giuliani’s throne was handed over to billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a man with no experience in city politics. He has been a CEO and a good mayor in many respects, but he has shown no inclination to listen to the little people in the outerboroughs.

This failing has never been clearer than with the debacle at the city Department of Education. The plan to close dozens of public schools and reopen them with new names has been opposed in every corner of the city.

But no one at City Hall listened.

The one saving grace for Giuliani was the town hall meetings he held once a month in different communities. The mayor and his commissioners would show for each meeting and often got an earful from local residents.

But Bloomberg has seen no need for that kind of feedback.

What the city needs is another Ed Koch. For all his flaws, Koch was a man of the people. Imagine Bloomberg marching in a parade, pumping his hands in the air and asking the crowd, “How’m I doing?”

He was a World War II hero and two-term congressman who understood the city and its neighborhoods.

We need a mayor with a sense of humility who can bring the city together. There is a lot to be learned from Giuliani’s crime-fighting success and Bloomberg’s ability to manage a budget.

But the city needs a leader who can restore democracy, and that means listening to the people.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has reportedly said he is not interested, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has failed to stand up to the boss on the critical issue of public schools.

We hope to see a candidate who like Koch understands the city at large and will fight for Queens.

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