2008-09-04 / From The Mayor...

Innovative Approaches Needed For City's Complex Challenges

From The Mayor's Desk ...

When it comes to tackling the toughest issues, sometimes you have to have the courage to flip the conventional wisdom on its head and approach problems with new ideas and new energy.

That's often the key to success in the business world, and it's how our Administration is now confronting some of the city's biggest challenges. Let me give you two examples.

The first is education. When we won control of the public school system in 2002, the conventional wisdom held that there really wasn't much we could do to improve failing schools. But by implementing accountability and raising standards, we've substantially increased test scores, lifted graduation rates by more than 20 percent, and begun closing the racial achievement gap in our classrooms.

One of the most effective ways we've brought in fresh ideas is through charter schools. Charters are given greater freedom to operate, in exchange for meeting strict standards of accountability, and their students often outperform their peers on state tests.

Because they hold so much promise, last year we convinced the State to raise the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in our city. The result is that a record 18 new charters opened this month, bringing the total number of charters in the city to 78.

We'll keep working to open even more charter schools in the future - because they not only create greater school choices for parents and students, the competition they inspire is improving performance throughout the entire school system.

When it comes to raising achievement, a little competition goes a long way.

The second area where we're thinking outside the box is energy. The fossil fuels that power our cars and generate our electricity are not going to last forever - but even more pressing is the damage they're causing to our environment. Unfortunately, most of Washington's recent proposals only intend to prolong our wrongheaded energy addiction.

For the sake of our environment and for the sake of our economy and our national security, we must begin developing alternative, renewable energy sources - now. When it comes to producing clean power, we're determined to make New York the number one city in the nation. By this time next year, we'll have more than doubled the amount of solar power produced in the city, by installing new solar panels at schools and other City government buildings.

We recently began soliciting the best ideas for creating both small- and large-scale renewable energy projects. Such projects might, for example, be designed to draw power from our rivers - something we're already doing on a trial basis. Or perhaps companies will want to build wind farms miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.

The possibilities are virtually endless, and every idea is worth exploring. We can't be afraid of trying new ideas - on energy, education, the economy, or any area of the city. Because only by thinking innovatively and acting boldly can we overcome our biggest, most complex challenges.

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