New York City
March 2003

Holding Elected Officials To Their Campaign Promises
by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

When I ran for Mayor of New York City, I said that if there was one principle I would try to bring to government, it would be accountability. The idea that you can promise something over and over again, then not do it and get away with it is simply unfathomable. After spending more than a year in office, I can say with some authority that a much higher standard of accountability is desperately needed in government. Elected officials should be held to their campaign promises, and I want the people of New York City to start with me.

During my campaign, I released a series of proposals on major issues, ranging from improving education to overhauling customer service to building our economy to strengthening law enforcement. In every campaign, the candidates pledge to implement a host of ideas and policies. Thatís, more or less, how people decide who to vote for. Just because a campaign ends doesnít mean that the themes and principles that guided it should end with it.

In my case, the people of New York City have a right to know what I said I would do in the campaign, and they have a right to know what I have done about those proposals as Mayor. Thatís what accountability is all about. That theory should apply to every elected official, in every office.

Thatís why I just released a database that lists every proposal made during my campaign and details where each proposal stands: good and bad, big and small, whether we have achieved it thus far or not. The goal of a public official shouldnít be to escape scrutiny and review. We should embrace it, because the more the people hold us accountable for results, the better weíll do. That has been my experience in over thirty-five years in the private sector. Now Iím doing my best to make it the standard in the public sector.

In addition to listing each proposal and its status, the database places all 380 campaign proposals in one of five categories: done, launched, planned, not done, and being reconsidered. Weíve been fortunate to have completed, implemented or have definitive plans for almost 80% of the proposals, but itís equally important that the public see what we havenít taken on yet, because public scrutiny and pressure will only make fulfilling the proposals that much more likely (if you donít believe me, ask my Commissioners).

Some elected officials may worry about having proposed ideas or initiatives that turn out not to be the best way to proceed (in other words, bad ideas). They shouldnít. Not every proposal or idea is going to work out. The point isnít to appear infallible. Itís to be as creative and innovative as possible. If some ideas ultimately arenít the best way to proceed, that only lets you know that, all in all, youíre on the right track. I donít think the voters would punish their elected officials for admitting they had some bad ideas. If anything, I think they would appreciate their candor.

Will other elected officials follow suit and release the status of their campaign promises? I hope they do. In fact, weíd be happy to let them know exactly how we went about doing this. But either way, Iím proud weíre releasing the status of my campaign promises. Weíll continue to do so throughout my administration. To receive a copy of the report, email us at campaignpromises@cityhall.nyc.gov or call us at (212) 788-7766 or visit our website at nyc.gov/campaignpromises.

Holding elected officials accountable for their campaign promises can only make our campaigns more realistic and our government more effective. Perhaps even more important, it would help restore faith in a system that sorely needs it.#

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