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The Old Ray, the New Mike

January 5, 2009

So what does 2009 hold for the team of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly? Assuming Bloomberg wins a third term, does Kelly remain as police commissioner?

By defying the two-term limit law he had previously backed, Mayor Mike has shed his “I-care-about-the-city-first” image, and proved himself no different from any other pol : that is, he cares, first and foremost, about Michael Bloomberg.

Exploiting a political opportunity as Israeli troops invade Gaza, he flew to Israel, alighting in Ashkelon and Sderot, cities recently struck by Hamas rockets. While in Sderot, he was hustled into a bomb shelter when warning sirens went off. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Accompanying him was Kelly. No doubt, we’ll soon be hearing from him about the latest terrorism alert for New York City.

Yet despite their eight happy years together (at least on the surface)] and despite Your Humble Servant’s fantasy columns, Mayor Mike recently did describe Kelly to at least one person in real life as “too rigid,” and a “martinet.” That, readers, is true.

Couple that with Bloomberg’s new assertiveness (such as his pushing Caroline Kennedy for the Senate] and you might see a mayor who after his re-election feels he no longer needs an equally assertive police commissioner.

Bloomberg’s decision to run for a third term was, among other things, a slap at Kelly, who led in every mayoral poll. Contrary to former mayor Ed Koch, who stated that Kelly would make an excellent mayor, Mayor Mike — even before he announced he was running again — never uttered a public word of support for Kelly’s candidacy.

Kelly, meanwhile, after eight successful years as police commissioner, now finds his path to higher aspiration blocked both in New York and on the national level.

He was hardly helped when The Times last fall broke the news of a major tiff with Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Kelly had charged in a letter to the A.G. that the federal government was “doing less than it is lawfully entitled to do to protect New York City, and the city is less safe as a result.”

Specifically, Kelly accused senior Justice Department officials of red-lighting his requests for wiretap warrants from the special Foreign Surveillance Court to electronically monitor terrorism suspects.

Mukasey dismissed Kelly’s accusations as “incorrect” and “unfounded,” adding, “Because you were not versed in the facts, we were unable to have a meaningful conversation about that case.”

Mukasey also called Kelly’s views “contrary to the law” and charged that, in at least one terrorism case, the NYPD refused to share information, which “prevented the FBI from conducting any investigation of the suspect.”

At the time, Kelly appeared interested in heading the Department of Homeland Security, the job that had once been offered to his disgraced predecessor Bernard Kerik. President-elect Barack Obama has appointed Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.

The only other job of equal stature is FBI Director, which opens up in 2010. With the Kelly-Mukasey correspondence portraying Kelly as more zealous in fighting terrorism than the Constitutionally-challenged Bush administration, that opportunity seems unlikely.

So does that mean Kelly remains as police commissioner for another four years? Certainly, in the previous eight, he has caused Bloomberg no embarrassments, à la Kerik. If Bloomberg is occasionally forced to defend an uncomfortable position, as he did when he backed Kelly versus Mukasey, what’s the big deal?

Whatever their true feelings towards each other, New York under Kelly seems under control. Most important, the city has not suffered another terrorist attack. Kelly can take credit for this, whether or not it has anything to do with him. In addition, crime remains low. Even this year’s five per cent rise in homicides can hardly be blamed on Kelly, who has managed to do more with less.

And when trouble occurs — whether the fatal police shootings of Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury or Ouswane Zongo — the team of Bloomberg and Kelly appear quickly at hand to perform some soothing public relations.

So short of Mayor Mike’s newly revealed ego, why would he replace Kelly?

Let’s Hear It For Garry.
Speaking of a low murder rate, let’s give credit where credit is due. Garry McCarthy may have paid the most money in recorded history to contest a traffic ticket on the Palisades Parkway but since becoming police director in Newark, that city has experienced a 32 per cent decline in homicides. According to the Associated Press, Newark’s 67 murders in 2008 represent an eight-year low and the fifth lowest annual total since 1964.

Run Silent, Run Deep.
So Sunny Mindel — known to readers of this column as “Sunny the Silent” — is leaving the employ of former mayor Rudy Giuliani. True to her name, she refused to discuss the reason or reasons for her departure, or to reveal the name of her lone consulting client in the private sector.

Poised to run for governor, Giuliani is losing someone whose loyalty to him — a quality he professes to value — is unquestioned. Unlike others in his inner circle with their own agendas — Bernie Kerik and Cristyne Lategano come to mind — her sole concern was Giuliani.

We would be remiss if we ignored one of Sunny’s finest moments, paying for Your Humble Servant’s dinner at the Harvard Club. This followed a speech by Kerik, then riding high and soon to be nominated Homeland Security Director, on foreign policy. After his speech — praising President Bush and our Iraq policy, which drew a standing ovation from the nitwits in the crowd — Sunny sprang for dinner for Kerik’s party. You had to belong to the Harvard Club to pay, and she was the group’s only member. How she managed this without attending Harvard remains another mystery she refused to explain.

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Copyright © 2009 Leonard Levitt