NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Ed Koch was the mayor of my New York. He led the city I grew up in. He died early this morning at age 88.
He’s being remembered as a great mayor. He wasn’t. He was a great political personality. And there’s a big difference.
Watch the 1974 Charles Bronson movie Death Wish. The urban vigilante movie is a Hollywood exaggeration – but that was what Ed Koch’s New York was like, full of crime and urban decay. Koch was a marvelous politician because he was reelected three times despite the city’s problems. He rose above the city’s day-to-day struggles. The conventional wisdom was that the city was largely ungovernable, and that graffiti and muggings was simply a part of urban life.
“How’m I doing?” was the question hizzoner asked at most news conferences and public rallies. My favorite Koch answer was, “there’s a poll coming out later today. I’ll give you my opinion then.”
I appreciate a colorful politician. And it’s a gift when someone can appreciate a character even while disagreeing with his politics. These days, we find ourselves disliking a person’s politics and their personality. The city he led is cleaner, safer, and financially stronger today – thanks to the work of other leaders, particularly Rudy Giuliani.
Ed Koch was 100% New Yorker. His kind doesn’t come around very often.