Mayor Ed Lee described New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as “a model of mine” as the two men exchanged gifts in the Mayor's Office, and reporters unsuccessfully tried to figure out which of the two men is taller.
Bloomberg gave Lee a box of golf balls, Lee gave Bloomberg a trolley bell, organic hot dogs, a lifetime membership to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the two men had a meeting of the minds when it came to the need for big cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Lee prefaced his gift giving by saying he intended to make Bloomberg an honorary citizen of San Francisco.
"Does that mean I’ll have to pay taxes?” Bloomberg quipped.
“If they go up, you’ll be the first to know,” Lee replied.
Bloomberg said it was “fun to talk” with Mayor Lee about energy conservation and environmental activism. “Things like the environment are things mayors have to deal with every day,” Bloomberg said, noting that cities account for 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
Bloomberg praised San Francisco for approving an ordinance that requires owners of non-residential buildings to make public how much energy each building consumes each year. The legislation is meant to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower energy costs and create green jobs. It also requires commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet to conduct energy-efficiency audits every five years.
“Each can profit from each other’s experiences,” Bloomberg said, noting that because NYC has a more carbon efficient mass transit than most U.S. cities, its buildings are responsible for creating 80 percent of NYC's emissions.
Asked about a lawsuit that his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan reportedly triggered by installing a bike lane along the boundary of an affluent Brooklyn neighborhood, Bloomberg flashed a smile that didn’t suggest he thinks Sadik-Khan is now a PR liability for his administration.
“Change is difficult,” Bloomberg replied, acknowledging that there are “battles between those who drive cars and ride bikes."
"Mass transit is the solution for every big city," he continued. “And the bicycle is one of the answers, but they can be dangerous. Roads are not just for motor vehicles. They are also for bikes and pedestrians. The key is pedestrian safety.”
"Our transportation commissioner is very innovative,” Bloomberg continued, referring back to the reportedly embattled Sadik-Khan. “She therefore does come under criticism, but I should be the one taking the heat, not her!”
“Closing Times Square was one of the most successful things we’ve done,” he added, referring to another initiative that Sadik-Khan championed, in addition to installing bike lanes on crowded streets and proposing to shut part of NYC’s 34th Street to cars.
Asked for his impressions of San Francisco’s homeless problem, Bloomberg pointed out that he had just traveled straight from the airport to City Hall by BART, and therefore didn’t have a deep grasp of the issue locally. “I don’t know the specifics,” he said.
But he was happy to outline how New York set “a very aggressive goal” of reducing its homeless population that it then failed to meet it, in part because the economy tanked. “The numbers are down about 13 percent each year,” he said, noting that he hasn’t seen the 2010 statistics. “But only a small number sleep on the streets,” he continued, noting that folks in NYC, "have to work to qualify for rental assistance.”
Asked to give Lee some mayoral advice, Bloomberg said, “The public wants elected officials who are genuine, who are doing things for what they think are the right reasons.
Asked to give Lee specific advice on how to stay out of trouble as the city's top official, Bloomberg joked that Lee should move to New York until the end of the year, when his term as interim mayor expires. “But then he’d get into trouble for doing that,” he said. And then he and his coterie of security guards and photographers were out of the press conference and into the elevators, faster than a cabbie trying to beat a red light on a sweltering night in the Big Apple.