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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  April 26, 2011 2:00pm-2:30pm PDT

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tavis: good evening from los -- new york. i'm tavis smiley. we kk off our week in the big apple with a conversation with mayor michael bloomberg. he remains one of the most influential voices on the political stage even given the poll numbers. he believes new york can be the testing ground with how big cities cope with the crisis in education with. we're glad you have joined us night one from new york with a conversation with mayor michael bloomberg. coming up right now. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and evy answer. tionwide insurance is proud to- join tavis in working to
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improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one nation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: the busy streets of manhattan outside the studio. we're delighted to be in new york all week and hope you can join us for a terrific lineup. tomorrow on this program a conversation with cbs evening news anchor katie couri on her future plans and the new book she just wrote, "the best advice i ever got." wednesday, george soros.
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thursday, movie mogul harvey weinstein. no better way to kick off this week in new york than with bam, the mayor of new york city. mayor blikele bloomberg. he is serving -- michael bloomberg. he is serving his third term and has vowed to make education the primary focus on his final term. glad to have you. >> welcome to new york. we would like you to be here all the time. tavis: we'll work on that. good to see you. let me start with some news you made. i want to get your take on. i caught you on fox yesterday. and was intrigued by your comments when asked about donald trump. for tho that didn't see it, just recount your advice for donald trump. >> he is a new york icon.
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a little bit bigger than life. his daughter i know pretty well. married to the publisher of a small newspaper here. very smart and donald is donald. he is bigger than life. and anybody can run for president. that's fine. the birther issue is bigger than donald trump, however. there are states that are passing laws regarding verification of whether you're in compliance of the constitution that says you have to be born in america. i think number one, this president was born in america. number two, this seems to be one of the big issues of some members of the republican party and i said yesterday, if they don't change and start focusing on the big issues, immigration, the deficit, the economy, we can go on and on, and get away from something as ridiculous as this, they are going to lose and they
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deserve to lose. what this country needs is a democratic and republican party to focus on the big issues and find some ways to come together and focus on things we agree on and stop focusing on things we disagree on. the bottom line is we have an expression in new york city government, in god werust, but for everyone else, bring data. [laughter] you know, it is so easy to pick up a sound bite and say oh, yeah, yeah, i believe that without really thinking. one of the differences between government and business and why government doesn't function as well as people tnk business does, not clear it does, but people think that, is that in business, when you fail at something, when something doesn't work, you say ok, we learned that is not a path to go down. same thing in science. in science, a path that turns out to be a dead end is very useful because you don't devote resources on that. you go elsewhere. in government, the press writes
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it as failure. well, i've never wantednybody in my company or administration that isn't willing to try new risksy, untried things. that's the way you're going to make big steps forward. a lot of those are not going to work. if you fire the people that did them, why would anybody do them? so you want to encourage people to innovate and the essence of innovation is what govnment finds very difficult to deal with, but it still can be done. i don't think we should walk away from it and we're trying to do it in new york city government and to some extent throughout this country. you just can't walk away and say we're not going to try new things but the answer to your question, as to why people start to believe in things like to birther issue, is they don't stop to think and it sounds like it might be true and if you don't know, if you can't prove it is not true then a certain number of people will go on and
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say it isrue. tavis: i want to come back -- you made some comments that intrigued me about failure. i'm inown -- >> i don't know why they are provocative. tavi: provocative in the sense that it got me thinking about some thing and i want to ask you about failure. one more question about this birther thing. we know donald strump a friend. >> he is a business friend. tavis: i'm curious. a guy who is as smart as he is. when you define this issue and describe it as ridiculous, mr. trump is a smart guy so i'm only left with a couple of options as to why you think somebody like that would grab a hold of something like that. >> i can't explain why somebody else does thing. i have a tough time explaining why i do things. did i say that? i wish i hadn't said it. i can't tell youhy. i think there is a temptation.
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i have no idea whether donald trump is doing this but there is a temptation to try and tell people what they want to hear. and i know that is a very fficult thing. if you ask me what is the most difficult thing, i remember campaigning and the first day of the cap this woman looked up at me adoringly and said you're going to win. i said it is great. your opponent is going to dr out and she said i'm happy you're pro life. i'm pro choice. i think it is a woman's decision to make. i remember as i turned without pausg and said to her, i'm sorry we disagree on this. the instinct in your mind is should you tell her what she wants to hear and the answer, if you are honest with yourself and if you want to like what you see in the mirror is you have to say what you really believe and i've
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always believed that elected officials that get elected those that really make a difference aren't saying things the public wants to hear but are saying things that the public believes they believe in. the public wants elected officials who have character. the public wants elected officials who are willing to stand up and say things even if they don't agree with them. now i know the polls say no and i know there is a lot of yelling and screaming but fundamentally, in my advice to any elected official particularly at an executive level, president, governor, mayor, would be you can't fake it and particularly if you're a mayor. mayors are very different. mayors can't be on both sides of every issue. mayors have to take explicit stands. just go with your gut and say what you believe and you'll be fine. and if you're not, at leas you'll like what you see in the mirror tavis: the reason i love talking
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to you is every time you say something, i want to ask you threeuestions. you're making me think in these conversations. we all followed the cathie black story. i don't want to rehash that. you made a mtake. you acknowledge that. you have mr. walcott now. you're on a new path now. the thing that has been in my spirit to ask you now, how do you make a decision to go it alone? if i'm to believe everything i have read about this. this was a decion that mhael bloomberg made. there wasn't a lot of decision -- input into it. >> number one, i get asked, joe cline and i. i did talk to a number of people about whether they would be interested in a job. you don't go and do a search like this in public. it would just turn into a circus and every pressure groupould start pressuring you and you probably would not come up with a good candidate. i picked somebody after
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consultation with some others who i thought would do a great job. she is a very smart woman. somebody i thought was willing to devote her life to public service. not an easy thing. i don't know how it is in l.a. at some of our public meetings and education, people stand up and scream obscenities at you. nobody should have to do this. unfortunatel it is t real world. she was as classy as could be during the confirmation or the waiting for approval that she needed. and then tried her best. it just in the end turned out to a fit that i thk both she and i decided at this point in time was not going to work and the most important thing that she said to me again and again was our kids -- that's what i think. if you both agree that it is not working and it is not likely to turn around quickly, you can't walk away
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from your basic responsibility for a long period of time. to build what maybe we would get to eventually anyway ways so we decided it was time for change. i did talk to a number of people again privately and decided that dennis walcott who has been and and had been part of the reforms and is somebody that i have been -- has been one of my deputy mayors from day one. somebody i have enormous confidence in. he was doing a lot of different things in the city which i really needed him fr, but i decided at this point in time he was the right person for thi job and while he won't be able to do everything he did before, i'll he to find other people to do that, those things, this is the right guy for right now and i think he'll be spectacular. tavis: given all the challenges you face in the school system this year alone, our education -- what makes you think you can
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make headway? >> we have 10 years experiee of making head way. we cut the gap between the way black and latino kids test and white and asian kids. we have cut a quarter to 1/3 of that out. we have given parent an awful lot more choice. not just chart irschools but we have taken some big schools that were not really working. we don't really close schools. what we do is change the management and maybe break them into smaller pieces so that one principal with manage a smaller number of teachers. have gone into theme schools which get high school students interested even if that is not where they are going to end up. arne duncan, the president's secretary of education considers us a role model. the president has said nothing but great things about all of our efforts. are we where we want to be? not even close.
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are we better off than where we started? yes. my hope is that we'll do some more in the next 2 3/4 years and who comes after us will continue the batle and continue to improve. if you want to know how toolve society's problems, you start out with better public education. weon't have the nor man rock well family typically anymore where there is one breadwinner and one parent at home to say do your homework. the families are not so necessarily stable we can make sure that every kid shows up with a good night's sleep and a meal in his or her stomach. it is a much more complex world than what we had before but we have made progress. i'm encouraged more than ever before. sadly, the budget realities of a downturn in the economy mean that we have to downsize every agency, education, we, in order
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to downsize its share, last nomber wwould have had to lay off a boufrpbl teachers. i did not want to do that in the middle of a school year. we have that still with us. we put $2.2 billion more city funds into our education system this year alone. our education budget is roughly $22 billion. we spend $17,000 per kid, which is roughly double the national erage. we raised teachers salaries something li 43%ver the past 10 years. we used to lose teachers to the suburbs because we underpaid them. we don't do that anymore. i would love to pay teachers more. i would love to have more teachers. the reality is we're going to have to downsize. that is going to be very painful and we're just going to have to work together to get through this. tavis: let me do something i almost never do in tv. it is bad advice to ask two -part quesons but i want to give you room to connect these
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things if you want to. very quickly, one was the third term, although successful, has there been a day you look back on that decision and thought that you made a mistake? >> zero. not once. i went third term. it wasn't the third term that s difficult because i changed three of our seven deputy mayors and a good 1/3 of our commissioners so that you have new blood and new ideas. that sort of thing. i knew it was going to be a phenomenally difficult economi period. i didn't want my mind to say you walked away when at the top. you have been through the good times. you get all the credit. everybody loves you. that was advice from my friends. tavis: poll numbers have dropped. you never thought i could have go out on top? >> day one, when i first came into office, my first year, i raised property taxes 18% because we had to pay our cops,
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firefighters and teachers. i closed some fire houses. we had too many. back in the days when fire trucks were pulled by horse or even people. and i put a smoking ban in. my popularity was something like 28% approval and somebody said i was getting a lot of one-fingered waves at parades. today there is nobody that would turn back the smoking ban. our workforce,e have 330,000 people. nobodys perfect. you'll never get 330,000 perfect people but i would put our workforce in the public or private sector, it works because of these people that provide the services day in and day out. fire houses, deaths by fire is at an all-time recdow. if you want to go back and look at three things, in the end, we were right and i think the public will not be happy like
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you can see that across the country. every governor, every mayor in dealing with the new world reality is going to be blamed for. the good news is about five years ago, six years ago, i looked at the economy and said this can't go on. we have everybody getting a mortgage whether they can afford it or not. we have the construction industry construction building housing at everyplace we have the banks loaning money without asking who you are or how you're going to pay it back. the stk market is going up every day. everybody was getting wealthy i said you know, this just can't go on. i don't know when it is going to end anymore than anybody else does. the only person who said publicly that it was going to come in an end was alan greenspan with his speech. it just looked to me like the good days cannot go on forever. we started socking money away.
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thank goodness we did. the good news is that will get us through this and the balance of everything we save next year. after that, we have to make sure our economy keeps going. there is no more reserves. people say spend the money you need to get to next year right now. it is going to be difcult times. will the public understand? the public may be upset but in the end, you got to, as i said, like what you see in the mirror. you have to do what is right. if there is a piece of advice i can give is don't worry about it. if you think it is right, that is what matters. tavis: we can debate the alan greenspan issue for hours. i won't do that. that is a conversation with tr another time. what i do want to ask you. i don't in any way ask you to cast dispersion on you. i'm just curious as to how you process it.
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how you after being blessed with all you have accomplished have empathy for everyday new yorkers for when the economy turns the way it has now, how do you relate? >> i grew uin a household. my father worked seven days a week until he checked himself into a hospital to die. my mother then went to work. my sister and i both had loans school. i worked all my way through college. had a job all the tim i've been hired and i've been fired. i came to new york city. i turned down an apartment for $140 a month because my budget was $120. the guy who wanted to sublet it put in the other $20. i lived there for 10 years. i've been very lucky and i give away most of my money. to say i don't live well is ridiculous. i haven't had a vacation in 10 years. not because i can't take one.
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i like what i'm doing. i really do want to change the world. i have two daughters that rlly are the lov of plife and -- my life. i want to leave them a bette world d cntry. tavis: our time is almost up. how did you arrive at the position on immigration? >> this country was built on immigrants. almost nobody that you and i know is anymore more three or four generations american. we are competing in a global world. if we don't get more immigrants to come here whether sher seasonal wkers in agriculture or doctors, lawyers, indian chiefs with great academic credentials, we need pple from all around the the world, entrepreneurs, students educating in our schools that we then throw out, we should make sure they can stay here. if we don't have the new flux of immigrants, nobody is going to create the jobs for the americans who are currently out of work.
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why do people believe the birther issue? why do people believe that immigrants are bad for the economy when america became a sewer power based on it. -- super power based on it. you have people that ship, the people that inspect. that sort of thing. if you have one engineer or scientist they typically create five jobs down the chain and so you're working from both ends. what we should continue the is let people who want to come here make the decision themselves. america should be in control of its own borders but at the same time we have 11. people here who are here. they broke the law. no argument about that. anybody who says they haven't, it is ridiculous. having said that, we were all complicit in it. in 1987 congress said did not fund any enforcement of it.
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it was the typical government way s of saying those who want tougher laws say i pass id it and oths said don't worry about it. it has no teeth. everybody is happy. went from 2 million to 11 million in. if you want to go to 20 million, i can tell you what to do. no comprehensive immigration reform. really keep growing. right now the undocumend group is getting slightly smaller because of the economy going down. people will come across one of our two long borders or they will come, which is what half of them do. tavis: just a minute to go. i've been very impressed over your tenure as the leader of this city, certainly as it parallels to president obama's national sfers. you have been friendly with him and youave been able to critique him when you think he needs to be critiqued. how do you manage that balance?
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>> you say what you need to say and you don't say it in a nasty way. his chief of staff bill bady is on old -- daly is an old friend. when people say what do you think about something he or our governor does, the president has to represent 330 million people. i have to represent 8 million people. i'mupposed to be fighting for the things that are important to new york. that's my job. the governor's job is to fight for a different group and the president is for aifferent group. what i find strange is whether you disagree with this president not, whether you voted for him or want to run against him, whatever it is, the most important thing is this president for the next two years is successful. we need a successful president. that's the future of our country. tavis: does he deserve second term? >>e'll have to make a case to
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the voters. tavis: do you think he deserves a second term? >> he has done as good a job as any new president in the first two years. lots of things he could and would have and should have. that's always going to be the case. he has done it differently than the last guy. differently than the next guy. he has to make a case do voters why he is the right person going forward. once the voters get the opportunity to listen and make a decision then we should get behind the president. so we should be behind this president even if you're a account to run against him -- candidate to run against him which i am not. one of the commentators says hopes he fails. that is sick. we need this president to be successful bause our futures are all tied to the success of america, which means america's government, which means in essence the president. >> i'm honored tt you would
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come sit for these questions. no better way to be welcomed to the city than have the mayor come by and say hello. i am honored to haveou here. that's our show for tonight. we'll be here al this week. thanks for wating. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi. i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for my conversation with the cbs evening news anchor katie couric. that's next time. we'll see you then. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us l live
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better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and removing obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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