Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire with no prior government experience, took over New York City four months after Sept. 11. So far, his CEO mayoralty, if not beloved, has been praised for its efficiency. At City Hall on the eve of the G.O.P. Convention, Bloomberg spoke with TIME's Amanda Ripley about New Yorkers, anarchists and his first convention.
YOU'RE WELCOMING TO AN ISLAND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO LOATHE ONE ANOTHER. WHAT'S THE PLAN TO MAKE THEM PLAY NICE?
They don't loathe each other. I'm sure we will have a small group of people who come from around the country to create problems. Whether they are against the Republican Party or just against everything, I don't know. We welcome them too, as long as they don't take away the rights of others. And if they try to, we'll enforce the law. Also, remember Boston kept the protesters [at July's Democratic Convention] away from the FleetCenter. And in some places, they had barbed wire. We're not going to have any barbed wire, and we plan to grant people the right to protest right next to [Madison Square] Garden.
YOU'LL BE GREETING DELEGATES OUTSIDE BROADWAY SHOWS. DID YOU CHOOSE WHICH ONES? I'm going to Aida, Bombay Dreams and Beauty and the Beast. I do what I'm told.
DEMOCRATS OUTNUMBER REPUBLICANS 5 TO 1 IN NEW YORK CITY. SHOULD DELEGATES BE NERVOUS? No. New York is open to everybody. One of the things you always hear when people come to the city, whether they're from overseas or other parts of the United States, they walk away shaking their heads, saying, 'I never knew New Yorkers were so nice. The city is so clean. I felt very safe there.' It's a very different city than it was 20 years ago.
HOW IS RUNNING NEW YORK DIFFERENT FROM RUNNING A LARGE MEDIA CORPORATION? I always joke, one's a dog-eat-dog world, and the other one's just the opposite. But I think there is much more scrutiny from the media, which makes innovation very difficult, because innovation--by definition--is, you don't know how it is going to come out.
DO NEW YORKERS STILL COMPLAIN TO YOU ABOUT THE SMOKING BAN? No, that's an issue long gone. When you parade by a bar, they wave the cigarette at you in a good-natured way. I think most people understand that smoking is not good for you. You can smoke, but you can't force other people to smoke.
WHAT DO PEOPLE TALK TO YOU ABOUT ON THE SUBWAY? Only one time in three years has somebody yelled at me on the subway. As I got off and the doors were closing, this guy yelled, "Fix the Knicks!"
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DIALED 311, THE QUESTION-AND-COMPLAINT HOTLINE YOU CREATED? A couple of weeks ago. Went banging over a pothole two days in a row on 79th Street.
LAST WEEK YOU WERE IN ATHENS, WHERE THE OLYMPICS HAVE GONE OVER BUDGET AND UNDERATTENDED. WHY BRING THE GAMES TO NEW YORK? It would be an enormous boon for New York City. We could raise the money here. It would all be done privately. New York is the media capital of the world. And there are a bunch of sport freaks here. The Olympic Village would be housing we desperately need, all funded privately. In terms of spirit, [it's] the chance to tell the world just how safe and open New York is. And that's one of the things you're going to see this week.