New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani came to the capital this week, but unlike Buffalo's mayor, he didn't approach Congress with a tin cup in hand.
In a speech at the National Press Club on Thursday, Giuliani delivered a message diametrically opposed to Mayor Masiello's. While Masiello asked the federal government for financial help, Giuliani came begging for freedom from unfunded federal mandates and high taxes.
"I am here today with a message to Washington from America's cities," said Giuliani, the first Republican mayor of the nation's largest city in 20 years. "Set us free -- free to solve our own problems, free to spend our own money in our own way."
Giuliani had hardly a discouraging word for the new Republican Congress, which is considering huge budget cuts on such big-city benefits as community development block grants and home heating assistance.
"The political revolution in Washington has caused concern over the prospect of reduced federal aid for cities," he acknowledged. "In fact, this correction of course can free the nation's cities from unnecessary federal direction, giving them the autonomy to innovate, to create programs precisely tailored to their needs."
Asked about Giuliani's comments, Masiello, a Democrat, said: "New York City is unique. Mayor Giuliani is not speaking for us. He's speaking for the giant on the Hudson."
Masiello said he, like Giuliani, agrees with the congressional effort to relieve state and local governments of unfunded mandates. "But what I'm saying, beyond that, is: Why hurt children? Why hurt poor people?"
In keeping with that philosophy, Masiello has spoken out against proposed federal changes in the school lunch program and cuts in housing aid and summer youth jobs.
In addition, he came to Washington earlier this year with a list of priorities including federal funding for a series of Buffalo projects, including commercial and residential development near the intersection of Main and Lasalle streets and re-engineering Thruway access on the East Side and at Porter Avenue.
Giuliani's agenda is entirely different. He said his priority is cutting back on federal rules that impose costs on localities. The unfunded mandates bill that was recently signed into law is just a start, he said. That bill merely limits the federal government's ability to impose new federal mandates. Giuliani said existing mandates must be loosened.
In addition, he said New York City would benefit from lower federal income tax rates. He said the higher rate for high-income wage earners is one reason that New York -- a high-wage state -- pays about $14 billion more to Washington each year than it gets back.
"America's cities should not come begging to Washington for a return on the investment they make in the rest of the country," he said. "The new urban agenda aims to expose the fallacy that cities are drains on the national treasury. Precisely the opposite is true."
However, Masiello said lower taxes on the wealthy would not benefit Buffalo, where the average income is $18,600.