The LuLac Edition #2346, February 1st, 2013
When I was growing up my dad always told me that as an Easterner, even in the Junction section of Pittston, Pennsylvania, one had an obligation to be aware of what was happening in New York City. A few things might have played into that, one being a few of our relatives who made their homes there. Another was that New York was the commercial, arts and sports center of the world. Even though he loved the St. Louis Cardinals, he knew New York sports and politics. Our Bibles were the New York Daily News which we had delivered every Sunday and the Sunday New York Times which we got second hand from someone he knew. We knew the action and personalities of the New York Mayors better than we did the local guys. I think that was because the New Yorkers were more entertaining. I tell you all of this to set up this edition dedicated to Ed Koch who died this morning at the age of 88 from heart failure in New York.
In the fateful Son of Sam summer of 1977, the race for Mayor was a big thing. Abraham Beame was struggling after one term. New York City was a mess, financially and otherwise. Ed Koch was a Congressman who was both entertaining and cantankerous. He was running against Governor Hugh Carey’s Lt. Governor, Mario Cuomo for Mayor. New York primaries always came in September coinciding with the pennant races. I mean what can be better than that!. Koch won that primary in a field that included Cuomo, the incumbent Beame and Congresswoman Bella Abzug. In the General Election he defeated State Senator Roy Goodman and Cuomo who ran on the New York Liberal party ticket. He was a straight talker who asked New Yorkers, “How Am I Doing?” He won re-election in 1981 by 75% of the vote and again by a large margin in 1985. Koch oversaw the financial rebuilding of New York, (he paid off the loans to the Federal Government before they were due) built coalitions between government and Wall Street attracting business to New York as well as the “I Love New York” campaign which featured him in some of the ads. He made those two things work by reforming the criminal justice system in the city. He took the formerly politically connected appointments of Criminal Court Judges in the city (kind of like our Magistrates) and made their selection soley on merit.
I had two Koch adventures in my life. When I first started dating Mrs. LuLac in 1980, we visited New York often. One time on a whim we decided to walk from Times Square to Gracie Mansion to see if he (Koch) was hanging around. She was young, I was stupid and man I have to tell you, that was a long, long, long walk. I think we took a cab back.
A year later I had better luck at Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks were playing the Texas Rangers and the big attraction that day was the return to Yankee Stadium of Don Zimmer who was the Rangers new Skipper. I saw the Mayor there with Governor Hugh Carey and decided to make my way to get a ball signed. Security wasn’t that tight and I was lucky because when I got to the section, I told a policeman I wanted a ball signed. I had my media credentials on and the cop said he’d check with one of the people traveling with Koch. The guy waved me into the front row aisle and I asked Koch to sign the ball. He smiled and took the ball, signed it and silently gave it back to me. I shook his hand, he smiled and said “Enjoy the game son”. As I was walking away, I heard him to say to the aide who shepherded me through, “See that, he didn’t ask Hugh did he?” (I have a photo from the game which I will get scanned for future editions and still have that ball somewhere in the LuLac archives).
I bought his books, followed him and thought he was the prototype for the politician Chris Christie has become. Straight talk, mind your own business about a personal life and make tough decisions.
The Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan summed up Ed Koch this way in a fitting tribute; "As a young priest living in Saint Louis and Washington, D.C. during the 1980s, New York meant two things to me: John Cardinal O’Connor and Mayor Ed Koch. These two men showed how, despite some deep philosophical disagreements, they could not only work together for the good of the City of New York, but could become close personal friends. Indeed, Mayor Koch was a good friend to three of my predecessors, Cardinal Cooke, Cardinal O’Connor, and Cardinal Egan, and, I am happy to have been able to consider him a friend of mine as well. It is, perhaps, some measure of the respect that Ed Koch – a proud, Jewish man, as he described himself to me – continued to hold among Catholics that a seat was always held for him at Midnight Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and, at the annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner, the largest ovation invariably went not to the evening’s guest speaker, not to the Archbishop of New York, but to Mayor Koch.”
Ed Koch loved New York and by God it loved him back. That’s a legacy.