Mayor Bloomberg focuses on gun violence, obesity during Paulson Institute event

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to the University of Chicago recently for a discussion that explored subjects ranging from gun violence to urban development and his efforts to curtail obesity trends.

Bloomberg sat down for the March 4 event with Henry M. Paulson Jr., a distinguished senior fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy and director of the Paulson Institute, who probed Bloomberg’s views on a number of issues facing New York City and the nation. At one point, asked to assess his life as mayor and his business career, Bloomberg recalled a favorite joke comparing the two.

“Politics is a dog-eat-dog world, and business is the opposite,” he said.

One issue that has deeply concerned Bloomberg recently is the national debate over gun violence and gun control. Bloomberg said he wants to change the debate by counteracting the influence of the National Rifle Association among elected officials. His political action committee recently contributed to the successful Democratic primary campaign of Illinois Congressional candidate Robin Kelly.

“I am convinced the only way we are going to bring down the murder rate is to fight the NRA to get fewer guns on the streets,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg attributed New York City’s low murder rate to its focus on getting guns out of high-crime neighborhoods, an $8.5 billion a year investment in its police department, community involvement, and the reduction of unnecessary incarcerations, which lowered the detention rate to a third of what it was a decade ago.

“If we send you to jail, all we are going to do is teach you how to be a worse criminal,” Bloomberg said, explaining that the city strives to lock up only offenders who pose a threat to the public.

On the subject of obesity, Bloomberg described New York City’s controversial ban on the sale of large, sugary drinks as an effort to better inform people about healthy choices, equating the move to seat belt laws and asbestos controls.

“The cost of obesity is going to send our health care system off a cliff,” he said, also adding, “It is our job to tell you what is in your interest.”

Bloomberg, a successful businessman who founded the global media company Bloomberg L.P., also touched on economic issues and government finances. He said the nation’s fiscal troubles and spending on entitlements could place a burden on today’s youth. But he also expressed confidence that leaders in Washington will resolve the current impasse.