The Nation: Cool Man for a Hot Seat

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Intentionally or not, Koch counters both insinuations by frequent appearances in the company of "a very special friend," Bess Myerson. She kisses him in camera range. He holds her hand while entering the synagogue. When asked about possible wedding plans, Koch parries the question.

Myerson is the most glamorous element in Koch's otherwise low-key social life. He lives in a one-bedroom Greenwich Village apartment, where he occasionally cooks steaks for friends and serves low-priced French table wine from a living-room rack. In the kitchen he stocks old-fashioned seltzer siphons. He now rarely has time to listen to the Baez, Denver and Garfunkel tapes stacked by the stereo. He no longer owns an auto and frequently uses the subway. (Koch withdrew from law practice when he entered Congress, and lives on his salary of $57,500. His net worth is $90,000.)

If Koch can convert his private frugality into public policy, as he promises to do, the city will be well served. The next mayor's biggest challenge will be to revive the city's sick economy in order to reduce unemployment and strengthen the tax base. Despite a reduction in personnel by 65,000 over 33 months, and some administrative reforms, the city's $14 billion budget is still in the red—with the prospect of worse to come next year, when the debt might amount to between $300 million and $500 million. Moreover, New York must lower taxes on industry that now discourage private investment—a phased program just getting under way. That effort should eventually pay dividends, but in the short run it cuts revenues. Although there is still fat in such areas as health care, the city cannot afford to reduce any further services like fire and police protection; to do so would encourage more middle-class citizens to leave and discourage the desired influx of private capital. To add to Koch's troubles, this spring the city must also begin renegotiating the federal revolving loan program that has kept the city afloat for two years.

Koch has already begun to construct his "shadow government" for the transition, and is likely to attract top talent.

Koch will need all the help he can get. Nearly all of the municipal union leaders vehemently opposed Koch because of his determination to reduce the work force further and his intention to pare fringe benefits. Contracts covering most of the employees expire between March 30 and June 30, and the pugnacious transit workers are first in line. Yet last week, even before the vote tally was in, local Teamster Chief Barry Feinstein was at Koch's private headquarters to pay his respects. "I anticipate a very tough year," said the man whose followers snarled the city in 1971 by locking drawbridges in open positions. "But I'm a pragmatic trade unionist and I will bargain." Another caller come to toast the victor was Albert Shanker, head of the muscular teachers' union and a man who had opposed Koch during the election. The powerbrokers were already getting their lines out to the mayor-to-be.

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