|Photo by Patrick J. Cashin|
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who had recently been in and out of the hospital and who, this last trip, was placed in ICU, is dead. He was 88.
I am happy to be among those who knew Koch. He was - if nothing else - straightforward. Always giving you a piece of his mind. Never fearing the political consequences of taking a position.
A former Democratic congressman, Koch never feared crossing party lines if it meant supporting an issue he felt was important to embrace.
My first contact with Koch came as reporter - not in New York - but in Detroit. The then-Detroit Police Chief William Hart made an outlandish comment at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting I was covering. Hart insisted that Detroit's murder rate was lower - on a per capita basis - than New York's. Saying something like, your chances of being murdered in New York are greater than being murdered in Detroit. Which was then (and arguably, sadly, again) considered the Murder Capital of the United States. I found the assertion to be incredible. So back to the station I went, and I phoned the office of the deputy commissioner of public information at the NYPD asking for a comment. The cop who answered assured me someone would be getting back to me within the hour.
Imagine my shock (and delight) when that someone turned out to be Mayor Koch. Who straightforwardly gave me - and my listeners at WWJ - the correct facts. Embarrassing Hart - who was later embarrassed even further when he was convicted of stealing more than $2.5 million from a police slush fund.
lLater, as a reporter in New York, I had opportunity on several occasions to interview then-former Mayor Koch. He was always warm and accommodating. And, as always - pulled no punches saying exactly what was on his mind.
When he was mayor, Koch used to walk the streets of New York asking folks to tell him how he was doing. I'd like to think he's up in Heaven now, asking the same question, and getting the same kind of positive reviews his surprised constituents typically gave him when he stopped them on the sidewalk. Read more about the life of Ed Koch by clicking here.