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Dinkins Vows to Fight Crime, Help Children : Politics: He pledges to be the mayor of all the people of New York. His inaugural speech tempers his vision of the future with the fiscal reality of a huge deficit.

January 02, 1990|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dinkins, a former Manhattan borough president, takes office facing a host of challenges. He was actually sworn in just past midnight at the Bronx home of Judge Fritz Alexander, a former law partner.

The major problems--the crime, crack and AIDS epidemics, the budget deficit, homelessness, a badly strained municipal hospital system, upcoming union negotiations, inadequate schools and housing, roads and bridges in need of repair, child abuse and disintegrating family life--are well known. Others are more subtle.

For example, Lee P. Brown, the former Houston police commissioner whom Dinkins picked to head New York's Police Department, will find major difficulties in addition to a rising crime rate.

Law enforcement experts say that the department faces a lack of skilled top commanders, a legacy of the fiscal crisis in the 1970s, when many promising policemen who might have reached top ranks took retirement. Because of the high cost of living and overtime restrictions, many policemen are forced to hold second jobs and are unable to devote full attention to fighting crime.

Dinkins' appointments so far have included new faces, members of his staff as Manhattan borough president and some familiar figures in the Koch Administration.

First Deputy Mayor Norman J. Steisel, a former sanitation commissioner under Koch, is well respected and was a strong contender for the top assistant's post had Koch been reelected.

Bill Lynch, deputy mayor for administration, a Dinkins confidant who served as his campaign manager, is regarded as a perceptive and skilled organizer. Mark Green, commissioner of consumer affairs, is an energetic political activist with long ties to Ralph Nader. Corporation Counsel Victor A. Kovner, the city's top lawyer, is a longtime Dinkins political supporter.

Municipal officials with long experience at City Hall say that the administrative environment Dinkins creates for his appointees will be crucial as his mayoralty unfolds.

His Administration brings for many New Yorkers the hope of a kinder city with better race relations. Dinkins has a deliberately calmer style than his predecessor, stressing courtliness and manners. Supporters are fond of saying his style encourages consensus; detractors argue it can result at times in snail's pace government, with decisions delayed unnecessarily.

Many politicians believe the Dinkins Administration will resemble in style the administration of former Mayor Robert F. Wagner, when committees proliferated and decisions often were postponed. That style served Wagner, who attended the inauguration with former Mayors John V. Lindsay and Abraham D. Beame, well in a city with fewer problems.

Three decades later, when crises are chronic, the success of a deliberative style, when other top elected municipal officials have their own ambitions and agendas, remains uncertain.

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