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PolitiFact Virginia: Bloomberg at the Virginia Democratic Gala

By Warren Fiske and Miriam Valverde

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been making a personal effort to win Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary on May 3.

The billionaire businessman has given more than $10 million to Virginia Democratic candidates since 2013 - either personally or through his organizations. And he’s visited the state six times since announcing his candidacy in November.

Bloomberg keynoted the state Democratic Party’s annual gala dinner on Feb. 15. He gave a standard stump speech, making a number of claims about mayoral record from 2002 through 2013. PolitiFact National has looked into many of those statements. Here’s a synopsis:

 

"In New York, I cut the number of uninsured by 40%"

The percentage is generally correct. New York State expanded Medicaid in October 2001, giving more access to health plans for low-income people.

The Bloomberg administration helped people enroll in those plans, said Sherry Glied, a health economist who was assistant secretary for planning and evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2013, the American Community Survey, produced by the Census Bureau, reported an estimated 1.105 million New York City residents under 65 were without health insurance, a reduction of 695,000, or 38.6%, between 2001 and 2013 (the year before Bloomberg took office and his last year as mayor).

 

"I cut New York City's carbon footprint by 13%."

PolitiFact rated a similar claim Mostly True.

A New York City report shows the city reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 14.8% in 2015 compared with 2005 levels. The city began measuring its carbon footprint under Bloomberg, with the earliest data from 2005.

In Bloomberg’s last year as mayor, 2013, there was a 12.8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 2005 levels

An expert told PolitiFact that some observers could take issue with Bloomberg’s claim, because "carbon footprint" is more often associated with a broader definition than the one used by New York City, which focuses on energy, transportation and waste.

The broader definition includes the full life cycle of emissions, such as methane emissions from cattle raised to produce beef eaten in the city. But these emissions are difficult to account for accurately, much less control.

 

"In New York City, we cut murders by 50%."

Data supports his claim, though the decline in murders started a decade before he took office. It continued going down after he left.

There were 649 murders in 2001, the year before Bloomberg took office, and 335 in 2013, his final year in office — by that metric, that’s a reduction of roughly half.

"Was the slope any steeper during Bloomberg than in the preceding decade? Not at all," Jeffrey Fagan, a professor of law and a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, told PolitiFact.

 

Speaking about public schools, says "I raised graduation rates by more than 40%."

This checks out with data from the state Department of Education, as reported by the city. For the class that started high school in September 2001 and left by June 2005, 46.5% graduated. By August of 2013, Bloomberg’s final year in office, 66% of students graduated within four years. That’s a 42% increase.

 

Says in New York, he "raised life expectancy by three whole years."

Life expectancy did go up, but it’s methodologically difficult to figure out why people’s outcomes improved.

Bloomberg as a mayor gained national attention for efforts to restrict tobacco and soda. But it’s not clear that his work on insurance or public health were the driving factors for an increase in life expectancy.

There was a particularly large influx of people moving to New York City during that time, Glied said, and many of them were likelier healthier to begin with.

"It’s hard to parse this," Glied said. "This is the happy moment where everything goes in the right direction, but this is not a randomized experiment. There was no control New York City."
 

Miriam Valverde is a fact-checker for PolitiFact National.

Warren Fiske is PolitiFact Virginia’s editor.