Weed's okay, but Styrofoam's 'terrible': NY mayor
Billionaire New York mayor Michael Bloomberg promised eye-catching changes for his last days in office, including reduced penalties for marijuana possession and a ban on Styrofoam cups.
Cheerleaders danced and the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys hit "Empire State of Mind" blasted out as the three-term mayor came to the podium to give his final annual State of the City speech.
The razzmatazz honoured Bloomberg on his birthday but also the start of the countdown to his departure from City Hall, where he took office at the start of 2002 and will step down next January.
Bloomberg, who became one of America's richest people by creating the financial news and data company named after himself, used the speech to trumpet his achievements.
He said every part of the Big Apple was "better off today than ever before."
But the mayor, who has won national fame for his sometimes controversial crusades against smoking, unhealthy diets and guns, stressed: "We have unfinished business and only 320 days to complete it.
"As the countdown clock in City Hall says: we're going to Make Every Day Count."
Among many much larger scale initiatives, Bloomberg's strong support for reducing marijuana possession from a criminal misdemeanour to a less serious violation category stood out.
"Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We're changing that," he said.
"Effective next month, anyone presenting an ID and clearing a warrant check will be released directly."
However, the environmentally conscious mayor warned that the white polystyrene foam packaging used in huge quantities by New York food cart vendors and other outlets was in his sights.
"One product that is virtually impossible to recycle and never bio-degrades is Styrofoam. But it's not just terrible for the environment. It's terrible for taxpayers." he said.
"Styrofoam increases the cost of recycling by as much as $20 per ton, because it has to be removed. We will work to adopt a law banning Styrofoam food packaging from our stores and restaurants."