A Tale Of Two Cities

http://www.thechiefly.com/features/nyc-mayor-bill-de-blasio-tale-of-two-cities/

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has aggressively promised to bring progressive change to America’s most vibrant city. He views inequality as a poison slowly killing his fellow New Yorkers, and has tasked himself with ridding the city of this disease.

A laser focus on early education, combined with many traditionally liberal labor and urban development reforms constitute a large part of de Blasio’s elixir to fix this problem.

His relative success in his efforts has large-reaching implications for both the progressive and conservative movements outside of NYC as he is essentially “all in” on traditional liberalism (those that call him a socialist do not understand socialism, although that’s true of most people who call others socialists or Nazis).

Make no mistake, de Blasio is no centrist, he is a liberal with a capital L; but he is an old-school liberal, not a wide-eyed communist.

If de Blasio successfully enacts his agenda and reduces inequality in New York City, he will become a hero not only to progressives everywhere, but most importantly, to those his policies aim to support: the poor and disaffected who have had to live in the bottom half of New York’s “Two Cities.” Whatever your politics, you can’t help but root for someone who seems to be so passionate about helping the less fortunate.

NYPD Stops Stop And Frisk

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“We had two different forms of policing, that’s the reality, depending on the color of your skin.” – Bill de Blasio

Officially bringing an end to an unconstitutional policy that was disproportionately enforced against African Americans and Hispanics is Mayor de Blasio’s biggest accomplishment to date.

A judge ruled last year that the New York Police Department had discriminated against minorities with its stop and frisk program, and ordered major reforms to the policy. Michael Bloomberg appealed the decision, but de Blasio dropped that appeal on January 30th.

In an interview with Jon Stewart, de Blasio claimed that, in one year, seven hundred thousand stop and frisks took place, with ninety percent being innocent.

It was an incoherent policy that guaranteed a breach of trust between communities of color and the police. Getting rid of it was a no-brainer decision that de Blasio should be commended for making as soon as he arrived in office, putting it perfectly as to why stop and frisk cannot exist in this country:

“You can’t break the law to enforce the law.”

The New Deputy Mayor

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“I’m blessed to have had a very strong mandate from the people to make real progressive change.”

Anthony Shorris, a Senior VP, Vice Dean, and Chief of Staff of New York University’s Langone Medical Center will be de Blasio’s #2 in command. Shorris is also the Executive Director of the Port Authority and a seasoned government employee and one who shares de Blasio’s connections to the 1199.

Richard Buery, who is the current president of The Children’s Aid Society, was appointed as the new Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiates–a newly-created position.

Mayor de Blasio was elected by the largest margin ever for a non-incumbent, and he campaigned on education as the city’s best weapon to reduce inequality. These appointments reflect that commitment.

His signature proposal, a five year, $2.6 billion plan for free, universal pre-K and after school programs for middle schoolers are going to be job number one for Mr. Buery as soon as de Blasio finishes wrestling with Governor Andrew Cuomo over who will control the purse strings, the city or state. The new Mayor is planning to tax everyone in the city who makes over five hundred thousand dollars a year to fund this project. According to de Blasio, this will add about $970 a year to every half-millionaire’s tax bill.

The New Chair Of The New York City Housing Authority

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“We are going to take a new approach to this crisis that holds nothing back. From doing more to protect tenants in troubled buildings, to innovating new partnerships with the private sector, to forging a new relationship with our NYCHA communities, every decision we make will focus on maximizing the affordability of our neighborhoods.”

In a city like New York, where one of the biggest concerns is figuring how to stack a lot of people into a small space, this is a crucially important position-especially since New York City is in the midst of a housing crisis. Affordable housing is difficult to find for many reasons, with excessive government regulation being at the forefront of this problem.

Traditional zoning laws reduce the supply of buildings in the city, thus driving up the price of every unit, and because demand outpaces supply, the available ones get snatched up by those with money to spend while the city’s poorer individuals must find a more creative alternative in their search for housing (AKA New Jersey), or pay more than a home is worth. Either way, both options further distress an already perilous financial situation for many New Yorkers. 46% are at or beneath the poverty line according to the new Mayor.

Since demand for livable spaces will always be high so long as human beings inhabit this planet, it makes little sense to limit this industry, yet the real estate market is probably the site of America’s widest and most burdensome regulations, which wind up increasing costs on buyers and renters.

Shola Olatoye, a current trustee at Wesleyan University, has been tasked with implementing the Mayor’s agenda in this department which provides public housing for low and moderate income New Yorkers, an area that was central to de Blasio’s campaign.

While we know little of what the de Blasio team can do in this arena, we have an idea of what they want to do.

The Mayor proposed to build or preserve 200,000 units over the next decade (which is 35,000 more than Mayor Bloomberg put up in his entire term). How he plans to accomplish this task, is a piecemeal effort that includes using pension funds to spur construction, raising taxes on vacant land, and removing additional red tape that limits how fast developers can move on a project.

He has also proposed a requirement for developers to design units specifically for low income families in major projects, but this has been met with a lukewarm reception since it taps into many of the cultural and ethnic issues America struggles with today.

This map of the Bronx from the 2010 census helps demonstrate how we are physically separating ourselves by ethnicity in cities across the country. While Mayor de Blasio has paid this problem lip service in defense of his policies, there is no indication that he is ready to engage the city on this delicate, complex, and disturbing topic.

Snowpocalypse x3 

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“After inspecting the area and listening to concerns from residents earlier today, I determined more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side.”

The beginning and end of Bill de Blasio’s first month as Mayor were marred by three huge snowstorms, and the city’s response to one of its most affluent areas, the Upper East Side, was less than robust. Snow removal was sparse as cars slid all over the road in what seemed like a setup for a comedian’s dream: a progressive mayor takes city hall by storm, only to spend his days trolling the 1% (NBC just signed up for twelve episodes).

Those of us outside New York City will pay more attention to his larger and more ambitious policies, but what keeps you in office is doing the standard municipal work which ensures that your citizens can get through their day. It is a bit humorous to watch the richest New Yorkers dig their BMWs out of the snow in de Blasio’s first month, but if this is a harbinger of things to come on the day-to-day stuff that Mayors have to do, then de Blasio may not last more than one term.

Extended Sick Leave

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Businesses with five or more employees now have to provide up to five compensated days off to full-time workers if they or their family members fell ill. This brings New York in line with similar policies enacted in Portland, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

This bill is the first in a long line of employer reforms, which intend to help the poor. If you watched President Obama’s State of the Union, you pretty much heard the de Blasio platform when it comes to work in the United States.

State Of The City

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“Because the truth is, the state of our city, as we find it today, is a Tale of Two Cities – with an inequality gap that fundamentally threatens our future.”

This is de Blasio’s campaign thesis. His State of the City was basically an affirmation of many of his campaign promises.

Since any politician’s words should not be taken seriously until they are paired with measurable actions, we will present quotes from de Blasio’s first SOTC without comment in order to help contextualize his political positions and priorities (our sentiment mirrors Jon Stewart’s as he put it at the end of their interview: “Come back in 3 years, we’ll talk”).

♦ ♦ ♦

“Good jobs that pay decent wages are all too scarce.  Access to the best health care seems, to many, to be a privilege that cannot be earned.  To countless New Yorkers, affordable housing is an oxymoron. And a quality education – the most powerful tool we know for lifting one’s life chances – has become a promise broken too many times to tally. All the while, 46 percent of our city’s residents live at or near the poverty line. Our middle class isn’t just squeezed; it’s at risk of disappearing altogether.”

“New York will only work when it works as ONE city.  And here’s why: Despair does not dissipate.  Those who are discouraged – even hopeless – about their future…cannot contribute their labor or energy or values to their neighborhoods, or to the neighborhoods that sit just a short subway ride away. It’s as simple as this: the American dream does not work without hope.”

“Mayor LaGuardia said, quote: ‘A mayor who cannot look fifty or seventy-five years ahead is not worthy of being in City Hall.’”

“And we will work with the City Council to increase the number of living wage jobs offered by employers that the City subsidizes – reaching tens of thousands of additional New Yorkers. We want to ensure that New Yorkers aren’t relegated to the ranks of the poor when putting in a full week’s work.”

“Next week, we will ask Albany to give New York City the power to raise the minimum wage in all five boroughs.”

“Let me be clear. We want to work with the real estate industry to build.  We MUST build more to achieve our vision. But the people’s interests will be accounted for in every real estate deal made with the City.”

“Instead of watching hospitals shuttered and simply sold off to the highest bidder, we will continue the battles we’ve won over the last several months – requiring alternatives that put the health of our people ahead of profits.”

“To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say: New York City is your home too, and we will not force ANY of our residents to live their lives in the shadows.”

“And we’ll not only fight to shift resources from corporate subsidies to tuition assistance, we’ll work to connect higher education to the jobs that the 21st Century workforce requires.”

♦ ♦ ♦

“We will create an Entrepreneurship Fund for low-income New Yorkers and a Fashion Manufacturing Fund — which will leverage private capital to ensure small business growth and fashion manufacturing across all five boroughs.”

“First, we will advance a dedicated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math program at CUNY…to start preparing more graduates of our public high schools for jobs in the city’s tech industry.”

“Second, as our health sector continues to rapidly grow, we will prepare more of our unemployed, and our young people, for middle-skill, middle-class jobs…by scaling-up innovative programs like the Bronx’s Health Education and Research Occupations High School that connects New Yorkers to CUNY and to relevant work experience at Montefiore Hospital.”

“Third, for people without a college degree, we will reinvent our maze of overlapping and often-ineffective job training programs — and invest in industry-linked apprenticeship programs that directly connect New Yorkers to jobs in emerging industries such as green building innovation, information technology, and telecommunications.”

“Fourth, we will connect city high schools to colleges, apprenticeship programs, or industries that correspond to the skills our students must learn.  We will reverse the trend of importing engineers, nurses, and other skilled workers to fill New York City jobs — and start in-sourcing good jobs for those who live here now, and are desperate for work.”

Jacob Weindling
Pure bred Coloradan with a dash of Masshole (go UMass). Sports and politics junkie. If I've learned one thing in life to this point, it's that stupid loses more games than smart wins.
Jacob Weindling
Jacob Weindling

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