October 26, 2013
Bill de Blasio for Mayor
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
The rise of Bill de Blasio, New York City’s public advocate, has been remarkable. In a clamorous primary campaign against better known, more seasoned candidates, he won the Democratic nomination without a runoff, by appealing directly and doggedly to struggling New Yorkers who see a city of lofty wealth rising out of their reach. With the election only 10 days away, Mr. de Blasio is polling so far ahead of the Republican, Joseph Lhota, that commentators have already anointed him leader of a national rebirth of left-wing populism.
Hold on. We’re electing a mayor here, someone to keep streets plowed and safe, budgets balanced, schools working well and constituents of five boroughs satisfied. Someone to sustain and build on the 12-year legacy of Michael Bloomberg, while realizing his own vision for New York. It’s a huge job, never mind the revolution.
Luckily, Mr. de Blasio is up for it.
During the Democratic primary scramble, the largest and most rancorous in decades, we gave our endorsement to Christine Quinn, citing her record as the City Council speaker. But it was Mr. de Blasio who proved far better at connecting with voters — and at being a persuasive advocate for his ideas. The ideas are good ones: Mr. de Blasio is right on public safety, and on the need to rein in the Police Department’s unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk tactics and restore its frayed ties to the community. He is right about the crisis of affordable housing, and he has the most comprehensive plan to attack it. His goal of expanding access to preschool education is a noble priority for the city.
And he is giving a voice to the forgotten New Yorkers — the 46 percent living in or near poverty, the 50,000 living in homeless shelters, the millions living outside the zones of economic security and gentrified affluence. The city has had many successes in the Bloomberg years, but its rebirth is incomplete.
Public advocate is in many ways a negligible job, but Mr. de Blasio has used its bully pulpit well, to push for progress on affordable housing, health care and other issues, raising their profile (and, not accidentally, his own). His résumé — as regional housing official for President Bill Clinton, manager of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first Senate campaign, eight-year member of the City Council — has been called scant preparation to run an enterprise of 300,000 employees and a $70 billion budget. But Mr. Bloomberg also had limited government experience; he learned on the job, filled his administration with highly capable professionals, and became an effective mayor.
We’re confident Mr. de Blasio can do the same, as he will have to, and quickly. There will be budget holes to fill and deals to strike with dozens of testy municipal unions. He has made ambitious promises to begin creating 200,000 units of affordable housing and to extend citywide full-day prekindergarten and after-school programs for middle schoolers.
Mr. Lhota says this plan, which requires raising taxes on rich people, will be dead on arrival in Albany, and he is probably right. But Mr. de Blasio’s goal of giving poor children a better start on life is worth the fight. Mr. de Blasio’s plans for education reform — he is far more skeptical about charter schools than Mr. Lhota is — also deserve a hearing. Improving the schools for all children is a job that Mr. Bloomberg has left unfinished.
Mr. Lhota is an experienced, capable public servant who served the city well as a budget director and deputy mayor, and as head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It has been disheartening to see the usually levelheaded Mr. Lhota basing his campaign on fear, apparently having concluded that he won’t win on managerial competence. He released a terrifying ad warning that electing Mr. de Blasio would unleash the forces of ’70s-era crime and chaos, all but promising the return of crack dens, squeegee men, race riots and Son of Sam. After decades of steadily plunging crime, it’s a ludicrous claim. If crime rises — and it may well rise under any mayor — it will not be, as Mr. Lhota has implied, because Mayor de Blasio’s N.Y.P.D. was off giving group therapy to biker gangs.
On addressing climate change and building a resilient city, improving public health and creating a smarter transportation grid, there is much of the Bloomberg agenda that does not need reinventing. Mr. de Blasio surely recognizes this, and he has the political skills to advance the best ideas in ways that do not leave lots of people out of the conversation.
Mr. de Blasio seems to be a good listener, though our hearts sink when we see him listening too attentively to interest groups like anti-horse-carriage zealots and deep-pocketed taxi fleet owners. Mr. de Blasio, who surfed through the primaries on a wave of admiring press coverage, can seem rattled and resentful when he is attacked in debates. He should realize that jabs from Mr. Lhota are the tiniest foretaste of what’s awaiting him, from belligerent Council members, skeptical reporters, defiant municipal unions and aggrieved city power brokers.
Mr. Lhota has it backward when he accuses Mr. de Blasio of waging a divisive “class warfare” campaign. For all his reliance on his well-worn “tale of two cities” metaphor, Mr. de Blasio has already united New York. Voters across the boroughs support him overwhelmingly. He promises to be a mayor who listens instead of scolds, who calms fears instead of inciting them. If he combines his populist touch with attentive, courageous leadership, he will have earned the city’s support; he already has ours. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/opinion/sunday/bill-de-blasio-for-mayor.html?hp&_r=0
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