Author Topic: NYC's de Blasio Set to Unveil Most Sweeping Liberal Agenda in a Generation  (Read 240 times)

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NYC's de Blasio Set to Unveil Most Sweeping Liberal Agenda in a Generation
Sunday, January 12, 2014 02:42 PM


 New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, propelled by a landslide election and the hopes of a party out of power for a generation, will be quickly unveiling an ambitious liberal legislative program that could fundamentally reshape the role of government in the nation's largest city.

De Blasio, a Democrat whose efforts will be closely watched and potentially imitated across the nation, is wasting no time. He has begun pushing for sweeping changes on several fronts, from the care of the homeless to police conduct, all while trying to leverage his political capital into a proposal that would be unthinkable for most politicians: to raise taxes.

"He's trying to send a strong signal that he is going to be ambitious in his legislative goals," said Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University. "It's a bold, risky strategy. He's not at all trying to move in small steps."

The centerpiece of his first year in office is to fund universal prekindergarten and expanded after-school programs for middle school students by raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers. His proposal would increase the income tax rate from 3.9 to 4.4 percent on residents who earn more than $500,000 annually.

But the mayor of New York can't raise taxes unilaterally and needs the support of the state Legislature and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. So de Blasio, both as mayor-elect and then after taking office, has devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to pushing the plan.

He and his staff have wooed lawmakers both in New York and in Albany. He has applied pressure through the media and trotted out a grassroots lobbying effort and powerful labor unions that support the idea. Cuomo has embraced the concept of universal pre-K, touting it again in his State of the State speech last week, but appears leery of raising any taxes.

And the tax hike has become key for de Blasio, who has repeatedly said he wants a dedicated revenue stream — not a one-time budget maneuver — to pay for the plan. As the hike on the rich plays well in liberal circles, de Blasio has refused to even consider alternative means of funding the pre-K plan.

De Blasio ran a very liberal campaign to survive the left-leaning Democratic mayoral primary and didn't track to the center in the general election, refusing to budge from his plan to battle the city's income inequality problem, which he dubbed "The tale of two cities." He captured 73 percent of the vote on Election Day, posting the largest margin of victory by a non-incumbent while becoming the first Democrat to be elected mayor since 1989.

"Now I know there are those who think that what I said during the campaign was just rhetoric, just 'political talk' in the interest of getting elected," he said during his inauguration speech. "So let me be clear: When I said we would take dead aim at the 'tale of two cities,' I meant it. And we will do it."

To help pass his sweeping agenda, he helped install a partner at the controls of city government who shares much of his liberal ideology. De Blasio took the unusual step of forcefully interjecting himself into the City Council speaker race, lobbying councilmembers to defy the wishes of their party bosses to install Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker.

After weeks of wheeling and dealing, she was voted in unanimously Wednesday.

De Blasio's administration, while still not entirely filled out, believes it has the political capital to pursue multiple items on the agenda even as the future of the pre-K plan remains uncertain.

Many of his initiatives have long been pushed by liberals across the city and are a clean break from the policies set out by his predecessor Michael Bloomberg.

In the first days of his administration, de Blasio loosened the restrictions allowing access to homeless shelters, reversing a Bloomberg decision that would not let families stay in a city-run facility if they had relatives nearby who could theoretically provide them a place to stay. The number of homeless dramatically increased during Bloomberg's time in office, and de Blasio, who says he was moved by a recent series in The New York Times about the plight of one 11-year-old girl, has pledged further changes.

The new mayor also campaigned on a promise to mend frayed relations between the police and some minority neighborhoods that he believes was caused by an overreliance on the police tactic known as stop and frisk. Critics say the police tactic to stop anyone they deem suspicious unfairly targets blacks and Hispanics.

Although de Blasio hired a proponent of stop and frisk, William Bratton, to be his police commissioner, both men have pledged to better explain the use of the tactic. De Blasio has also vowed to drop the Bloomberg administration's objections to a pair of watchdogs — both an independent general and a federal monitor — who have been tasked with overseeing the NYPD. That could happen as early as next week.

In the first months of his term, de Blasio also aims to save a pair of Brooklyn hospitals on the brink of closing, perhaps by brokering a deal that would transform them into smaller urgent-care units.

And by year's end, de Blasio — with help from the City Council — hopes to push liberal favorites like expanding paid sick days and living wage legislation and begin creating 200,000 new units of affordable housing.

All of his moves will be eyed by Democrats in power in other cities, and those eyeing the White House, as the party appears to shift to the left before the 2016 presidential election.

"Even if all of his moves aren't emulated, other (Democratic) politicians will be watching to try and avoid potential pitfalls," Panagopoulos said. "But what they may find is that the liberal environment to support those changes is unique to New York City."

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Here we go. Investigating "knockout" attacks gives way to more bureaucracy at DeBlasio's new NYPD?
Changes under way at NYPD under Bratton
By Page Six Team/New York Post
January 27, 2014 | 3:12am

Changes are afoot at the NYPD under new Commissioner Bill Bratton.

We’re told the Hate Crimes Unit, investigating the recent spate of “knockout” attacks, was yesterday moved out of its 11th-floor office at One Police Plaza and relocated to Avenue C.

Sources say it could be to make room for new deputy commissioners, but also because Deputy Chief Michael Osgood, the city’s top official investigating sex and hate crimes, oversees both the Hate Crimes Task Force and the Special Victims Division, which is already housed on Avenue C.

NYPD spokesman Capt. Stephen Davis said, “The Hate Crimes Task Force is being relocated temporarily . . . it is not being disbanded or reduced. This is being done as part of a multi-unit resource reallocation within the Department.”

But wait, there's more. DeBlasio decrees that NYPD's job is to handle traffic, not fight crime.
Police commanders shifting focus from crime to traffic safety
By Jamie Schram and Larry Celona/NY Post
January 27, 2014 | 4:40am

Mayor de Blasio’s push for “zero” traffic fatalities in the Big Apple has NYPD commanders facing “a nightmare” as they shift their focus on shootings and robberies to include reckless driving, sources told The Post.

Commanders are worried that their weekly ­TrafficStat meetings, at which they are grilled over incident numbers in their precincts, are going to turn into ordeals.

“Traffic fatalities have replaced homicides, or is running neck and neck, as the top priority,” the source said.

“The word is that [TrafficStat] is going to be much more intense — it’s going to be like a nightmare.”

The commanders have long gotten stressed out over the weekly CompStat meetings, where they are questioned about the numbers of major felony crimes in their precincts, including instances of murder, assault and robbery — but with homicides at a historic low, the mayor is pushing Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to stress more aggressive policing of traffic violations.

De Blasio campaigned on a “Vision Zero” pledge to try to eliminate all traffic deaths, and he ordered immediate measures after 11 people were killed, seven of them pedestrians, on city streets in the first two weeks of the year.

Last year, there were 286 traffic fatalities citywide, a number that includes drivers, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians. That’s up 3.2 percent from 2012, when there were 277 traffic-related deaths.

Conversely, murders have continued to decline, with 334 in 2013, compared with 419 in 2012, according to data released by the NYPD.

Some senior cops say demanding a crackdown on something like jaywalking is out of synch with the public, since almost all New Yorkers do it occasionally.

“It’s retarded,” one said. “People are going to jaywalk, and when they get stopped, they’re going to get combative.

“This is going to turn out badly,” he added. “It’s going to be like [former Commissioner] Ray Kelly’s stop-and-frisk.”

Bratton hinted at a change in priorities at the most recent CompStat meeting Thursday, when he said he had been misquoted in news stories about an 84-year-old man who was bloodied when he was arrested for jaywalking on the Upper West Side.

Bratton made clear he didn’t come down on the local precinct commander for the incident. Instead, he said, he commended him for taking the initiative and not waiting for orders following the third pedestrian death this month on West 96th Street.

Another source said cops are not being told to chase speeding drivers instead of investigating more violent crimes, such as robberies and shootings, but “there is definitely an emphasis” on cracking down on moving violations and DWIs.

Since being named commissioner, Bratton has given upbeat speeches and hinted at changes to come.

Last Thursday, the top cop’s comments at the weekly CompStat meeting were live-tweeted from the official NYPD Twitter account. Then, after he left, his top aides grilled some of the eight south Queens precinct commanders who were in the meeting.

A senior supervisor said it was too early to tell if CompStat meetings will be easier on commanders than under Kelly. But he said, “They never call you down there to tell you’re doing a good job.”
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