3 Things We’ve Learned About Bill de Blasio

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As Mayor Bill de Blasio completes his first month in office, here are three things that we’ve learned about him.

1.  He Runs Late.

He’s been quite tardy to many appearances, particularly press conferences.  It’s attracted attention, with reporters kvetching and tweeting each other as they sit idle awaiting the mayor, and also produced some mainstream press stories and mentions.  The reasons for his late arrival are rarely explained so it’s hard to assess whether there are legitimate reasons or whether he simply runs late.  (If it’s the latter – I feel your pain, friend.)  Is it more than a distraction and really a problem that voters and the public care about?  Not so far, but there is a risk for him.  If the narrative around his administration becomes one of delay or inability to execute, his personal tardiness will feed that narrative. 

2.  He Moves Fast.

At least on his big issues, if not his daily schedule.  Despite his personal tardiness de Blasio has moved expeditiously on his biggest campaign issues of universal pre-K/afterschool programs and stop & frisk.  On pre-K, he clearly recognizes the time pressures on his initiative.  To have a significant program for tens of thousands of students in place for September 2014 requires rapid planning and execution, and de Blasio’s related signature income tax surcharge requires quick state legislative action as the state’s April 1st budget deadline looms.  On the program planning and execution, de Blasio quickly formed a separate organization, UPKNYC, to develop a detailed plan demonstrating the ability to put students in seats by September.  Using UPKNYC, he has also mounted a highly visible campaign enlisting business leaderslabor leaders, educators and celebrities as supporters of his program and income tax surcharge.

He’s moved quickly on other issues as well.  As mayor-elect de Blasio jumped into the race for city council speaker, lobbying council members and pushing his preferred choice of Melissa Mark-Viverito to an anticipated victory well before the scheduled city council vote.  Barely two weeks in office, he pushed for a significant expansion of the City’s recently enacted paid sick leave law.

3.  He Meant What He Said.

“Pivot to the center”, a phrase often used in describing newly-elected or re-elected public officials, does not appear to apply to Mayor de Blasio.  He’s plunged ahead on the ideas that he espoused while campaigning, seemingly energized by the opportunity to implement them rather than seeking ways to ease away from them.  Like his ideas or not, there are few substantive surprises so far.  His campaign theme of income inequality, and a City government role in reducing it, effectively frames his actions to date and can reasonably be assumed to frame the future.

On pre-K, Governor Cuomo is attempting to co-opt the mayor’s plans with a less extensive, less expensive and income tax surcharge-free plan.  The governor’s stated plan gives the mayor a classic opportunity to “declare victory and go home” with a quick, but partial success.  The mayor has politely refused and continues seeking to implement his plan with major public campaign and legislative efforts underway.  On the expansion of paid sick leave, the city council bill passed late last year over Mayor Bloomberg’s veto has not even taken effect and Mayor de Blasio could reasonably wait to see its effects before expanding it.  That’s not his preference, however, as he quickly agreed with the city council to a marked expansion.  On stop & frisk, the mayor has agreed with the plaintiffs in the ongoing federal lawsuit to the installation of a monitor for the NYPD and, assuming that an expected plan is approved by the federal district court, to drop the City’s ongoing appeal of the district court’s ruling against the city.

Seemingly unfazed by the few bumps he’s hit so far, including snow removal dissatisfaction and a “secret” speech, de Blasio can count significant progress toward several of his campaign issues.  Whether he achieves each of those goals, and whether they are best for our city, remains unanswered.  He’s clear on where he’s headed, however, and notwithstanding his somewhat mild and even-keeled persona he appears prepared to act rapidly on the issues that he cares about.

Finally, if you need a soothing de Blasio moment, here’s his reading of Where the Wild Things Are.  “Let the wild rumpus start …”

Please visit us regularly at NYTrue.com and follow me on Twitter (@jjk607).  For insight into New York’s biggest issues, what counts is not just being true, but being New York True.

John Kenny

Other Issues:
Even with just one month in office the mayor has been dealing with a wide range of issues, far beyond what we’ve discussed here.  Visit NYTrue.com for our extensive archive of Mayor de Blasio’s press conferences and appearances.  Additional topics include his efforts at pedestrian safetypublic health appointees and issues, Central Park’s carriage horses, the Rockaway ferry and boardwalk, the brutal death of four year old Myls Dobson and related city child welfare agency actions, middle school after school programs and many more.