Grading de Blasio’s pivotal year
New York Post
1st January 2017
Happy New Year to Bill de Blasio, who today begins his fourth year as mayor of New York City — and the year he’ll run for a second term. How’s he doing? Much better than his poll numbers would indicate, actually. He can’t crack 50 percent in most of the popularity surveys, even as crime officially remains at levels and the municipal economy percolates like a coffee pot — two key benchmarks in any assessment.
So why the low polls? Well, vagrancy is way up, along with aggressive panhandling and related intrusions into public spaces. Plus, streets seem dirtier, graffiti is out of control, traffic is a nightmare and the subways are crowded beyond belief. But all of that is cyclical, and some of it isn’t even a mayor’s responsibility (even if he does get blamed for it).
So it doesn’t fully explain de Blasio’s enduring unpopularity. To better understand Hizzoner’s likability deficit, recall that the mayor and his administration have been the subject of one state or federal investigation or another from his earliest months in office. New Yorkers are forgiving souls and they harbor few illusions about the personal integrity of their elected officials — but numerous separate but simultaneous probes is enough to try any voter’s patience.
Also unhelpful is de Blasio’s demeanor: He’s curtly dismissive of criticism, sometimes personally so; his arrogance often makes even Mike Bloomberg seem humble, and his hypocrisy at times can be startling. (Who else would lecture building owners on emissions while riding police helicopters to routine events?) Meanwhile, de Blasio’s insistence on flogging his own brand outside the city — attempting to establish himself as a leader in progressive politics and, most recently, offering himself as a national Trump touchstone — hasn’t burnished his popularity among New Yorkers. There’s more: De Blasio’s endless, juvenile brawl with Gov.
Cuomo continues to diminish both men. Again, de Blasio deserves credit for keeping crime under control. He wisely hired former Police Commissioner William Bratton at the outset, which worked out well, and while it’s too soon to assess Bratton’s successor, James O’Neill, clearly the mayor understands the need for safe streets.
Not so, unfortunately, a properly functioning system. The mayor placed himself in thrall to the United Federation of Teachers almost immediately upon taking office (a $350, 000 UFT payment to a key de Blasio apparently remains under federal investigation) and the results show. standards have been gutted, and scores have been fairly flat over the years — and especially if you correct for the watering down of testing standards.
The administration’s hostility to charter schools is manifest, never mind that fully 10 percent of city students — some 106, 000 — attend charters, with another 44, 000 on waiting lists. Meanwhile, homelessness is on a rapid rise, making a mockery of de Blasio’s early insistence it wasn’t a problem and his more recent claims it’s declining. Blame the surge in no small measure on City Hall’s insistence on lowering participation requirements established by earlier administrations.
Some 61, 000 individuals were in the program as of Dec. 1, a record, with many being jammed into astonishingly expensive commercial hotels. To all this, add the recent scandals in the Administration for Children’s Services; City Hall’s inability to deliver much beyond words when it comes to affordable housing; the abject failure of de Blasio’s promise to reduce “income inequality”; and those enduring low poll numbers — and it would seem that the mayor would be vulnerable at the polls this fall.
Not so. At least not yet. Incumbents in New York traditionally are all but certain to win second terms — David Dinkins didn’t, but Bloomberg managed to massage the city’s laws and take a third — so the fact that challenges to de Blasio are even being discussed is a fair measure of his weakness.
But so far, the city’s unions are lining up behind him, his is proceeding apace and only marginal players have announced candidacies. That could change in a flash if either US Attorney Preet Bharara or Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. — or both — were to indict de Blasio or senior members of his administration — or both.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer has indicated that he’ll run in such a case. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Brooklyn Rep.
Hakeem Jeffries have been hovering on the periphery for months and could join in. And there are others. Bill de Blasio’s fourth year in office, in other words, could turn out to be anything but happy.
Time, and New York’s corruption cops, will tell..
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