NEW YORK (PIX11) – He calls for New Yorkers to drive responsibly, then his detail runs stop signs and breaks the speed limit. He demands fair treatment for all, but calls NYPD brass to ensure that a minister friend doesn’t have to spend a night behind bars. Is Mayor Bill de Blasio, who won his election campaign with a theme of a tale of two cities, giving us two versions of himself? Expert opinion answers that question mostly in the negative. Voters’ opinions vary.
In the past two days, Mayor de Blasio has captured headlines for the so-called Speedgate scandal, even though, at roughly the same time, he achieved a settlement on the status of Long Island College Hospital, or LICH — a significant victory for his administration, and unveiled plans to relocate some 400 homeless families from two of the city’s most notorious shelters to better, temporary housing, another positive for the new administration.
The fact that de Blasio has let his political shortcomings eclipse his achievements begs the question, what, if anything, is the difference between the Bill de Blasio in the headlines and the de Blasio who won the mayoral election?
“He’s saying things nobody else had said before, that need to be said,” Brooklyn voter Gail Barracano told PIX11 News. She described herself as a big supporter of the new mayor, and said that the LICH settlement alone make her an even bigger booster. She said that de Blasio’s message was the greatest part of his appeal, despite any problems that have arisen for him.
Chiron Regular, also a Brooklyn voter, agreed. “He’s on top of all the issues,” she said. “As far as the job he’s doing, we can only give him a little time. Every issue he’s presented, he’ll make an effort to resolve it.”
A man in his 30s, who chose not to give his name, was not so convinced, when approached by PIX11. ” I hear a lot of complaints,” he said. “I haven’t seen much action myself.” He said that he wanted to see the mayor deliver on his pledge of fair contracts for city employees. “I’d like to see that happen,” the man said, somewhat skeptically.
Among other victories for de Blasio in the seven weeks since he took office was the dropping of the city’s legal challenge to court-ordered stop-and-frisk reforms, a position that de Blasio had campaigned on, and he opened up Gracie Mansion to a public meet and greet, bringing in massive crowds of the general public for the first time in more than 12 years.
By contrast, however, the mayor has been criticized for being unusually slow in making major appointments to administration positions. Also, he has admitted that Upper East Side snow removal could have been better during the second of this season’s storms.
Then, in the most recent major snowstorm, there was that comment by de Blasio’s schools chancellor, calling a day when parents, students and teachers alike were battling at least a half foot of snow, sleet and freezing rain in order to get to school a “beautiful day.” That was by no means a hit.
Still, according to an experienced political observer, “These things always happen.”
Thomas Halper is the chair of the political science department at Baruch College and author of four books on politics. He’s seen plenty of the New York City political scene, clearly. Halper told PIX11 News that, so far, De Blasio has made only one significant misstep.
“The big thing,” said Halper, “is he seems to be in a war with the governor, and the governor is much bigger and stronger than he is.”
Halper emphasized that for the mayor to achieve more of his goals for the city, he needs to make Governor Andrew Cuomo a friend, since many of de Blasio’s initiatives, like universal free pre-kindergarten, require Albany’s approval.
As for the prospect of that happening, the final word comes from a supporter who would only give her first name, Carolyn. “If he does a good job, they’ll let him know. If he doesn’t, they’ll let him know too,” she told PIX11 News. “So give him a chance.”