Mayor Bill de Blasio: Progressive Enough to be President?

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Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio officially threw his hat into the ring with the other 22 Democratic candidates vying to be President of the United States. 

De Blasio made his formal announcement last Thursday morning and then traveled this past weekend to Iowa and South Carolina for multiple stops over four days.  His wife Chirlane McCray, who has been a close adviser during his six years at City Hall, joined him for part of the trip.  

 

De Blasio released a YouTube video where he broke down his progressive vision for the United States.  He spoke about putting “working people first” and took aim at President Donald Trump’s policies.  “There's plenty of money in this world. There's plenty of money in this country -- it's just in the wrong hands," de Blasio said in his video. 

De Blasio is currently the 109th Mayor of New York City and he has called himself a progressive leader since he first ran for office in 2013. But does his record hold up and is he progressive enough to get the Democratic nomination?  Lets take a look* at some of his policies:

1. 3-K for All Early Childhood Education
He implemented free full-day universal pre-kindergarten. Roughly 70,000 children are enrolled in the program each year. The program has also been a financial boost to parents, who have saved thousands of dollars on childcare and had more time to work or pursue their other goals.

In 2017, the mayor announced that the city would expand public school to all three-year-olds by 2022. The program has been rolled out more slowly by design -- 20,000 children will be enrolled by this fall -- and is expected to be implemented in 14 of 32 school districts by September 2020.

2. Jobs and The Economy
De Blasio’s administration has benefitted from the longest economic expansion in the country since World War II, and jobs have continued to grow and diversify. As of March 2019, there were just over 4 million private sector jobs in the city, with the unemployment rate at about 4.3%, down from 8% when de Blasio took office.

3. Fiscal Management
The mayor’s most recent budget proposal includes a $92.5 billion spending plan for the fiscal year set to begin July 1, an increase of about $20 billion from the last budget that was modified under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The spending stems largely from a massive uptick in hiring -- the city workforce has increased from about 297,000 to about 332,000. 

4. Poverty and Inequality
The mayor has touted his vision of, first, ending the “tale of two cities,” then, of making New York City the “fairest big city in America,” aiming to bring 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty. But progress on that front has been slow, despite a major focus on equity. New York City’s poverty rate in 2016 (the most recent data available) was 19.5 percent, down from 20.6 percent in 2013. De Blasio has championed various policies to fight poverty and reduce income inequality.

5. Housing Affordability
In 2014, de Blasio launched a plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing across the city in ten years. The mayor announced an expansion of the plan in November 2017, with a new target of 300,000 affordable homes by 2026. 

To date, 123,466 “affordable” units have been preserved and created -- including 39,949 units of new construction and 83,497 preserved through subsidies and other forms of financing.

6. Homelessness
The number of homeless New Yorkers has grown significantly under de Blasio, who was slow to implement more aggressive measures to stem the crisis he inherited. But, the trend has stabilized more recently, and the shelter population is even down several thousand from its all-time high.

7. Public Housing
The New York City Housing Authority, with 326 public housing developments across the city, is home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers. The Authority has an estimated $32 billion in physical needs for maintenance and repair and has received little in federal or state funds.  De Blasio came into office pledging major improvements for NYCHA residents and devoted significant resources to the crisis. Under de Blasio, the housing authority’s operating costs have been brought under control but capital needs remain an issue. Last year, the mayor announced new measures that are expected to cover up to $24 billion in repairs over ten years.

8. Crime
De Blasio has had a successful overall record on keeping the city safe, with crime rates dropping to historic lows year after year. Major index crimes (a category that includes murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny of a vehicle) fell to 95,883 in 2018, down from 111,335 in 2013.

9. Police Reform and Accountability
De Blasio rode into power promising to overhaul the NYPD and provide true accountability for abuses of power by officers. In particular, he railed against the controversial practice of stop-and-frisk policing, which disproportionately targeted people of color, mostly young men, and that a judge ruled had been used in an unconstitutional manner under Mayor Bloomberg.

10. Transportation
Through his Vision Zero program, de Blasio has taken successful steps to reduce traffic fatalities through road safety investments, street redesigns, and enforcement. In 2013, there were 299 fatalities and 55,123 injuries from traffic collisions on city streets. Though fatalities fell to 203 in 2018, injuries were up to 60,801.

The mayor has pledged hundreds of millions to create the new NYC Ferry system, with $10.73 in subsidies going to each passenger ride.  

Interested in hearing more about Bill de Blasio's candidacy? Watch “Represent NYC" (video above) to hear Executive Editor of the Gotham Gazette Ben Max, NY Times Political Reporter Jeff Mays, WNYC Political Reporter Brigid Bergin and Political Strategist L. Joy Williams discuss Mayor de Blasio's candidacy and his possible path to victory.

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*This is a truncated list originally compiled  by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette