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De Blasio's easy win for mayor of NYC

My favorite paragraph in coverage of the 2013 elections came at the end of the New York Times story reporting on Democrat Bill de Blasio's landslide victory for mayor of New York. This, on observing Mayor Michael Bloomberg vote:

He quietly cast his vote at an Upper East Side school, amid reminders that his time at the pinnacle of municipal power was drawing to a close. When Mr. Bloomberg, dressed in a crimson tie and a crisp winter coat, showed up, the poll worker had a question. What was his first name, again?

Of course, Michael Bloomberg's name and that of his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, won't be forgotten in New York City and many other places. But the results of the election show that voters in New York are seeing their records over the past 20 years in a new light.

De Blasio ran his Democratic primary campaign against Bloomberg, and thus indirectly at the early favorite in the race, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Her cooperation with Bloomberg went so far that she supported his politically toxic plan to change the city's term limits law to his own benefit, overriding two referenda. After Anthony Weiner's "second chance" campaign self-destructed in July, the anti-Bloomberg vote shifted to de Blasio, polls showed.

De Blasio ran his general election campaign against Giuliani, with whom his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, was closely associated. Lhota started out the campaign by trying to differentiate himself from Giuliani, but that didn't last long.

As a City Hall reporter for Newsday in the mid 1990s, I had covered the Giuliani administration, which was quite hostile to the news media in general and my paper in particular. But I always enjoyed dealing with Lhota, who served Giuliani as budget director and then deputy mayor. He was funny, down to earth and very knowledgeable about even the most arcane points of municipal governance. It wasn't the grouchy, dour persona voters saw during the election campaign.

I am not the only former City Hall reporter from those years to notice that in his mayoral campaign, Lhota so closely imitated Giuliani that he spoke in the same rhythms, with the same word choices. Giuliani's issues where his. Even Giuliani's mayoral pet peeves were his.

In his debates with de Blasio, Lhota seemed thunderstruck that anyone could question that Giuliani was a great mayor. But de Blasio kept hammering away at Giuliani's divisiveness, and meanwhile defended the administration of Mayor David Dinkins, in which he was a low-level aide. If someone had told me in 1997 that this argument would help carry a candidate to a 3-to-1 victory, I would have thought it very strange. But it's not 1997; Lhota didn't seem to realize that.

Giuliani, campaigning at Lhota's side, kept up a barrage of the sort of negative attacks he was known for in the past. This time, no one seemed to be listening to him.

Many reasons are being offered for de Blasio's lopsided victory, "Bloomberg fatigue" being chief among them.

Let's give voters some credit, though. Many people had come to feel alienated in their own city, and they voted on that. They may have been frisked by police for no good reason, or feared that their children would be. They may have sensed that they no longer have any meaningful voice in their children's education. Rising housing costs may have displaced them from their homes, or made them worry about the possibility. Occupy Wall Street, whether one supported it or not, heightened awareness of the especially stark financial inequities in New York.

Dinkins, Giuliani, Bloomberg: all of them got to build on predecessors' achievements, but also had to correct problems they caused. Now it's de Blasio's turn.





About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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Another community organizer in an executive branch of government. Great news for NYC.

We shall see! I have been surprised at how enthusiasm for deBlasio had held up through the campaign. Maybe it wasn't his political experience (or lack thereof) that intrigued voters, but how much his family resembled New York City. He seems quite attached to his wife and kids; another plus.

The demise of Christine Quinn seems to have surprised many people, but Paul Moses is right her support for legislation, overriding term limits, that gave Bloomberg a third term was a step too far for voters used to wheeling and dealing in their politicians.

Too bad resolution 1 won; the economics of casinos, to say nothing of the moral challenge, increasingly look delusional. They will not produce thousands of jobs, nor billions in taxes, but they'll ruin a lot of families.

I hope DiBlasio will learn from the mistakes of Dinkins who made Giuliani necessary. While we want justice for all, no one wants chaos. This is the reason people will vote for a hard right candidate even if they don't like her justice platform. This is the reason George McGovern lost to a warring Richard Nixon. DiBlasio is right to return the city to the people. He must also make it safe for them.

De Blasio and Bloomberg talk it over this morning.

What are DiBlasio's past achievements?

Bill: the canard that by virtue of, what -- his being a Democrat? Of questioning the constitutionality and necessity of a police tactic that exhibits no proven link to a drop in crime? Or of something else other peddlers of this nonsense don't mention explicitly? --  that De Blasio's election heralds a return to the "bad old days" is proving tiresome. Look at the record: Crime began its precipitous decline while Dinkins was in office. It was also Dinkins who initially hired Ray Kelly as police commissioner. Simultaneously, crime was dropping in many other American cities and, as The Economist recently noted, in many parts of the world. I suppose it was a global crackdown on squegee men that led to that? The waning of the crack epidemic and a stabilizing of what some call "the underlying fundamentals" (a more solid revenue base, for one thing) make New York City a far different place than it was during and just after the height of its mismanagement in the 1970s and 80s. I'm also not sure I've heard De Blasio say anything about appointing John Lindsay or Abe Beame to positions of importance.

DeBlasio and Bloomberg this morning:


Q. Does Bloomberg look unhappy?

A. He always looks like that.

Just got back from lunch in beautiful. While I was waiting to pay the bill, a guy younger than I but too old for Vietnam struck up a conversation with my wife and told her he didn't defend this country to turn it over to a communist mayor of New York. I guess someone should have told you all.


the missing word after "beautiful" is Florida.

"a communist mayor of New York'  = a short answer about what's wrong w/ Florida.

Ed, everybody in this part of Florida came from New York and roots for the Yankees and the Jets. The guy who accosted my wife looked like one of them. Go figure.

Here's a surprise from the election. The Republican candidate Joseph Lhota never bragged that he made the (subway) trains run on time (and generally did a good job as head of the MTA--NY's tranportation administration). I guess that's a poison pill left over from history!

It's true, Peg. For decades,  preserving the 5-cent fare was the -- should I say it? -- third rail of New York politics. The MTA was created to protect politicians from the wrath of voters angered over fare hikes. Lhota evidently felt unable to campaign on what was his major achievement, running the MTA efficiently and returning it to service quickly after Hurricane Sandy.

During the campaign, Joe Lhota made some good points about how the MTA takes the millions of dollars collected from tolls on bridges and tunnels that are entirely with New York City and moves that money to the suburbs to subsidize commuter rail lines.

That's his story of the MTA. As they say in Boston, Will he ever return? Maybe four years from now people will forget he ever had anything to do with the MTA.


i thought  Lhota did a good job with the MTA too. and the previous Chairman,  Walder ,did a great job as well, though he wasn't here long.

Maybe the MTA connection isn't so toxic any more. 


“And he (Di Blasio) announced that his wife, Chirlane McCray, a poet and a speechwriter, would play a significant role in hiring the most powerful members of his new administration, saying the couple would screen candidates together.”

Not being a New Yorker, I don't have an interest in this outcome, but it is interesting to me that de Blasio comes across as significantly more populist/progressive than Rahm Emanuel in Chicago.  Kevin Williamson of National Review presents the sensible conservative view (as opposed to any other kind of conservative view) of de Blasio's win, and tosses in some MTA content.  I suppose his views aren't incredibly congenial to most denizens of dotCom, but he writes so darn well it's hard to not read him all the way to the end.  Headline: "The Fat Cats' Veto".



Methinks you protest too much. No question there is much misunderstanding of the liberal position on crime. The fact is that many liberals are stricter in some matters than conservatives. But it really misses the point to say that crime decreased worldwide or that Dinkins initially hired Ray Kelly. The fact is that Dinkins did not permit Ray Kelly to do the right job. Further there was definitely a climate of the inmates taking over the asylum. You  could not ride the subway without  holding your ears as a arrogant teenager walked through the cars. Never mind stopping at a red light and being accosted by the squeegie brigade. It was not as bad as Lindsay's time. But the leader has to take responsibility. Dinkins was talking about minority rights (did not stop him from hobnobbing with the 1 percent)  when the majority felt intimidated and New  York was a place to be avoided.

While I deplore the excesses of Guiliani I recognize there has to be a conversation about what made him necessary. We have to recognize that what makes many conservative is fear. 

Helen: I hope they keep Al Sharpton at arms length, i.e., don't ask him to replace Ray Kelly.

On bragging about "trains running on time." Wasn't that one of Mussolini's achievements?

JP: Williamson is obviously too young to remember the NYC subway system twenty-thirty years ago. They are better and they do run on time. About Connecticut I know nothing. It's so far away!

With a wife with the name of McCray, di Blasio can not do wrong!

JM: Isn't the name McCray Scotch-Irish?

Bill - with respect, nothing of what you say supports the contention that the election of de Blasio means a rise in crime or justifies the fear of such. That crime was falling before Rudy G. both within and outside NYC weakens both the correlative and causal cases for his "tough" stance, whatever that means. Ditto Bloomberg. There seems to be (and have been) numerous factors, many not related to methods of policing. Meanwhile, I have yet to hear anyone explain, explicitly, why we should be anxious about the next mayor's approach. Is it that there may be another layer of police oversight? Is it that there may be a new commissioner? Is it that stop-and-frisk-- again, never shown to be linked to reduced crime -- may be modified or eliminated? What has de Blasio specifically proposed that makes people fret so? What is the basis of the anxiety?

Bill Mazzella wrote:

Further there was definitely a climate of the inmates taking over the asylum. You  could not ride the subway without  holding your ears as a arrogant teenager walked through the cars. Never mind stopping at a red light and being accosted by the squeegie brigade. It was not as bad as Lindsay's time. But the leader has to take responsibility. Dinkins was talking about minority rights (did not stop him from hobnobbing with the 1 percent)  when the majority felt intimidated and New  York was a place to be avoided.

This is largely hyperbole and some outright fiction.  I rode the subways nearly everyday during the Dinkins administration --I could and did ride the subway without holding my ears.  Was there an occasional "boom box"? sure.  Did I occasionally think some were arrogant?  yes.  But some of it was fun and enjoyable. There were some great acts in the subway.  Honestly --I find a greater desire to hold my ears today when someone is close by with blaring music coming  from ear buds or the longwinded, often homophobic, "you're all going to hell" preachers.  It is simply fiction to say NY was a "place to be avoided" in the Dinkins Administration.  How do you explain the full tilt gentrification that was taking place during those years?  You may not have liked it -  but plenty of others did.

I agree with Mr. Preziosi.  Nothing about de Blasio's election should make people fear a rise in crime.  The drop in crime, yes had something to do with more cops (started under Dinkins) and new methods of policing (introduced by the guy most rumored to be the next police commissioner under de Blasio, Bill Bratton), but the drop also happened throughout the US as the economy improved and the crack epidemic subsided.  Honestly, I think NYC residents should be afraid of increased crime mostly because of economic pressures and growing income inequality.  Just this week SNAP (aka Food Stamps) recipients throughout the US have seen cuts in their benefits of $11 - $70 a month depending on family size.  I see a much more logical correlation to an increase in crime because of these cuts than I do in replacing Ray Kelly with Bill Bratton and not forcing cops to violate civil liberties.  

By the way, de Blasio has been critical of police reductions that have happened under Bloomberg and has pledged to hire 500 new cops.  Read more on his approach to crime and public safety here:

Dominic, the matter is certainly disputable. It is at least debatable whether Guiiani was responsible for the 56% drop in crime in New York at that time. For you and Jack to speak in absolute terms about what is a long standing dispute strains credulity. 

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