Washington & Wall Street: Is New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio a Lame Duck?

New York City Mayor Mayor Bill de Blasio has only been in office for a short time, but already he is starting to look like a lame duck.

A year ago, nobody would take a call from de Blasio, but today everybody and anybody wants to talk to the new mayor. The only trouble is that few if any of the people the Mayor speaks to are willing to tell the new chief executive of New York City what he needs to hear as opposed to what he wants to hear.

The new Mayor of New York is continuing to get used to the idea of being someone important – at least in a local context. Most of the aides around Mr. de Blasio were third and fourth choices, notes a City insider, because there is no potential for the Mayor to go national and on to higher office. While nobody pretends that the former supporter of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas has any potential to go national, he is now clearly the most important figure in the lower counties of New York State. In fact, President Barack Obama’s handler-in-chief, Valerie Jarret, recently paid a call to de Blasio to coordinate strategy. 

De Blasio started off on a good footing by naming William J. Bratton as police commissioner of New York City for the second time. Bratton first ran the NYPD in 1994, when the Big Apple was a dark, crime-ravaged city. The appointment allows De Blasio to take credit for the choice if the NYC crime rate goes down, but distance himself from Bratton if the opposite occurs.

Unfortunately, Mayor de Blasio has not been nearly as adept at handling other important decisions and constituencies in New York. Only one of the City’s public sector unions supported his candidacy, in part because they see the New York Mayor as a relatively weak leader who will eventually give them whatever they want in terms of wage increases and other benefits. Who did the other public sector unions in New York City support, readers of Breitbart may wonder? The far-left, Marxist workers parties that also backed a majority of the members of the New York City Council.

Mr. de Blasio offended the predominantly Democratic Irish community in New York when he refused to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, an annual ritual that both Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani attended, but Mayor David Dinkins did not. The New York Times reports that Mayor de Blasio’s decision was quickly denounced by William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, based in New York, who issued a sharply worded statement saying he was “delighted” to avoid marching alongside “a public official who does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics.”

Perhaps the most important political relationship for Mr. de Blasio is also the one with which he has the greatest difficulty, namely New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Last month, Gov. Cuomo unveiled a budget plan containing a considerable gift for Mayor de Blasio, state money for the prekindergarten classes that he had made a centerpiece of his insurgent bid for mayor. Cuomo has made no secret of the fact that he does not support a tax increase on New York’s wealthiest citizens to pay for Mr. de Blasio’s pet social engineering project.

“The people in the city have given me a mission,” the mayor declared at a City Hall news conference, saying that the governor’s willingness to embrace a prekindergarten program was “encouraging,” but “different than what we intend to do.” A tax on the wealthy, Mr. de Blasio said, “was the No. 1 proposal I put forward in an election that I won with 73 percent of the vote,” the Times reports.

Instead of accepting Cuomo’s considerable concession and making common cause with the New York Governor, Mayor de Blasio has opened a gulf with Cuomo, who is becoming progressively testier as his political career approaches an end. Cuomo, who is not expected to challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, is intensely focused on negotiating fiscal deals with the major public sector unions in New York. The fact that Mayor de Blasio rebuked Cuomo publicly on his first trip to Albany does not speak well for his political skills.

Mayor de Blasio needs help from Cuomo on a range of issues, including building new and maintaining old affordable housing, and propping up the city’s public hospital system. Under Obamacare, for example, many of New York City’s public hospitals face bankruptcy because Washington is no longer going to pay for caring for uninsured patients – by some estimates up to one third of the total patients seen. New York law requires that all patients receive care, insured or not.

Mayor de Blasio is hoping that the state legislature is going to replace those lost federal subsidies, but that may be a faint hope if Andrew Cuomo stops taking the Mayor’s telephone calls. The new Mayor has decided to make the main event in Albany the battle over raising taxes for pre-kindergarten, a foolish choice that threatens his relationship with Cuomo.

The smart political choice would be to accept Cuomo’s considerable gift and worry about getting extra funding from the state later, but the real question is whether any of the second string of aides around Bill de Blasio are willing to tell him the truth. He risks becoming a lame duck New York Mayor in year one of what may be an eight-year term.


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