New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio loves public events, and some are worrying that it is getting in the way of his governing. He started off the week by dropping Punxsutawney Phil. Then he went on The Daily Show and joked about plaguing the rich with locusts, and he declared at a press conference that he will not attend the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Jill Colvin at Politicker suggests that de Blasio is on the cusp of making the same mistake that hindered much of the Obama administration: not knowing when the campaign ends and the administration begins. She argues that de Blasio excels at public events and “theatrics”–at the drama of the nation’s most powerful gubernatorial audience. But many, even among the most progressive of de Blasio supporters, are beginning to grow concerned that the fanfare will receive more attention than actually getting things done.
Comparing de Blasio’s new initiatives to the work of Organizing for Action, the descendant of the Obama campaign that took over after the election, Colvin notes that de Blasio has organized “an ambiguous coalition” of volunteers and door-to-door campaigns to generate support for his policies, particularly his plan to raise taxes on wealthy New Yorkers to subsidize a universal pre-kindergarten program. The organizational effort is impressive, but Colvin notes that no one has any idea “whether the door-knocking will have any effect on the plan’s success, which ultimately rests upon Mr. de Blasio’s ability to sway lawmakers in Albany.” And de Blasio doesn’t seem particularly interested in doing much of the latter.
Those working in de Blasio’s administration are beginning to feel the weight of an ideological mayor more concerned with words than action. Colvin describes many of those in logistical jobs as “confused” and reports a mounting “concern” as to whether and how the administration will govern. Many agencies must report directly to the top because de Blasio has not appointed anyone to run them yet. One thing appears clear: de Blasio does not want to micromanage his team.
One frustrated worker exclaimed that the only guidance City Hall has given them is to “be progressive.”
“WTF does that mean? What’s the fire company going to do to be progressive?” the person told Politicker, explaining that many agencies feel the same way about the lack of day-to-day policy structure.
The threat of nothing getting done for the next four years is only part of the fears facing New York City’s leaders. De Blasio has been in office little more than a month, but his solutions for many problems, it seems, are public appearances. After Upper East Side residents blasted the mayor for apparently forgetting to deploy snowplows to the wealthiest neighborhood in the city, de Blasio let the press take pictures of him shoveling snow and visited the Upper East Side to publicly talk to residents.
It is but one example of what appears to be a de Blasio overeager to make headlines and be in the press, even when there seems to be no good reason for it. Colvin described the rollout of a social policy initiative before a crowd in Bushwick as “unimaginable” under Michael Bloomberg for the loudness and glitz of the event. One former Democratic nominee for mayor, Mark Green, warned that de Blasio’s willingness to jump into news stories he has nothing to do with, like Rep. Michael Grimm’s altercation with a reporter after the State of the Union address, could backfire when he needs Republicans to help him enact policies or fund projects.
While conservatives may rejoice that de Blasio’s approach to governing–yelling at cameras and herding crowds–will enact little actual reform, New York City could be in very real danger of mismanagement. A team as large as City Hall’s expressing this much concern early on about the roles they should be playing in the administration is no good sign of efficiency at the top, and New York City is simply too big to handle a confused, lofty-thinking government.