New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio used the word “progressive” more than twenty times Thursday in a speech marking his one-hundredth day in office. His speech boasted that the “grassroots” were bolstering the successes of his administration, despite low poll numbers and a major defeat at the hands of charter schools and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
According to Capital New York, the core of Mayor de Blasio’s speech centered around the use of vague “progressive” values to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers. “Restoring a progressive New York, that’s our vision and it’s what’s driven the steps we’ve taken and it’s what drives the steps we will take ahead together,” de Blasio noted. He emphasized a call for improving education and “attract[ing] the best and the brightest” to teaching.
De blasio also emphasized that New York has always been the core of progressive United States. He spent much of the speech attempting to brag about his administration’s single biggest failure: his inability to deliver a tax on New York residents who make more than $500,000 a year to pay for a universal pre-kindergarten program.
Governor Cuomo, an ally of the charter school movement and, relative to de Blasio, a moderate Democrat, opposed the new tax. Instead, Cuomo offered funding from Albany to secure the program. De Blasio refused the funding for weeks before finding that New York’s state legislature had already approved the plan, killing his campaign promise to tax the rich.
For de Blasio, this was a success. “Our goal was to create something universal because the problems were so deep. We couldn’t just help the few; we had to reach across the spectrum,” he said Thursday, “And I’ll tell you, when we do that, when we make that kind of investment, when it’s something across the whole city, across the whole society, people can feel that it represents our values and our priorities.”
Mayor de Blasio also addressed concerns that, when speaking of “progressive” slogans with the vaguest appearance of meaning, people don’t always understand. “Some people weren’t quite sure what to make of our progressive agenda to reduce inequality and restore opportunity, but now they’re starting to see,” de Blasio noted, suggesting that this is a good development for his administration.
In actuality, de Blasio’s poll numbers, still in their infancy, have dropped over the winter months as his antagonism towards charter schools and battles with Albany define his tenure as a combative and inefficient one. According to a poll from Quinnipiac University, de Blasio’s poll numbers dropped eight points between January and March. In a more direct display of disapproval, New Yorkers booed him twice while he was throwing the first pitch at a Mets baseball game at Citi Field.
Mayor de Blasio did not show any signs of changing his governing strategy in light of his approval ratings, instead promising more of the same for the rest of his tenure–a very “progressive” tenure, whatever that means.
Watch Mayor de Blasio’s speech in full below: