Mayor de Blasio, who polls indicate is an overwhelming favorite to win a second term on Nov. 7, has some concrete achievements he can point to in asking his workforce, as well as the general public, to give him another four years in office.
Two of the obvious ones are his ambitious expansion of pre-kindergarten as a vital step in giving young children a leg up in gaining quality educations, and the continuing drop in crime during his mayoralty that has been accompanied by a concerted effort to improve relations between police officers and the communities they patrol, particularly in minority neighborhoods where tension has existed between the parties.
Less-noted but equally important is his restoring normalcy to the bargaining process with municipal unions, which during the final four years of Michael Bloomberg’s tenure were stymied in their attempts to gain even modest raises. That Mayor insisted that longtime traditions like pattern bargaining—which he fervently defended when it worked to his advantage—and retroactive payment of raises from deals negotiated after contracts expired no longer mattered, and that unions would have to fund pay hikes by making givebacks.
Four months after taking the oath of office, Mr. de Blasio was able to announce a major deal with the United Federation of Teachers that upheld those principles and created a pattern from which other agreements could flow. There were unions—most notably the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association—that grumbled that after giving UFT members equity with unions that reached terms with Mr. Bloomberg before he shut the bargaining spigots, Mr. de Blasio forced them and other city workers to accept wage increases that wouldn’t keep pace with inflation.
They were right about that, but in light of his predecessor’s failure to maintain a labor reserve sufficient to cover the years that had passed without raises, the new administration had made the best of a bad situation, and without damaging the city’s fiscal health. In the process, his Labor Commissioner, Bob Linn, after years in which the Bloomberg administration sought in vain to impose health-care changes at the expense of employees, convinced the unions to proceed with relatively painless reforms, such as imposing higher charges for emergency-room visits while reducing co-pays for primary-care physicians and creating a wellness program, that have yielded $3.4 billion in savings.
There were other modest gains, including small progress in student achievement, and changes where the beneficiaries were private-sector workers, such as paid sick leave and upgrades in the minimum wage. The Mayor’s attempt to launch a paid-parental-leave program by imposing it on city managers has not worked nearly as well for the group affected, dissuading the unions from exploring something similar.
Conversely, the man we endorsed four years ago has fallen short in several key areas. The number of homeless has continued to grow, reaching past 60,000, and despite stepped-up efforts to better treat the mentally ill in which his wife, Chirlane McCray, has played a key role, those suffering from such afflictions have made their presence felt in tragic as well as cringe-inducing ways.
Two men with long criminal records to go with their illnesses have been charged in the killings of an Emergency Medical Technician and a Police Officer since the beginning of the year, and a New York Post photograph of a homeless person lying beneath a subway seat occupied by a passenger underscored a growing problem within the transit system. And Mr. de Blasio has sometimes seemed more intent on reminding people that responsibility for that system rests with Governor Cuomo than on dealing with its problems, even as a more-vigorous advocate for improvements.
Mr. Cuomo’s love for political gamesmanship would make him a handful to deal with no matter who was Mayor. But Mr. de Blasio, despite a career as a political operative that should have given him tactical skills, has often seemed less a diplomat than a put-upon younger brother in his relationship with the man he worked for in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton.
Perhaps the most-aggravating aspect of Mr. de Blasio’s mayoralty has been the frequency with which someone who ran for office championing progressive ideals has behaved more like a clubhouse politician more inclined to take care of big contributors than serve the voters. He and some of his top political aides escaped indictment for some of their questionable dealings, and he responded to criticism by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and the District Attorney in the same borough not with contrition but defiance. The man who promised to be the most-transparent Mayor in city history has been anything but: he attempted to have political consultants’ emails shielded from public view by claiming they were “Agents of the City,” even as they and their clients benefited from the “free” advice they were giving him, and has been the master of complying with Freedom of Information requests by dumping mountains of documents on reporters at the start of holiday weekends.
Just as disturbing, if not more so, a top Department of Citywide Administrative Services employee with a reputation for ethical behavior was fired in February shortly after he spoke to Federal investigators about two of the more-controversial projects in which big donors benefitted from their ties to the Mayor. When asked about the firing of Ricardo Morales, Mr. de Blasio stated that he was a sub-par employee—a tactic lifted from the playbook of a man he claims to scorn, ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In a similar vein, he condemned an NYPD Sergeant, Hugh Barry, in the fatal shooting of a woman suffering from schizophrenia, despite the cop’s attempts to calm her before she abruptly grabbed a baseball bat and swung it at him in the cramped quarters of her Bronx apartment. It was a rush to judgment that will further erode the Mayor’s relationship with his police force should Sergeant Barry be acquitted at trial, as seems entirely possible. Conversely, Mr. de Blasio has been curiously passive as the NYPD defers a disciplinary trial for Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of a department-banned chokehold was a key factor in the death of Eric Garner 40 months ago, even as a Federal probe drags on with no sign of a resolution.
His instincts also failed him in the controversy in which he was ready to allow a recently-paroled terrorist to be honored in the Puerto Rican Day Parade until a growing outcry by both unions and corporate sponsors, as well as his own Police Commissioner, led the Mayor to belatedly part company with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on that issue.
And a month after that, he invited justifiable criticism when he left the city following the fatal shooting of Police Officer Miosotis Familia to give a speech in Germany at an anti-Trump gathering. Mr. de Blasio offered passable excuses—he was back in time for her funeral, the trip also gave him a chance to visit with his son Dante—but given his sometimes-shaky relationship with police officers, the wiser course would have been to stay here and grieve with them rather than going overseas for a blatantly political appearance.
His closest challenger, Republican nominee Nicole Malliotakis, has given signs that her heart isn’t really in a serious run for Mayor and that she is using the contest to build support and name recognition for some other office representing her home borough of Staten Island.
Bo Dietl, the ex-Detective who mirrors the President in his bombast and love of self-promotion, has provided a few laughs during the campaign but can’t be taken seriously as a candidate.
Which brings us to Sal Albanese, who was routed by Mr. de Blasio in the Democratic primary and then wrongly excluded from the first general-election debate.
The former Brooklyn City Councilman is making his third run for Mayor, but has had difficulty getting out his message due to underfunding. His lack of staff has showed: although he generally acquitted himself well in two primary debates against Mr. de Blasio, he twice faltered when asked how he would improve agencies like the Administration for Children’s Services after criticizing the incumbent’s policies.
There is little percentage from a practical standpoint in endorsing candidates who seem unlikely to get even 10 percent of the vote. But we’re giving our backing to Mr. Albanese for his strength in an area in which Mr. de Blasio is lacking: character.
It has prompted him to stand up over the years for what he believed was right even when it cost him politically. During an era when other officeholders focused solely on raw numbers in making their cases that they were pro-police, Mr. Albanese argued that patrol strength was a far-better gauge, criticizing NYPD deployment practices and banking on the judgment of the public and officers not to brand him as anti-cop.
Representing a conservative district in Bay Ridge, he bucked pressure from local Catholic Church officials to cast a vote in favor of the Gay Rights Bill in 1986, and won another two terms because his constituents appreciated his hard work and knew he cast that vote on principle.
He has continued to take sometimes-lonely stances that worked to the detriment of his political ambitions: he refused to accept money from lobbyists and real-estate developers—key parts of Mr. de Blasio’s contributor base—because he believes they have had negative effects on how government decisions are made.
And so Mr. Albanese has our vote even though he has no realistic chance of so much as making it a tight contest. One union leader who speaks well of him, Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd, recently explained his decision to stay neutral in the race even though it might hurt him in future dealings with the incumbent by saying of Mr. de Blasio, “I can’t look at you or anyone else and say, ‘this man is gonna make us proud.’”
Mr. Albanese represents the other side of that coin. We can’t say that voting for him will turn the tide, but if enough people do so, it might send a message that integrity still means something.
At the very least, they won’t have to wince when marking their ballots.