“I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of mayor of the city of New York according to the best of my ability, so help me God.”
When Bill de Blasio becomes mayor of New York City in twenty days he’ll recite a fifty-three-word oath in which, basically, he’ll promise to try his hardest to “faithfully discharge” his duties.
That doesn’t begin to describe what he’s signed up for. Not only is de Blasio moving from the low-profile, low-power post of public advocate—a kind of civic watchdog unique to New York and invisible to many of its citizens—to the enormous challenge of managing a $70 billion budget and occupying the most intimately scrutinized elected position in America. He has to do all that with the hopes of the progressive movement on his back.
That may sound naïve or hyperbolic, but that’s exactly what some people said about de Blasio’s “tale of two cities” critique, and they were wrong on the politics and on the policy.
Sure, if you’re so inclined, you can look at de Blasio’s résumé, with his stint at the side of the “New Democrat” Clintons and his nimble traipse through the politics of real estate development, and conclude that the mayor-elect is more shrewd strategist than true believer. But it doesn’t matter. Whether in his heart he’s Chance the Gardener or John Doe or the Real Deal, people want him to be the Real Deal, so that’s what he’ll be expected to be.
And if you detect New York chauvinism at work here, tell me, what progressive has a higher profile or a bigger mandate to reverse the erosion of American working-class living standards than the guy who’ll be mayor of a city with more poor residents than Philadelphia has people?
The scope of that potential and the size of the challenge confronting de Blasio are why The Nation and City Limits are teaming up to produce this blog on the transition now underway and the first 100 days of the mayoral term that begins January 1.
There is no question that New York City is at a crossroads. De Blasio’s surge this fall had even Crain’s, the leading business publication in town, acknowledging the reality of income inequality. The New York Times is this week giving unprecedented space to a series about a homeless girl navigating the city remade not so nicely by the Bloomberg era. A coalition of big foundations set up a tent in Tribeca to collect people hopes and suggestions for the first Democratic mayor since 1993.
“It feels like a New York transformed, for me,” says Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “There’s a world of issues where it feels clear that the de Blasio administration is going to move with significant progressive policies in line with what we’ve been fighting for for years,” like paid sick leave, a municipal ID, stronger living wage provisions and more.