Mayor Bill de Blasio’s speech to this morning’s plenary session of the US Conference of Mayors didn’t break any new ground. He described a broad crisis of inequality, made his boilerplate pitch for universal pre-K and sick leave, lauded Fiorello LaGuardia and implored mayors to work together for their common interests in Washington, that the feds might step up on housing and infrastructure.
More interesting stuff came in the Q&A, when de Blasio was asked how he actually planned to get Washington to listen to cities. He said:
The folks assembled in this room here represent every corner of this country. They represent blue states, red states, purples states and districts. They are crucial leaders in their states. I’m certain a number of the folks in that room are represented in Congress by members of the House and the Senate who are not doing what they should towards our cities. And these mayors have the ability to start to turn that tide. Because we are at the grassroots, and if we move the hearts and minds of our people, our federal representatives are going to start to feel it.
Basically, the idea is the mayors should organize their constituents to force senators and reps to do better by cities. Is that likely to happen? Beats me. But at least it’s a more tactical spin on the typical “let’s come together across party lines” pablum. It’s kind of fun to think about the nation’s mayors pulling an Ocean’s 11–type caper to force Congress to recommit to cities—deploying extra parking agents to target black cars outside downtown congressional campaign fundraisers, making the composition of a scathing letter to your senator be part of high school graduation requirements, outlawing golf.
De Blasio also elaborated on why he wants a dedicated tax for the pre-K and after-school initiative. Governor Cuomo’s people have chided the mayor for insisting on a tax when the gov has promised a “blank check” for the city, but de Blasio explained:
My plan, I want to remind you, is a five-year plan, $530 million each year for five years, $2.6 billion combined over five years. We can’t do that plan properly if we don’t have that money locked in. And I want revenue that the people of New York City provide and control. We’ve all seen the vagaries of Albany. This is not a comment on any individual. We’ve seen the history of Albany. Albany has often changed its mind and had different political dynamics affect it. We need consistency and reliability. And in fact, when we have created revenue on our own, like Mayor Bloomberg did after 9/11, like Mayor Dinkins did with the ‘Safe Streets, Safe City’ program that revolutionized our approach to fighting crime and brought us the police officers we needed at that point to stabilize our public safety situation. When we’ve had our own revenue, dedicated and consistent, we’ve been able to achieve consistent outcomes.
He also added:
…we’re about to come out with a report to clarify the exact implementation of our plan, how many children will be served starting September 2014 in terms of pre-k, in terms of after-school, where we’re going to find the space that we need to do it. You’re going to see, by next week, a very detailed analysis.
Oh, and should anybody have forgotten:
I have a very clear mandate from the people. I happened to win my election with 73 percent of the vote.