Soon after his reelection as New York City mayor last November, Bill de Blasio said he would be heading off to Iowa – the traditional first stop for presidential aspirants – in December to headline a fundraiser in support of local and federal candidates in sync with his progressive agenda.
The mayor said he was not running for president, but issues that he said were at stake nationally – taxes, health care, income inequality – compelled him to take the fight for progressivism beyond the borders of New York City. “This is who I am. This is what I’m gonna do.”
Well, we happen to think – and does anyone really doubt it? – that he is clearing the decks for a presidential run on a sharply leftist progressive platform he believes will attract enough voters in November 2020 for a Democratic victory. And we similarly have no doubt that he plans to do a lot of traveling to trumpet his progressive credentials.
But here’s what should be an obvious question: Is extensive travel and absence from the city consistent with sound governance? The mayor told reporters, “I just don’t buy the notion that in the 21st century if you leave the boundaries of the five boroughs the government ceases to work.”
Yet Mr. de Blasio went to Iowa just as the story broke that large numbers of children living in city public housing apartments were exposed to lead paint. The revelation was accompanied by reports that NYCHA, the city authority that runs the housing projects, had falsified lead-inspection reports, prompting calls for independent state monitoring.
And the recent record cold snap led to the equally incredible news that thousands of residents in public housing units were without steam or hot water.
We daresay that if this sort of thing had occurred in private sector apartments, stiff fines and perhaps even prison time would likely have followed.
The mayor’s reaction was somewhat flip. He admitted he was aware of the lead paint problem by mid-2016 and should have alerted NYCHA tenants – but admitted he had said nothing. Nor has he taken any action against NYCHA officials responsible for the false reporting or the exposure of tenants to the lead paint.
As for the lack of heat and hot water, the mayor said, rather airily: “The folks who work at NYCHA are trying to hold something together…that really should’ve gotten investment a long time ago.”
Of course, he is in his fifth year of being in charge of the city.
In his victory speech the night after his reelection, Mr. de Blasio claimed his having won 66 percent of the votes cast gave him a mandate to make New York the “fairest big city in America.” Not that there is anything wrong with the notion of fairness as a goal, but as The New York Times noted in an editorial on that inaugural speech, “[h]e would benefit…from a dash of humility by remembering that, given the abysmal turnout on Election Day, he won support from only about 16 percent of the city’ registered voters.”
The lead paint and heat scandals happened on Mr. de Blasio’s watch when he was not yet focused on a run for national office and suggests that he should spend more, not less, time in hands-on mode.
That said, there is something very discomfiting about a mayor who talks about his dedication to improving the lot of the poor and needy among us but who turns a deaf ear to them when they happen to reside in housing under his control.