By Tom Allon
Well, the first semester of the de Blasio administration will come to a close June 30, and it is time to hand out the first report card. The mayor has been hardworking and busy implementing his campaign agenda, despite a bit of tardiness at public events and news conferences. Overall, he gets high grades.
Public Safety: A–
The mayor and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton inherited a tangled web of stop-and-frisk history and a department that supposedly was experiencing flagging morale. On the plus side, murders had dropped to record lows with so many worried those numbers would rise.
But in the first six months of the year, the murder rate has continued to be shockingly low in spite of a small spike in the number of shootings. Picking Bratton was a smart move, and the veteran commissioner has been able to keep the peace while scaling back the controversial policy that became a lightning rod of last year’s mayoral campaign.
Public Education: A–
It would be tempting to give the mayor an A+ because of the historic creation of universal pre-K, an accomplishment many before him have tried and failed to implement. That is a great feat, but it will be the execution of this program that will be the true test of the mayor’s and the schools chancellor’s managerial skills.
Also, the mayor has wisely pushed for greater funding of middle- and after-school programs, but what will be done to improve the quality of middle-school education remains to be seen. Resolving the teachers’ contract rather swiftly, given that it had lapsed four years ago, is commendable as was the provision for paying master teachers more to train younger teachers.
Perhaps the only slipup was the ham-handed initial rejection of the Success Charter Schools application for expansion space in public school buildings. Gov. Cuomo and Success chief Eva Moskowitz schooled the new mayor in squeeze plays.
Picking such pros from the private sector as Alicia Glen and Carl Weisbrod was a bold move by de Blasio, and it seems to be paying off. He hung tough in the Domino Sugar Factory negotiation and got more affordable housing from that luxury project. He has proved to the wider real estate community that he is a deal maker.
The mayor has made Vision Zero the campaign to end pedestrian fatalities, a centerpiece of his administration’s goals, and there has been progress made to bring down speed limits.
The whole uber, taxi, black car mash-up is making the city start to feel like the Wild West. More needs to be done to speed up the expansion of bus rapid transit in the boroughs and even more taxi options outside Manhattan, not to mention an overhaul of the city’s cumbersome and confusing alternate-side parking regulations.
Carriage Horses: Incomplete
The mayor promised the animal and horse lovers that he would stop the carriage horse industry early in his administration, but he has expended little political capital in trying to accomplish this, while attracting the ire of a wide array of foes to what many find a frivolous issue.
Perhaps one compromise would be for the mayor to fund the building of horse stables in Central Park and limit carriage horses to rides in the park. This will also require some land for grazing for these animals, but the mayor could turn it into a whole equine education center for everyone.
City Budget: A–
The ink is not yet dry on next year’s fiscal budget, but the mayor and the City Council got the budget done two weeks earlier than its deadline, and this is impressive considering the usual budget dance we have witnessed in the past decade.
The budget increased to almost $74 billion, so it seems like city tax collection forecasts are bullish. The mayor also compromised with the Council on 200 more officers.
Overall, it is a strong report card for the new mayor, who has also made huge strides to make New York the visible laboratory for progressive reform in America. Will Hillary’s coronation come to Brooklyn in 2016, thus adding another desirable feather to the mayor’s cap? She’ll need to make sure she can shore up the liberal base of the party and not get blindsided by another rising phenom like Barack Obama.
Stay tuned for the next semester’s progress report as the mayor continues to tackle union contracts, keep crime down in a hot summer and make progress on affordable housing and raising wages for the working poor.
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.