By Tom Allon
Since we’re living in a data-driven world, it’s time to gather around for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s midterm report card.
It’s halfway through the mayor’s four-year term. First terms are notoriously hard, but since this is the big time, there’s no grading on a curve for the earnest, progressive mayor.
Like many sophomores, the mayor was very distracted at times in his second year. He took a number of out-of-state and foreign trips, including one to the Vatican to genuflect to the new lefty pope.
He spent way too much time anointing himself the national voice for progressive politics, even unsuccessfully trying to host a debate in Iowa for presidential candidates. Unfortunately for Bill, both the GOP and Democratic candidates had no interest, and this grandiose idea dropped like a lead balloon.
A quick note on the mayor’s behavior: He doesn’t play very well in the sandbox with others. This is hurting his agenda and could undermine his efforts. He is constantly bickering with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and that is a fight the normally genial Mayor will never win. His slow-motion endorsement of Hillary Clinton pissed off his one-time boss, the likely Democratic presidential nominee.
The only people who hold a grudge longer than Andrew Cuomo are Bill and Hillary Clinton. Not smart, Mr. Mayor.
So, we’ll give him a “D” for distraction on the all-important “Focus” grade. And an “F” for “Knows how to win friends and influence people.”
Now, for the major subjects:
Crime 101: B. The smartest thing the mayor did was appointing Bill Bratton police commissioner. Bratton is the Babe Ruth of crime fighting (Is Ray Kelly the Lou Gehrig?) and he has managed to keep crime at record lows, reduce stop-and-frisk dramatically and also shield the bumbling mayor from an angry police force which feels under respected and underpaid. But (isn’t there always a but?) murder is up this year for the first time in a while, the homeless have become more menacing and the general perception of New Yorkers is that things may be backsliding.
Affordable Housing 421A: C. The mayor gets an “A” for effort, but as Will-Ferrell-as-George-W.-Bush used to say, he gets a “D” for “strategery.” The cornerstone of his agenda—200,000 new units of affordable housing—is in jeopardy because he is about to lose a fight with the governor which will result in the expiration of the 421-A tax abatement program that gave developers incentive to build below-market-rate housing. Equally damaging is the mayor’s bungled rezoning rollout that is being pummeled by community boards and borough presidents. This will mean his usual City Council allies will be boxed in and could abandon de Blasio—a big potential miss.
Solving the Homeless Crisis: D. This may be his honor’s Waterloo. He ignored the screaming headlines in the tabloids about the rising tide of street homeless last summer before deciding to clean house and start all over again. Losing Deputy Mayor Liliam Barrios-Paoli was a canary-in-a-coal-mine moment. Once she abandoned the sinking cruise liner and left the mayor with former activist Steve Banks to try to right the ship, we should have known this problem was worse than anyone thought. The recent announcement of a “Homestat” outreach program sounds good in theory, but in life it is all about execution. So we’ll stay tuned to see if the mayor can turn around this vexing problem.
Education Reform and Testing 1-2-3: B. Last year’s good news was the creation of universal pre-K for more than 60,000 youngsters. This year, the efficacy of some of these schools has come into question. But give the mayor extra credit for getting this off the ground. Otherwise, he has been too silent on the botched implementation of Common Core and on the growing test opt-out movement. Nothing innovative is going on yet and there have only been a few mild victories—like the plan to step up computer instruction.
All in all, Mayor de Blasio’s second year in office was a very mixed bag. His bumpy ride has been reflected in his sagging approval rating in every poll. But now that he is entering his junior year, there’s plenty of time to get that grade average up before facing the voters again in 2017.
Tom Allon, the President of City & State, NY, was a candidate for Mayor in the last election cycle. He can be reached at tallo