[Marxism] New Tack for de Blasio: Wooing Business Leaders He Once Denounced

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Apr 12 11:12:44 MDT 2015

(Well, I don't know how "new" this is.)

NY Times, Apr. 12 2015
New Tack for de Blasio: Wooing Business Leaders He Once Denounced

Gone are the self-conscious jokes, the dry references to business 
leaders as a tough crowd. His vocabulary is careful, smoothed free of 
buzzwords likely to offend. Mayor Bill de Blasio still talks about 
inequality, but for these audiences he emphasizes that the causes of New 
York City’s economic divide are complex and global in nature.

More than a year after taking office, Mr. de Blasio is engaged in his 
first sustained courtship of the city’s most powerful private sector 
executives. The mayor, who ran for office railing against “moneyed 
interests,” is now making what corporate chieftains describe as a 
long-delayed, sometimes awkward, attempt to meet them on their home turf.

He has wooed them in private phone calls and unannounced meetings at 
City Hall, and has staged several striking events: On a visit last month 
to Morgan Stanley, for example, he posed for selfies with employees and 
joked that moving into Gracie Mansion was like living in a museum. Mr. 
de Blasio, as part of his getting-to-know-you tour, also dined recently 
with about a dozen business and nonprofit leaders at the home of Ralph 
Schlosstein, chief executive of the investment firm Evercore Partners.

As a candidate, Mr. de Blasio defined himself in opposition to big 
business, vowing to increase taxes on the rich and to turn the page on 
the policies of his billionaire predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg. Upon 
taking office, he quickly pressed for a new tax on wealthy New Yorkers 
to pay for universal prekindergarten. (Mr. de Blasio got a 
prekindergarten program, but state lawmakers blocked the tax.)

Mr. de Blasio has not abandoned his populist rhetoric: Meeting with 
finance leaders at City Hall in early March, he urged them to invest in 
companies that pay their workers well. Addressing the Association for a 
Better New York, a business-minded civic group, at the Pierre Hotel, he 
called on companies to raise wages voluntarily.

The mayor also hosted a meeting for liberal activists at Gracie Mansion 
on April 2 and announced plans for a national agenda intended to address 
economic inequality.

Yet business leaders say they have also detected a softening of Mr. de 
Blasio’s tone and posture, and perhaps new traces of ambivalence about 
wielding the executive set as a political foil.

The mayor has embraced opportunities to introduce himself more 
personally: When Mr. Schlosstein, who is married to Jane D. Hartley, the 
United States ambassador to France, suggested in a private meeting that 
he should better acquaint himself with the business world, Mr. de Blasio 
responded by asking the investment executive to host an event designed 
to help him do just that, according to associates familiar with the 
conversation, who asked to speak anonymously about the off-the-record event.

During the meeting at Morgan Stanley, Mr. de Blasio paid homage to Wall 
Street: “The financial services sector supports 310,000 New York City 
jobs and accounts for 22 percent of the city’s economic output,” he 
declared in the firm’s cafeteria. “This industry is crucial to the 
city’s future.”

Indeed, as Mr. de Blasio has run up against the limitations of his own 
authority as mayor, he appears to have seen the value of enlisting 
business leaders as occasional allies.

Jonathan D. Gray, a senior executive at the private equity firm the 
Blackstone Group, said the mayor had offered a pragmatic pitch to 
industry leaders in their March meeting in the Blue Room at City Hall.

“I think it’s a practical recognition on the part of the mayor that in 
order to achieve a lot of the things that he wants to do, it’s going to 
take a robust partnership between the public and private sector,” Mr. 
Gray said.

Mayoral advisers freely acknowledged the calculations involved in their 
outreach to the corporate community. Some elements of Mr. de Blasio’s 
agenda, such as his pledge to create or preserve 200,000 units of 
affordable housing, rest plainly on his ability to collaborate with 
major investors. Others are simply more likely to succeed with private 
sector help. In that vein, the mayor’s office announced an initiative in 
February geared toward training New Yorkers for technology jobs, with 
corporate backers including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

Mr. de Blasio recently appeared at a gathering of corporate executives 
hosted by the Macy’s chief executive, Terry J. Lundgren, designed to 
promote a youth employment program backed by private institutions. (The 
mayor sought out Mr. Lundgren’s involvement personally, visiting him at 
his offices at Macy’s flagship New York location on West 34th Street, 
aides to Mr. de Blasio said.)

On a purely political level, there is a clear logic to Mr. de Blasio’s 
attempt to reset his relationship with business leaders, and Wall Street 
executives in particular. He won the mayor’s race with an atypical 
electoral coalition anchored by minority and liberal white voters — a 
base of support that has remained largely intact. But no mayor in the 
better part of a century has won re-election in the face of deep 
hostility from the business community.

Mr. de Blasio seemed at risk of testing that precedent, based on the 
message of his 2013 campaign and a few gestures he has made since taking 
office, including a push for the so-called millionaire’s tax and his 
strong criticism of charter schools, a pet issue for many on Wall Street 
that continues to fester.

In an early appearance before the Partnership for New York City, a 
powerful business group, last May, Mr. de Blasio startled those on hand 
by referring to financial services as a “legacy industry,” a relatively 
static sector inherited from an earlier time. After the mayor left the 
room, several financiers voiced umbrage at the remark, according to 
attendees who asked for anonymity to discuss what they said was a tense 
private meeting.

But Mr. de Blasio has continued to appear at events hosted by the 
partnership, insistently asking executives affiliated with the group to 
contact his office with any concerns. And he has won occasional help 
from business groups: Late last month, the partnership and the 
Association for a Better New York jointly backed Mr. de Blasio’s quest 
to place city schools permanently under mayoral control.

Gabrielle Fialkoff, who leads the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, 
a government-aligned nonprofit organization, said the mayor believed he 
shared “a lot of common ground” with private sector executives, 
including on his signature issue of economic inequality.

“He is not shy about asking for ways that they can join together to 
address the inequality crisis, because it affects all of us that take 
pride in the city,” said Ms. Fialkoff, a senior adviser to Mr. de Blasio.

During the city’s ultimately unsuccessful push to host the 2016 
Democratic convention, Mr. de Blasio connected with a few business 
leaders in particular, according to aides who asked to speak anonymously 
about his personal relationships. After a long phone call last year with 
Ursula Burns, the chief executive of Xerox and a member of the 
convention host committee, Mr. de Blasio invited the Lower East Side 
native to a one-on-one meeting at City Hall in mid-March.

During the convention bidding process, the mayor’s office also quietly 
persuaded Sean Parker, the billionaire co-founder of the music-sharing 
service Napster who sat on the host committee, to join the advisory 
board of the Mayor’s Fund.

Mr. de Blasio has placed solicitous phone calls to other members of the 
committee, and hosted a thank-you reception for participants. Alan J. 
Patricof, head of the venture capital firm Greycroft Partners and a host 
committee member, said the mayor’s outreach efforts represented “a 
reconciliation” with a class of New Yorkers who were anxious about his 

“He made it very clear when he came into office that he wants to help 
poor people, that he wants to make this a five-borough city,” said Mr. 
Patricof, an influential Democratic donor. He added, of the finance 
community: “They get nervous, because they don’t know what the 
implications are. So far, I think everything he’s done has been pretty 

Kathryn S. Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, 
said the mayor had struggled to soften his image as a “candidate for 
change, against the 12-year record of a man whom business people 
revere,” referring to Mr. Bloomberg.

“It has been hard to get past that,” Ms. Wylde said. “Mike Bloomberg is 
a global leader in business and philanthropy. Being mayor was not the 
source of his stature in the private sector.”

For Mr. de Blasio, a career public official and strategist, matching Mr. 
Bloomberg’s stature in the business world is not an option. But Thomas 
R. Nides, the Morgan Stanley vice chairman who conducted a public 
question-and-answer session with the mayor during his visit there, said 
that introducing himself more personally was still a welcome step.

“My only advice would be: He should do more of that,” said Mr. Nides, 
who added that the mayor had spoken about inequality at Morgan Stanley 
in a way his audience could appreciate: “He did it in a very appropriate 
way. He did not suggest that it began and ended with Wall Street.”

“In fact,” Mr. Nides recalled, “he said he understands how important the 
industry is.”

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