[Marxism] Bill de Blasio Is a Progressive. But Is He Progressive Enough?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 27 06:09:46 MDT 2018

My own take on this idiot: 

NY Times, July 27, 2018
Bill de Blasio Is a Progressive. But Is He Progressive Enough?
By J. David Goodman and William Neuman

In his first inaugural address in 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio invoked the 
names of legendary reformers, from Fiorello La Guardia to Franklin and 
Eleanor Roosevelt, and said that in their honor and spirit, he would 
“commit to a new progressive direction in New York.”

The anticipation for many of Mr. de Blasio’s supporters was particularly 
keen because it built on the sense that his predecessor, Michael R. 
Bloomberg, had presided over the city’s growth in a way that benefited 
the well-off and left the poor behind.

But midway through his fifth year in office, Mr. de Blasio has 
disappointed some of his most loyal backers, who point to a range of 
issues, from criminal justice reform and homelessness to the protection 
of immigrants, where the mayor has fallen short of his promises.

On Monday, Mr. de Blasio found himself having to explain why, after 
enacting a policy to end solitary confinement in city jails, the city 
Department of Correction increased the number of inmates shipped 
upstate, where they were put in solitary. He defended the actions as 
rare and necessary for safety.

Other promises have also run up against reality.

The city has not succeeded in opening new neighborhood-based homeless 
shelters as fast as Mr. de Blasio had vowed.

His recurring pledge to raise taxes on high-earners has been dashed in 
Albany, where the mayor holds little sway and has been embroiled in a 
yearslong feud with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

And Mr. de Blasio has been resolute in his opposition to congestion 
pricing as a way to finance much-needed mass transit improvements, 
frustrating many progressive advocates who see his position as 
inconsistent with his goal of narrowing inequity.

“I think he’s run into the mechanics of governing, where you have to 
deal with the restraints of law and City Council and dealing with the 
practicalities of things like union negotiations,” the Rev. Al Sharpton 
said in an interview. “I don’t think he’s had a problem of commitment. I 
think he has a problem of having to govern, restraints that sometimes 
are troubling to those that are nongovernmental activists.”

Offered a list on Thursday of frequent criticisms from progressive 
advocates of his record, including expanding the secrecy surrounding 
certain Police Department records and failures at the New York City 
Housing Authority, Mr. de Blasio said: “That’s kind of the world upside 

“I’ve been a progressive my whole life, know a lot about the left,” he 
said. “I’ve talked to a whole lot of progressives about what we’re 
doing, activists, elected officials, issue experts. And I have found a 
lot of agreement with our agenda.”

The mayor is banking on it: He announced the creation of a political 
action committee, Fairness PAC, in order to fund national Democratic 
candidates, and also pay for political travel outside of New York City 
by Mr. de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray. His former campaign 
website was relaunched to push the effort, which was reported on 
Thursday by Politico.

Mr. de Blasio defended his record as a progressive leader, saying that 
there will always be advocates “who want us to take additional steps, 
and we intend to.” He said that on balance, his efforts to improve 
police discipline, end solitary confinement for young inmates and create 
neighborhood homeless shelters were “progressive and tangible” actions 
that affect “thousands and thousands” of people’s lives.

“There may be a few advocates who see it differently,” the mayor said. 
“But the vast majority of New Yorkers if you ask them, ‘Hey, this guy 
ended solitary confinement for these many thousands of inmates versus 
all the people before who tolerated it.’ What’s more progressive?”

To be sure, the mayor has made good on many of his commitments, 
including pursuing an aggressive affordable housing plan, launching a 
city-subsidized ferry service and the expansion of early childhood 

Mr. de Blasio’s greatest accomplishment has been the creation of a new 
universal prekindergarten program, building on that success by expanding 
it to 3-year-olds. Yet progressives have faulted him for not tackling 
the deep-seated problem of segregation in the city’s school system.

His push to build new affordable units or preserve those that were at 
risk of shifting to market-rate rents has been met with criticism from 
housing advocates who say not enough of the apartments are affordable 
for the poorest New Yorkers.

Mr. de Blasio also has found himself repeatedly outflanked on the left 
by upstart political figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 
Democratic socialist who upset Representative Joseph Crowley last month 
in the New York Democratic congressional primary, and the actress 
Cynthia Nixon, a Democratic candidate for governor.

Ms. Nixon, for example, backs marijuana legalization; Mr. de Blasio 
refuses to go that far, although he has taken steps to end the practice 
of arresting most people caught smoking marijuana in public.

The City Council, too, has pressured the mayor from the left. In his 
first term, Melissa Mark-Viverito, then the Council speaker, pushed him 
to endorse the eventual closing of Rikers Island; in his second term, 
the new speaker, Corey Johnson, forced him to fund discounted subway and 
bus rides for poor New Yorkers.

Similarly, his effort during the 2016 campaign to spearhead a national 
movement around left-of-center policies faltered. He has disappointed 
many in the left flank of the Democratic Party with his cautious 
endorsements in pitched Democratic primary fights: Hillary Clinton over 
Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race; Mr. Cuomo over Zephyr 
Teachout in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor; Mr. Crowley, 
against Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, earlier this year.

On immigration, advocates saw the mayor, who has championed New York as 
a sanctuary city in the age of President Trump, as an ally for much of 
his first term: He oversaw the creation of a city I.D. card that could 
be used by immigrants regardless of their legal status and he supported 
a spending increase for literacy and adult education classes.

But last year, as he ran for re-election, Mr. de Blasio changed a policy 
that advocates considered essential when he said that the city would no 
longer pay for legal representation for all people in immigration court 
facing deportation. For the first time, Mr. de Blasio refused to provide 
city money to pay for immigration lawyers for people who had been 
convicted of any of 170 crimes, including violent offenses and drug crimes.

A compromise was worked out where the City Council agreed to have 
private donors finance cases not covered by city money, but advocates 
were stung by what they saw as Mr. de Blasio’s reversal.

“It continues to be a stain in his legacy on immigration,” said Javier 
H. Valdés, a co-executive director of Make the Road New York, an 
advocacy group. “There’s no circle in the immigrant rights community 
where people don’t talk about that.”

On policing issues, those pushing Mr. de Blasio from the left have been 
more caustic in their evaluation, observing that even while low-level 
arrests are declining, the people being arrested remain mostly black and 
Hispanic. At the same time, advocates said, the mayor has not done 
enough to ensure bad-acting cops are punished.

“He’s done nothing to fix the broken N.Y.P.D. disciplinary process,” 
said Carolyn Martinez-Class, a police reform advocate.

She added that the mayor had “taken the city back decades on police 
transparency with newly expanded interpretations of 50-a that are worse 
than the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations,” referring to a state 
law that protects certain police documents from disclosure. Mr. de 
Blasio has vowed to fight for a change to the 50-a law in Albany, but 
little lobbying on the issue has been evident.

Nick Sifuentes, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation 
Campaign, an advocacy group of transportation and mass transit issues, 
said he initially saw Mr. de Blasio as a “progressive warrior” when he 
came into office, “saying all the right things about what New York 
really needed.” But the mayor’s first term has left him “very frustrated 
at the slow pace” of mayoral action on key transit initiatives, even as 
Mr. de Blasio has been an effective champion through his Vision Zero 
approach to trying to reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

Marcia Bystryn, the president of the New York League of Conservation 
Voters, too, said that the city had been a leader on environmental 
issues and praised Mr. de Blasio for setting ambitious goals.

Even so, one progressive goal — bringing its brown-bin composting 
program citywide by the end of the year — will fall short. “We paused 
the program,” the sanitation commissioner, Kathryn Garcia, said in an 
interview, adding that no new deadline had been set. “I know that the 
mayor remains very committed to getting this done, but I think that he 
was trying make sure that he was balancing the cost concerns.”

Ms. Bystryn suggested that the mayor “take a good hard look at his very 
ambitious OneNYC plan and focus on the practical steps that will be 
necessary to implement those goals. And if there are no practical steps, 
then adjust the goals.”

Mr. Sharpton said that some of the frustration with Mr. de Blasio among 
his far-left base may stem from unrealistic expectations.

“A lot of people expected him to be more of what they projected on him 
than what he was,” Mr. Sharpton said. “I knew when he was coming in that 
he was a deliberate, very careful type of guy.”

He added, “I never expected him to be Al Sharpton.”

Follow J. David Goodman and William Neuman on Twitter: @jdavidgoodman 
and @willieneuman

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