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Will Bill De Blasio Reverse Twenty Years Of Progress In New York City?Allan C. Brownfeld Salem-News.com
The problems of inequality upon which De Blasio based much of his campaign are real, but are not unique to New York, nor were they the result of city policies
(NEW YORK CITY) - Liberals across the country are looking to Bill de Blasio, the newly elected mayor of New York City, to transform the city's government into a closely watched laboratory for populist theories of government that have never before been enacted on such a large scale.
Mr. De Blasio entered politics as an aide to former Mayor David Dinkins and was s firsthand witness to the failed policies of that left-leaning administration. The waves of crime and racial tension that plagued the Dinkins administration put Democrats in the political wilderness for 20 years. The successful tenures of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg ushered in an era of business-minded executives who made the city safe , clean and prosperous.
Under Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg, the twenty year drop in crime is the sharpest in the nation. The liberal writer Jack Newfield once wrote that if the murders in New York go below 600 a year, there should be a ticker-tape parade for the Police Department. Last year, murders in New York fell below 340, in a city of 8 million. By contrast, Newark, with a population of 277,000 ended 2013 with more than 100 murders.
During Mayor De Blasio's inauguration on January 1, speaker after speaker saw fit to denounce outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was sitting only feet away. It started with the invocation, at which the Rev. Fred Lucas, senior pastor at the Brooklyn Community Church, called New York City a "plantation." He and other speakers freely used other slavery and racially-charged metaphors in calling for a Reconstruction and an Emancipation Proclamation. "End the civil wars and usher in a new Reconstruction era," Lucas said.
First to speak was the singer Harry Belafonte, who was seriously in error about history. He declared that,"New York alarmingly plays a tragic role in the fact that our nation has the largest prison population in the world." That is clearly the opposite of the truth.
"New York is one of the first states to significantly reduce. It's entire correctional population," according to a 2013 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. "It reduced the number of people in prison and jail, and on probation and parole. This drop was driven exclusively by declines in New York City's correctional population."
The title of the report is "How New York City Reduced Mass Incarceration: A Model For Change?" The study found that, "New York City sending fewer people into the justice system reduced mass incarceration in the entire of state."
Mr. De Blasio proclaims himself a "progressive" and declares his commitment to "equal opportunity." Yet, as The Washington Post pointed out editorially, "Achieving this goal is not just a matter of taxing and spending but also of institutional reform---especially in education."
Here, Mayor Bloomberg earned high marks from most New Yorkers. He challenged teachers unions and expanded school choice and accountability. He closed large neighborhood schools that were performing poorly and replaced them with hundreds of smaller schools and public charter schools. When Bloomberg became mayor in 2001, fewer than half of New York City's high school students graduated in four years. That figure is now 61 per cent, even though standards are more difficult. Fourth grade reading and math scores have risen. Sadly, the new mayor seems to side with those who would bring the Bloomberg reforms to an end.
What is De Blasio thinking when he promises to limit charter schools' access to publicly owned buildings and promises a moratorium on closing low-performing schools? He also wants to end Bloomberg's A-F report cards for schools. His choice for schools chancellor, Carmen Farifia, is a prominent critic of the Bloomberg reforms.
The tone set at De Blasio's inauguration was even criticized editorially by one of his strongest supporters, The New York Times. The paper lamented "backward-looking speeches both graceless and smug" and pointed, in particular, to the new public advocate: "Worst among them, but hardly alone, was the new public advocate, Letitia James, who used her moment for her own head-on attack: on the 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In doing so, she made a prop of a 12-year-old girl named Dasani, who had to hold the Bible and Ms. James's hand as Ms. James called for a government 'that cares more about a child going hungry or a new tax credit for a luxury development.'"
Dasani was profiled in a series of articles in the Times illustrating the plight of homeless families. Editorially, The Times declared: "Ms. James turned her into Exhibit A of an Inauguration Day prosecution: the People v. Mayor Bloomberg. So did the pastor whose invocation likened New York to a 'plantation,' and Harry Belafonte who strangely laid the problem of America's crowded prisons at the feet of the former mayor, an utterly bogus claim, while saying Mr. Bloomberg shared responsibility for the nation's 'deeply Dickensian justice system.'...Mr. Bloomberg had his mistakes and failures, but he was not a cartoon Gilded Age villain. He deserved better than pointless and tacky harangues from speakers eager to parrot Mr. de Blasio's campaign them."
The only gracious voice on the scene was that of former President Bill Clinton, who administered the oath of office. Clinton thanked Bloomberg, who took over the city in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011 and had to deal with the recession that hit the country in 2008, for leaving New York stronger than he found it. When he followed, De Blasio also gave a nod to the former mayor, but by then the negative and hostile tone had been set.
Why did Bill Clinton administer the oaths of office to New York's mayor and bring Hillary with him? De Blasio has, it seems, become a beacon to those in the Democratic Party's progressive wing, who have often been disappointed by President Obama. Other than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the party's left wing sees few political leaders willing to promote their agenda. With the Clintons on hand, the De Blasio inauguration has added significance and seems to be an effort to position a potential Clinton presidential race further to the left.
Politico reported that De Blasio will buttress the coming presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. It noted De Blasio's ties to the Clintons and argued that the new mayor will shore up her liberal credibility. "As church people say, he can 'witness' for them," says Democratic strategist and former adviser to Bill Clinton, James Carville. "He can talk about her, how she stands up for people. It could be very, very helpful."
Under Michael Bloomberg, New York City thrived. It became safe and prosperous. He turned the $6 billion deficit he found upon taking office into a $3 billion surplus. The problems of inequality upon which De Blasio based much of his campaign are real, but are not unique to New York, nor were they the result of city policies. Statistics show even greater inequality in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. (where Michael Bloomberg never served as mayor). New York City has not had a liberal Democratic mayor for 20 years. When he served in the Dinkins administration, De Blasio saw a different, dangerous, degraded city. He will be of little use to Hillary Clinton or anyone else if he turns his back on 20 years of real progress in New York. Let's hope he will abandon the divisive rhetoric of his campaign and continue to move the city forward as his most recent predecessors have done.
Salem-News.com contributor Allan C. Brownfeld received his B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary, his J.D. degree from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary and his M.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. He has served on the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia, and the University College of the University of Maryland.
The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, Mr. Brownfeld has written for such newspapers as THE HOUSTON PRESS, THE RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH, THE WASHINGTON EVENING STAR and THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. For many years he wrote three columns a week for such newspapers as THE PHOENIX GAZETTE, THE MANCHESTER UNION LEADER, and THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. His weekly column appeared for more than a decade in ROLL CALL, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in such journals as THE YALE REVIEW, THE TEXAS QUARTERLY, THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, ORBIS and MODERN AGE.
Mr. Brownfeld served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and was the author of that committee's 250-page study of the New Left. He has also served as Assistant to the Research Director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to such members of Congress as Reps. Phil Crane (R-Il) and Jack Kemp (R-NY) and to the Vice President of the United States.
He is a former editor of THE NEW GUARD and PRIVATE PRACTICE, the journal of the Congress of County Medical Societies and has served as a Contributing Editor AMERICA'S FUTURE and HUMAN EVENTS. He served as Washington correspondent for the London-based publications, JANE'S ISLAMIC AFFAIRS ANALYST and JANE'S TERRORISM REPORT. His articles regularly appear in newspapers and magazines in England, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and other countries. You can write to Allan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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