Unlike most progressives, I had a lot of doubts about Bill De Blasio before he was elected. I knew that he would never be able to get the Legislature to enact a millionaires’ tax to pay for pre-k. I was worried that he would be <a href=”http://grist.org/cities/driving-force-will-bill-de-blasio-stand-up-for-new-yorkers-without-cars/”>overly auto-centric</a> in his transportation policy. I was worried that in his zeal to break with Bloomberg, he would also throw the baby out with the bath water and reverse course on some of Bloomberg’s good policies, notably on the environment and in transportation. And I wasn’t sold on his ability to generate money to spend on good priorities through finding efficiencies elsewhere.
So far, de Blasio has proven most of my concerns wrong and he is hitting it out of the park on several issues.
As I suspected, the Legislature refused to raise taxes on millionaires’. But de Blasio did secure $300 million from the State for pre-k, and his proposed budget has large spending increases for great things like <a href=”https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CC0QqQIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2014%2F05%2F09%2Fnyregion%2Fde-blasio-new-york-budget.html&ei=CMNuU9PuJqfLsQToqYCADg&usg=AFQjCNExbgxghGDSzZxc-snuStIcv9SZPg&sig2=RLVUd6kAlMtEEtz0YLppcg&bvm=bv.66111022,d.cWc”>libraries and after-school programs</a>. He was able to <a href=”https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=newssearch&cd=3&ved=0CDkQqQIoADAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2014%2F05%2F02%2Fnyregion%2Fde-blasio-new-york-teachers-contract-deal.html&ei=M8NuU5LqG-3jsAT_hoCQDQ&usg=AFQjCNGEcesQyunNns8yTpYB4eo0lBivlQ&sig2=V8SDwc2CyT4S3FS4NS_BfA&bvm=bv.66111022,bs.1,d.cWc”>find efficiencies in city spending</a>, like in pensioner’s health care plans that allow the city to afford to both not cut benefits and also give fair retroactive raises to the city’s teachers. If all municipal contracts follow the same pattern, that will be a great achievement.
On the environment, de Blasio has continued the great work outlined in former Mayor Bloomberg’s <a href=”http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc2030/images/homeslider/progress-report-042214.png”>PLANYC</a>. On transportation, he has continued expanding the bike lane network and in implementing Vision Zero to protect pedestrians and bikers by reducing traffic deaths.
And on housing, de Blasio has just released an excellent plan that essentially takes a good Bloomberg policy known as inclusionary zoning, and <a href=”http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2014/05/bill-de-blasios-middle-ground.html”>put it on steroids</a> by calling for a great increase in high-density development, with the higher density incentivizing developers to build affordable multi-bedroom apartments that are permanently affordable.
All of these policies show that, at least so far, de Blasio is a pragmatic progressive with a wonk’s view of municipal policy. If he can continue making the right choices during his tenure in office, he could be considered one of the best mayors NYC ever has. Let’s hope he does.