Cookies

This Website use Cookies OK

Read more Opinion News

City without a mayor: If de Blasio really cares about his professed priorities, he should get back to business, including reforming 50-a

2019-08-25

Happier there than here. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It looks like Bill de Blasio, nowhere at all in the national polls but looking happier eating corndogs in Iowa (ugh!) or grinning uncontrollably while spending an hour with Sean Hannity (UGH!) than he does doing his day job, is about done serving as mayor of New York City, and that we’re set for a couple more years on autopilot — assuming no crash — before an actual leader can take the wheel.

With virtually no fundraising support for his national campaign outside a handful of groups here (hotel developers, members of politically wired unions, Orthodox Jews) who expect consideration from City Hall in exchange, there’s little chance de Blasio even makes the next debate. His CNN town hall Sunday night looks a lot like the end of the road as his fellow also-rans start exiting the race.

In a pre-obit for his campaign, Politico reporters Dana Rubinstein and Sally Goldenberg asked: “After the likely demise of de Blasio’s campaign, what comes next?” They detail the low expectations among city politicians and even members of his own administration for the lame-duck mayor’s last years, and lay out “a more helpful alternative” in which he uses his power and pulpit to fulfill various so-far unmet promises on housing (where he could start by living up to his abandoned $500 million pledge, sealed with a public handshake, to build apartments for seniors), homelessness and a host of other issues.

I’d add one crucial item to that list, if de Blasio means the words that come out of his mouth. I don’t really believe he does any more, and I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong.

Ever since his legal department “discovered,” months after Eric Garner’s death, a new interpretation of 50-a, a previously uncontroversial state law on the books for decades, police disciplinary records — including Pantaleo’s — have been officially treated as state secrets.

De Blasio, ever the buck passer, then had the chutzpah to call on Albany to “reform” the law his lawyers had effectively created (with judges since upholding the city’s radical new interpretation). But that hasn’t happened, even with Democrats now controlling both houses of the state Legislature, as the mayor has appeared more concerned with documenting his position than with spending his political and rhetorical capital to actually achieve it.

He didn’t bring up 50-a at all when he returned to New York from the campaign trail as NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill last week finally fired Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in killing Garner in 2014. The mayor again passed the buck for the hideously long wait for any public accounting for Garner’s killing to the feds, and vowed not to repeat that mistake.

“Today in our city we ended a chapter that has brought our people so much pain and so much fear over these last five years,” de Blasio began.

Citing Martin Luther King, the mayor said that “now we have to look beyond this tragedy because our city is at a pivotal moment” where “we can react with bitterness and division and we can be trapped by the sins of our past. Or we can transform the suffering into progress…

“I see this as a sacred mission we all must take on, we must devote ourselves to this simple goal that no person, no family, no community should ever go through the agony that we’ve all experienced here over these last years. It should never happen again in this city or this country is the only goal that is acceptable. Let this be the last tragedy. To actually get there, we all have to confront our history honestly.”

He concluded: “As this chapter ends today, I know we can build a New York City that ensures fairness and justice for all.”

As the next tragedy looms, de Blasio has plenty of overdue work here to transform suffering into progress, advance this sacred mission, confront his own history honestly and truly bring this chapter to an end, not just declare it done.

He can start with 50-a.