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December 12, 2018

E-mails show doomed efforts to keep de Blasio’s ‘Progressive Agenda’ on track

September 29, 2018
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers a speech in April (James Keivom / New York Daily News)

Mayor de Blasio’s “Progressive Agenda” campaign was short-lived, and the forum it was meant to host never happened — but it sure did take up a lot of his time.

Hizzoner and his inner circle traded thousands of e-mails devoted to the subject over eight months in 2015 in an effort to set up de Blasio’s effort to steer the national political conversation.




De Blasio envisioned the campaign as a left-wing version of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract for America” campaign. He begged elected officials to sign on with his program, which included a presidential candidate forum that ultimately never materialized.

The e-mails discussing the effort were released this week after years of stalling — and legal battles — by the de Blasio administration, which sought to exempt communications between de Blasio and favored outside consultants by deeming those people “agents of the city.”

De Blasio prepared for the May 12, 2015 roll-out of the program by ringing up fellow mayors, members of Congress, labor leaders and others — some of whom took issue with the platform’s planks. Some pols declined to sign on because they feared the platform’s trade rhetoric might anger President Obama during the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Van Jones, the former Obama aide, sent a blistering e-mail criticizing the effort for not including planks on criminal justice reform — “No economic vision that fails to address the mass incarceration crisis can be called progressive.” He ultimately signed on after being assured those would eventually be added to the agenda.

Others just stalled, including Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Kamala Harris of California, and Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, the emails show.

Ultimately, the platform was launched at an event attended by plenty of pols.

The Progressive Agenda campaign was to culminate in a bipartisan presidential forum in Iowa.

Preparations for the December 2015 forum continued into October — but by November it was clear it simply wasn’t going to happen.




At one point, de Blasio wondered whether it could be postponed to January and turned into a straw poll instead. “Everything above may be the mad ramblings of a lunatic progressive… OR they may be creative and visionary,” he wrote.

Ultimately, the forum was scuttled — and as his staff prepared a statement on its cancellation, de Blasio urged them to spin it into more positive news.

“We are replacing the forum with a new grassroots effort in Iowa and beyond, starting immediately. Don’t start with canceling — start with a new vision,” he wrote.




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