From the very first days of Mayor de Blasio’s time at City Hall, he had a wandering eye. Ohio and Chicago and Nebraska all beckoned. Never mind that New Yorkers had just taken the one-time public advocate and given him, unexpectedly, the keys to Gracie Mansion. De Blasio was already onto to bigger and better things in the name of promoting his progressive message.
We know this because while the rest of the country was glued to their television screens watching Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testify on Capitol Hill, City Hall released more than 14,000 pages of emails between the mayor and his outside advisers. I was the lead plaintiff in NY1 and the New York Post’s successful public records lawsuit against the mayor, which forced de Blasio to turn over these documents.
The very first email in the massive pile is from Jan. 6, 2014, less than a week after de Blasio was sworn-in by former President Bill Clinton on the steps of City Hall.
“I’m generally going to be VERY modest, local and travel adverse this year,” de Blasio wrote his aides. But the Ohio Democratic Party had invited him to speak and “I love it there,” he wrote, calling Ohio “the center of the political universe.” He then listed three other out-of-town trips he wanted to take.
“I do want to project the progressive message nationally to reinforce my fellow progressives,” he said.
De Blasio is hardly the first New York City mayor to cultivate a national profile, but the missives make it clear that from the outset of his mayoralty, he was eager to hit the road. It didn’t help matters that during his first year in office, he didn’t think the usual rules should apply to him. He did things his way: showing up late to events, driving from the Upper East Side to work out in Park Slope, and strolling into City Hall hours after most New Yorkers had arrived at work.
His second year in office, it was de Blasio’s national “progressive agenda” that dominated emails with aides and an outside adviser, media consultant John del Cecato. De Blasio was desperate to turn himself into a progressive kingmaker and wanted to organize an event where presidential candidates would be grilled on their progressive bona fides.
When del Cecato told the mayor that a de Blasio adviser was pitching the candidate forum to CNN because she had a relationship with a key person at the news channel, he balked. “I find it laughable that something of this magnitude is being considered through the prism of who has a personal relationship with the network. We are way, way past that,” he wrote.
It turns out, he wasn’t. If you can’t recall such a forum ever taking place, that’s because it never did. Despite months of exhaustive emails, the forum never got off the ground. No one running for the White House wanted to come.
It’s doubtful the mayor, who spent Friday at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin and is jetting off to Columbia, S.C., for a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting this weekend, believes that his focus on national politics is a distraction.
But the city has been and continues to be grappling with a homelessness crisis, rampant lead paint problems in public housing apartments and streets crippled by gridlock. There’s plenty of work at home while he’s thousands of miles away.