De Blasio, mayoral coalition pledge to fight income inequality
Mayor Bill de Blasio and more than 30 mayors of major cities gathered at Gracie Mansion Monday to tackle the nation's income inequality crisis head on.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors pledged to take action to empower those coping with unemployment, lack of affordable housing and educational opportunities, as well as other problems.
De Blasio, who has made fighting economic disparity a top priority of his administration, said the bipartisan coalition can counter the national political gridlock and provide assistance for the Americans who need it.
"The leadership is here not only to make a difference in their cities but also make it national," he said at news conference at Gracie Mansion.
The alliance, which includes Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, put out a report Monday detailing how bad income inequality has become nationwide.
Although the U.S. has gained 8.7 million jobs since 2008, the average household income fell 3% between 2005 and 2012.
"Well, exciting as this new era is, there's also a chasm that exists between the haves and the have-nots in this country," Mayor Johnson, the coalition's president said in a statement. "We also know there's a lot going on it terms of a gap, and that gap is widening in terms of income inequality."
During their meeting, the mayors talked extensively about strategies they enacted in their cities that helped bridge the income gap and improved quality of life. De Blasio said everyone was taking extensive notes on subjects such as minimum wage and universal pre-K so that they could replicate the success in their hometowns.
The group pledged to promote policies on the federal level, including a hike of the minimum wage; expanded and free early education; and a focus on bolstering cities' broadband infrastructure.
"Washington, and sometimes our state capitals, are caught in a position of being in neutral, our cities cannot afford to be in neutral. The people that make up our cities cannot afford us to be in neutral," Emanuel said.
De Blasio said the coalition will be coming up with plans and put pressure on their state and federal counterparts to move forward with progressive actions and solve this crisis.
"That's what changes the debate, when the people start to say, 'We like that vision.' That's when elected officials have to follow in Washington," he said.