Anyone expecting Mayor Bill de Blasio to gently pivot toward a more pragmatic brand of municipal politics was in for a surprise Thursday.
After 100 often-punishing days as the chief of America’s most cantankerous city, de Blasio just doubled down on his vision of a renewed progressive movement that will someday guide the city toward the promised land.
He wants to create a city of effective schools, great neighborhood hospitals and decent jobs. And he would turn New York into a place where residents can stay in their homes without fear of economic dislocation.
We hope he succeeds.
But let’s not kid ourselves. So far, he sounds far more like the Miracle Worker than a seasoned, cigar-chomping, get-it-done-now pol in the mold of Fiorello La Guardia.
He sounds like a fellow still stuck in campaign mode.
He says he would improve the schools by “embracing” the role of parents and by making it easier for them to push their schools forward. Wonderful. But how is this going to work? The last time the city tried it, the result was community school districts — which proved disastrous.
He says neighborhood hospitals are closing and people should be worried because we need health care spread equally and fairly in the city. But he doesn’t say how he would turn back several decades of fast-changing national trends in medical economics. And he doesn’t explain how these neighborhood hospitals can efficiently deliver the highly specialized medical care Americans expect today.
De Blasio is good when he talks specifics.
He wanted a prekindergarten program for every eligible child in the city. Albany gave it to him. He wants to repair our dilapidated public housing stock. That’s doable. He wants developers to build more affordable housing. He can use city leverage to make that happen.
But the mayor is wrong if he expects an ethereal ethos of progressivism to somehow solve the city’s most intractable problems. Life is more complicated than that. So is New York. He needs a plan B anchored in the here and now.