Let’s go back in time to summer 2013, when a hopeful young guy named Bill de Blasio ran for mayor. The field was crowded with Democrats, and de Blasio tried to distinguish himself by releasing a 75-page book, “One New York, Rising Together,” that covered his plans for the office.
News stories from that simpler moment, when classic de Blasio phrasing like “today’s reality” was quirkily fun and new, called the book “detailed” and “wide-ranging.” He laid out some of the big-ticket items that have defined his tenure: a plan for universal pre-K, affordable housing commitments. There are sections about knotty problems like “NYCHA’s notorious backlog” in repairs. There is language about state laws that would affect New Yorkers, like driver’s licenses for immigrants here illegally. There is — no other word for it — detailed discussion of specific issues like the need for flood-proof sand dunes on the city’s edges. The pernicious problem of “subway grinding” often faced by women. There was even judicious praise for de Blasio’s predecessor on some issues like anti-smoking campaigns, a sign of someone who has thought granularly about a system and what’s right and what’s wrong.
Some of the document’s contents ended up getting accomplished after de Blasio won. Some got lost in the shuffle. But all in all, readers got a sense of someone (or someone’s campaign consultant) who had a feel for the city, cared enough to take a good hard look at it and sketch out a path to make it better.
That was a while ago.
Now de Blasio is running for president, but he’s not particularly interested in telling you what he’ll do when he gets there.
Good luck finding much in the way of plans on his website, billdeblasio.com. There are bios of him and his wife, a video, and a section called “Accomplishments.”
When asked for more information about de Blasio’s White House plans, a spokeswoman sent two news releases. The combined releases come in under 1,000 total words. One timed for the NYC Pride March sketched out a presidential executive order that would provide an honorable discharge for people forced to leave the armed forces due to sexual orientation, and committed de Blasio to reversing Trump’s “transgender military ban.” The other was an announcement at a national education conference, where de Blasio promised some school initiatives like early childhood education and more federal funding for education in general.
Billy Easton, executive director of the advocacy group Alliance for Quality Education, which has supported de Blasio causes in the past, called the funding plan "a major step forward" in an email. The mayor’s note about mitigating “the inequities caused by the over-reliance on regressive property taxes” holds true for education in many communities. But it’s a far cry from the decently argued look at the controversial topics of free public college and student-debt cancellation from Elizabeth “I have a plan for that” Warren. Even Pete Buttigieg, also a working mayor, has a few nominal “issues” paragraphs on that and other topics on his campaign site.
In his peripatetic pavement-pounding far from Penn Station (yes, he’s heading to the Ankeny Area Democrats BBQ in Iowa this weekend), de Blasio might chat a bit about his big ideas. He’s often happy to kibitz about lofty national themes, and the implicit pitch is that he’ll do from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. what he did from Gracie Mansion. But it’s no “One New York.”
True, New Yorkers cranky about a mayor apparently taken with the national spotlight might not take kindly to him ducking work to draft some serious new white papers.
But if he’s not making a real full go of this presidential thing, in the way he went for mayor, what’s he doing?
It’s almost like he doesn’t expect to rise much higher than 0 to minuscule in the polls.
It’s almost like good debate performances or not, it will be tough to meet the 130,000 unique donors needed to get to the big debate stage in September.
It’s almost like, barring big changes or union support, this is a nice way for the mayor, a telegenically able politician, to make some national connections until he bows to the Swalwell moment that comes for all candidates who don’t catch fire.
It’s almost like this is less than serious. Who needs plans for a job that won’t be held?