Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his very first “State of the City” address on Monday in the auditorium of LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, under a banner which read “One New York, rising together,” and mentioning “all five boroughs” no less than three times in his 43-minute discourse.
In that time, he went on to raise expectations for everyone except diehard cynics who will be making line by line comparisons between the speech – always a mayoral wish list more than a plan – and his budget, to be released that Wednesday.
De Blasio reprised his demand for full-day pre-K and “quality extended learning programs” for every middle school student, paid for by a city-controlled tax on those “making” more than $500,000 a year. Hizzoner further put Albany on notice that he wants the city to set its own minimum wage and issue its own ID cards to anyone who happens to be here.
He also promised to extend paid sick leave to hundreds of thousands who work for businesses with as few as five employees, immediately. He promised to shift money from “corporate subsidies” to tuition assistance and to create an “Entrepreneurship Fund” and a “Fashion Manufacturing Fund,” although entrepreneurs and fashionistas do have a habit of incorporating.
Sour notes abound in the form of those pesky details, like the 150 expired labor contracts the city has to renegotiate with 300,000 employees. After all, the biggest single expense in Big Bill’s big educational plan is the compensation package for those who will be tending kids whose numbers nearly equal the population of Wyoming.
Until we know that cost, there’s no way of calculating whether Bill can pay the bill.
Small business owners also have to wonder what these plans portend, especially business owners on the far side of Queens – like those in Little Neck competing with Great Neck outfits, or those in the Queens section of Floral Park, competing with Floral Park shops in Nassau.
Hizzoner’s first accomplishment in introducing his “hot and sexy” budget presentation was to avoid being annoyingly late by pushing back the start time over an hour.
For all the finger pointing at the previous administration, the multi-billion surplus Bloomberg left behind is earmarked for budget balancing, restoring some of the money snatched from pension funds and boosting our “rainy day” cookie jar.
Hizzoner left money on the table for fire houses, borough presidents and the Public Advocate, leaving fewer opportunities for every other pol to express righteous indignation and making sure that the aforementioned Albanians will be the ogres this spring.
After all the mind-numbing details, small ball specifics and vague assurances to unions, it is interesting to note that “responsible” now vies with “progressive” in the mayoral lexicon. We’ll see what our responsible progressives do next.
Meanwhile up in Albany, where a “home rule” message would have to be approved before the city can enact the proposed tax, State Senate co-Majority Leader Dean Skelos made it clear that nobody should hold their breath.
It seems there are about 160 such requests ahead of ours in the pipeline, and no amount of Draino is going to convince him to back the city tax. Skelos insists that, unlike a request from some deep-in-the woods hamlet in the North Country, penny-pinching plutocrats would flee the state if this tax passes.
This isn’t sitting well with Skelos’ counterpart, Jeff Klein of the Independent Democratic Caucus, who first promised that he will put the brakes on the entire state budget unless Bill’s Pre-K package (and presumably the tax) is included.
After boasting about how we’ve been cranking out on-time budgets lately, one can only assume that Governor Cuomo placed a less-than-happy call to Klein – who promptly walked back from the brink of soiling the Gov’s political resume. Klein’s last definite statement suggested that the solons of the senate might “adapt the mayor’s plan.”
Cuomo fired a salvo across Big Bill’s bow on Wednesday, accusing our second-most famous snow shoveller of hogging the city’s millionaires with his proposed city tax. New York City may be the capital of the universe, but in Andy’s book, Pre-K money has to be spread from Montauk to Mayville.
In other developments, Grace Meng, the only member of Congress exclusively representing our borough, is establishing her bona fides as a veteran member of the House by starting her very own Political Action Committee, with the Twitter-ready name “@theTable.”
Meng, busily fundraising halfway across the country to collect IOUs from candidates who could be colleagues come next January, also has to keep an eye on another Flushing favorite, John Liu.
Liu, whose schedule and press operation has barely dropped off since he left office, is rumored to be considering primary challenge to his erstwhile colleague… one wonders, would this be considered a dis-Grace?
From the profound to the picayune, having such a “progressive” as de Blasio under a banner channeling the Reaganesque notion that “a rising tide lifts all boats” struck me as odd. I do hope some beneficiary of the proposed Fashion Fund will tell Hizzoner to never wear that tie with a brown suit again.