There are a lot of ruins in a city, to adapt Adam Smith, and Bill de Blasio spent eight years trying to prove it. The Progressive’s tenure as mayor has been a disaster for New York City in almost every way, and the only saving grace is that it is for a limited time. The question as Tuesday approaches is whether voters will attempt to pull the city out of its downward spiral.
We would have liked the stakes to be lower, and they were eight years ago. Mr. de Blasio inherited a thriving city after 20 years of capable leadership. First, Rudy Giuliani challenged the liberal status quo with reforms on crime and public order, social protection, education and regulation. Michael Bloomberg pursued crime reduction under Commissioner Ray Kelly and accelerated school reform under Joel Klein.
The city exploded, but voters forgot about the bad old days, and the combination of public unions and the nobility left took over the political debate. Some progressives now want to disown Mr. de Blasio, who has become a clownish and deeply unpopular figure, but he has implemented their agenda.
Regulations have crushed small businesses. Bias against charter schools and the substitution of race for merit in admissions reversed educational gains. A court ordered that the city’s public housing authority be placed under the control of a federal monitor. Public union wages and pensions have left the city facing a budget crisis despite huge Covid cash injections from Congress.
Importantly, crime and disorder has returned amid the gradual attacks on the police and anti-crime strategies that have worked. Bail reform frees repeat offenders. Mentally ill homeless people attack metro users and pedestrians. The mayor asked his police chief to disband the anti-crime unit that was looking for illegal weapons, and shootings escalated. For older New Yorkers, the throwback to the 1970s is all too obvious.
It is not clear that a new mayor can turn the tide given the power of the Socialist Workers’ Families Party and public unions. But there are portents of hope in the campaign for the Democratic nomination, which will almost determine the next mayor.
The most promising news is that even Democrats are once again talking about reducing crime, not just bashing the police. The debate was led by Andrew Yang, the businessman who ran for president in 2020, and Eric Adams, a former police captain who is now president of the Brooklyn Borough. Mr. Adams would re-establish the anti-crime unit and Mr. Yang would deploy 250 full-time cops to patrol the subways.
Mr. Adams leads the polls, overtaking Mr. Yang, and his focus on public safety is clearly the reason. Mr. Yang and others regularly attack him for saying he carried a gun as he is allowed to do as a former cop. But he has withstood the attacks, which bodes well if he wins.
We wish Mr. Adams would be more outspoken in his support for charter schools, but he can be persuaded to lift the cap on the number of schools and it has not been approved by the teachers‘ union. He also talks about easing business regulations to help jumpstart the economy after the pandemic.
Mr. Yang’s weakness is that his campaign is fanciful, such as his proposal to give $ 2,000 a year to about 500,000 low-income New Yorkers. He would do so even if he worries the city is headed for a tax crash. Mr. Adams calls this universal basic income âsnake oilâ and âUBLieâ.
Ray McGuire, a former Citigroup executive, also spoke reasonably about crime. Mr. McGuire is the top candidate when it comes to education, supporting more charter schools that have long waiting lists and focusing on success. As a political outsider, he would also be in the best position to bring Bloomberg-style management to the city’s finances. But Mr. McGuire has never gained popularity in the polls and will need a late push to stand a chance.
The rest of the Democratic candidates are of various shades of leftist or careerist hacks. Kathryn Garcia is a favorite of the liberal intelligentsia, but why is a mystery. She ran the sanitation service under Mr de Blasio, which is hardly reassuring that she is pushing for the major change the city needs. She’s good in charter schools.
Closest to a de Blasio clone is Maya Wiley, a far-left legal activist who wants to downsize the police force and thinks she blames the homeless for wanting to get them off the streets or docks in subway. She lives in a chic corner of Brooklyn protected by private security, as Mr. Adams likes to point out. The left has rallied around her since she was endorsed by Queens Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is the candidate for continuous decline.
The polls are close and the ranked vote means the second or third most popular choice could ultimately win. Whoever wins faces a difficult task to save the city from the left, including the Albany Legislature whose tax increases are driving New Yorkers out of the state. But restoring public order is the next mayor’s first duty, and hopefully voters will make that clear on Tuesday.
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