Why will Mayor de Blasio be unchallenged in his upcoming re-election bid? No-name Republican candidates and Bo Dietl aside, there is no credible challenger up to the task of running against the incumbent mayor so far, despite his problems with approval ratings and wooing white voters.
His campaign fund-raising investigations do not make the campaign trail any easier. He can talk a good game about quality-of-life diminishment for New Yorkers but the perception of increased lawlessness is real. His incessant feuding with Governor Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, inspires no great confidence. New York City has experienced an uptick in the homeless population which brings subway safety and neighborhood integrity issues with it.
Of the usual suspects for a Democratic primary contest, Scott Stringer, comptroller, has made noises like a candidate and Eric Schneiderman, attorney general, is a possibility. Letitia James, public advocate, has made many public appearances sounding like a candidate for the office. Representative Hakeem Jeffries was touted as the possible top contender but has quietly retreated from the idea.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Christine Quinn, the former City Council speaker who lost to Mr. de Blasio in 2013,is flirting with the idea to run for mayor. It is no mean feat to defeat an incumbent New York City mayor. In the last half a century, only two one-term incumbents have been defeated: in 1977, Abe Beame was defeated by fellow Democrat Ed Koch and in 1993, David Dinkins was ousted by Republican Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. de Blasio has managed to be very progressive, introducing positive social policies that most New Yorkers agree are good, like increased affordable housing, universal pre-K and support for a livable minimum wage.
However, his policies on crime and placement of shelters for the homeless will continue to have criticism directed toward him. The idea that in New York City, public schools students can be disorderly and bring marijuana into schools with no repercussions is difficult to understand. The mayor pushed a pilot program in which students who would have been arrested for such violations merely receive a warning slip and their parents may never even be informed.
City Hall insists that the pilot program has been an unqualified success. Maybe if it is so successful, the mayor’s Criminal Justice Reform Act which proposes to decriminalize offenses like public urination, littering and drinking in public will work too.
When an unfortunate homeless person drinks a beer, spilling it onto the Wall Street clerk trying to get to his office on time, he may also have to urinate on the teacher hanging onto a pole on the same subway car but it will be small comfort to know that the only repercussion may be that the homeless citizen will receive a summonses with a fine for his “civil” offenses.
The decriminalization of offenses, the closure of Riker’s Island and preventing police officers from treating all gang members arrested as “bad guys” do not find support with common sense Democrats.
It is true that there are better ways to deal with citizens behaving badly but that doesn’t mean we should throw out the idea that people must be accountable for their actions. Make Riker’s Island more secure and more safe for the detainees and give special courts discretion to deal with low level infractions but don’t tell the people of the city that the way to improve the quality of life is to remove any penalty for disrupting it.
Mr. de Blasio, you have been blessed with a wonderful and prosperous tide of economic activity in the city. It is time to think about programs that will allow the people to live undisturbed and unmolested in this great city. If you do not, then it is time for the serious contenders for the Democratic primary to look for support to unseat you.
We don’t need Riker’s Island to be turned over to your real estate developer friends. We need programs and support for the middle class homeowners and business operators that constitute the foundation of this great metropolis. Those overlooked citizens deserve as much attention as transgender citizens, poor citizens and undocumented immigrants.
Although President Trump has been making Mayor de Blasio look good, he must stake out positions concerning criminal justice reform, effective treatment for the homeless and maintaining quality of life in the five boroughs that make sense or face real opposition in the upcoming November election.