You can already see how this thing is going to go when reports in two local newspapers almost completely diverge in the reportage of the inauguration of Bill de Blasio as the 109th Mayor of the City of New York. While Billy Joel once sang about some give and take and The New York Times and The Daily News, the differences couldn’t be any more apparent and indicative of what Mayor de Blasio himself calls the “Tale of Two Cities.”
The story in The News focused on the speakers at the event being divisive and not recognizing Mayor Bloomberg for his 12 years as leader of the city. The article in The Times paints a completely different picture, one of de Blasio as a man who stands for all the city’s citizens but means to right the ship in terms of equity for all and not just a few.
Which story is right? Well, it is long known that The News has been a staunch supporter of Bloomberg, while The Times has been (I hate to use a FOX promo) “fair and balanced” in its approach to him. This means that the paper would call Bloomberg to task when he made his mistakes (which after 12 years were many). Therefore, you need to take the sources into consideration and realize that the article in The News ended with the line, “Hardly anyone spoke for us Wednesday” (at the inauguration). While if you saw any of the coverage on TV or read The Times article, you would get the idea that the speakers were speaking for everyone, but the Bloomberg crowd just didn’t want to hear what they had to say.
Mayor de Blasio has rightly called the last 12 years a “Tale of Two Cities,” and obviously this is a salient observation for anyone who has lived her under Lord Bloomberg’s rule. The disparity between the haves and have-nots was never more apparent than under his watch, where the most important people were clearly concentrated in Manhattan, and certain blocks and areas to be sure got more consideration than others. As for the outer boroughs, people living there might as well have been in Siberia, for in Bloomberg’s mind they were suburbs more than part of the city.
Why people are excited about de Blasio is that he has shared a vision where he will make changes based on what is good for everyone, not those clinking crystal glasses in high priced restaurants or working in their offices overlooking Central Park. No wonder the Bloomberg crowd is upset – they realize that their time is over.
We New Yorkers can remember well that Bloomberg felt that he knew what was right for the city, whether or not we liked it. If Lord Bloomberg deemed it right, well who knew better than he? We can look at the big soda cup ban, the banning of smoking almost everywhere, the pernicious attack on New York City public school teachers, and his disastrous stop-and-frisk as prime examples of his “lord in the manor” philosophy. After all, to him we were just serfs who had to bow to the rule of his iron fist.
If you are not a New Yorker and doubt this scenario of the man who knew not only too much but also everything, please note how when he tried to explain the big soda cup ban that he wasn’t telling anyone what to do, but “we’re simply forcing you to understand.” Just think about that one for a moment. If that doesn’t convince you of his attitude toward the regular people of the city, think of this quotation: “I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.” Again, this is coming from Lord Bloomberg who definitely thought that he knew what was better for you than you did, and he was going to do everything in his power to prove it to you.
This attitude subsumed the mentality of government for the people to one that could “infringe” in any way it saw fit. Even on the last day in office, he chose to ban E-cigarettes in the city, just as a last jab at New Yorkers to let them know who was boss right up until the end. There was no way people in the streets could ever believe he was doing anything in their best interests; rather, those from the lowest economic class through the middle class understood that Bloomberg’s interests were vested in those with power and prestige.
De Blasio comes into office at a time when he can make major changes for the people who elected him by a landslide. Consider de Blasio’s words in light of what Bloomberg has said. In his inaugural address he noted, “We see what binds all New Yorkers together: an understanding that big dreams are not a luxury reserved for a privileged few, but the animating force behind every community.” This was his reaching out, letting us know that his interests go beyond the elite that Bloomberg courted so shamelessly.
De Blasio went on to promise an “unwavering resolve to do everything possible to ensure that every girl and boy, no matter what language they speak, what subway line they ride, what neighborhood they call home — that every child has the chance to succeed.” This is no Lord in the manor speaking down to us; this is a man of the people who definitely is for the people – all of them!
So we have great hope now – in the outer boroughs, in the housing projects, and in the small, forgotten stores run be people with the American dream. It is clear that the courting of the big corporate types is over, that the drive is to flow resources to assist everyone struggling, hoping to get a little piece of that big American pie that guys like Bloomberg tend to gobble up for themselves.
No one is saying de Blasio will have it easy, or that he will be a perfect mayor, but the wise choice of Carmen Farina to run the city schools is an indication that this man means what he says. His promise to overhall Bloomberg’s devastating policies gives everyone hope that our schools will once again become places of real learning instead of a bastion of over-testing and pounding teachers into oblivion.
De Blasio’s inauguration provides the kind of hope we (everyday New Yorkers) haven’t seen in a long time. As Mr. de Blasio was sworn into office by President Clinton, it felt something like a new Camelot, as if someone similar to John F. Kennedy had returned to be a progressive leader to take us ahead with a new and exciting vision for the future of the city.
For those who felt Bloomberg didn’t get a proper send off, there are no apologies. After 12 years of his autocratic rule, there is nothing but a sigh of relief from the people on the streets. The Tale of Two Cities should end as soon as possible, and Mr. de Blasio has made it clear that his administration will be about equity for all. Someone did speak for us on Wednesday, loudly and clearly, and most New Yorkers say joyously, “It’s about time!”
Photo credits: de blasio and de blasio and Clinton-daily news; de blasio family-ny times