I admit it. I am biased when it comes to Mayor Bill DeBlaiso. I first got to know him when he was a first-time Councilmember when I was Communications Director for first time City Councilmember Yvette Clarke. Then when he was her campaign chairman during her successful run for the United States Congress where I was her Deputy Campaign Manager for Field Operations and Ethnic Media. I always liked and respected the "tall man" as I called him with the ready smile and complete comfort level when interacting with Black and Caribbean Brooklynites.
Mayor Bill DeBlasio was just at home in Little Haiti in Brooklyn as he was in the affluent Park Slope section of the borough. He knew as many roti shops as I did and could speak about Jamaican jerk chicken with any "yardie." And that was way before he decided to run for mayor of New York City.
So it came as no surprise to me when he came out swinging at his historic public inauguration on a cold winter's day on January 1, 2014. He was gracious and magnanimous. He took the subway to the inauguration symbolically identifying with millions of working class New Yorkers who use public transportation to get around the city.
"The spark that ignites our 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.
We recognize a city government's first duties: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean; to ensure that those who live here -- and those who visit -- can get where they need to go in all five boroughs. But we know that our mission reaches deeper. We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city's history. It's in our DNA," Mayor DeBlasio said jumping feet first into his speech.
If anyone was looking to hear meaningless rhetorical platitudes and vapid political fluff, they were sorely disappointed. Granted, Mayor DeBlasio was diplomatic, articulate, firm and charismatic. He smiled a lot, disarmingly so. But he had surreptitiously placed Thor's hammer in his smooth velvet glove so that as he swung everybody thought that it was a harmless gesture -- just New York political talk as usual.
Hear the man speak:
"A movement that sees the inequality crisis we face today, and resolves that it will not define our future. Now I know there are those who think that what I said during the campaign was just rhetoric, just "political talk" in the interest of getting elected. There are some who think now, as we turn to governing -- well, things will continue pretty much like they always have.
"So let me be clear. When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won't be easy; It will require all that we can muster. And it won't be accomplished only by me; It will be accomplished by all of us -- those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city. "
Under the collective breadths you could the "ooohhhs and aaaahs, huh? Come again?
Taken aback the audience of over 2,000 people and millions more looking on television lapsed into an involuntary silence. Dazed, kind of shocked by this tall, handsome, still smiling (kinda like President Barack Obama) man telling you "in and to your face" that "I'm going to change things or die trying" the audience did not know quite how to react. The shock that he dared to put this on public record, a kind of manifesto of what he intends to do and why, after he won the election took a few minutes to wear off.
Horror of horrors! What's he doing? Making a Social Contract with these people? What about us? The 1 percent of 1 percent?
"You must be at the center of this debate. And our work begins now. We will expand the Paid Sick Leave law -- because no one should be forced to lose a day's pay, or even a week's pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law. We won't wait.
"We'll do it now. We will require big developers to build more affordable housing. We'll fight to stem the tide of hospital closures. And we'll expand community health centers into neighborhoods in need, so that New Yorkers see our city not as the exclusive domain of the One Percent, but a place where everyday people can afford to live, work, and raise a family. We won't wait. We'll do it now.
"We will reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy, both to protect the dignity and rights of young men of color, and to give our brave police officers the partnership they need to continue their success in driving down crime. We won't wait. We'll do it now.
"We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student. And when we say "a little more," we can rightly emphasize the "little."
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