It almost felt like a cross between a Town Hall and a pep rally. There was no screaming or shouting. Just a gymnasium filled with people who had plenty on their minds and over two hours to get their questions answered. (Those who weren't picked handed in cards with their queries. They were guaranteed that they would receive follow-up responses.)
A diverse group of constituents from the Northwest Bronx met with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council member Andrew Cohen, for a forum that fielded concerns from local schools to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Mayor was accompanied by a complement of city agency brass, to either follow up on his responses, fill in the gaps, or personally meet those who were having problems.
As Cohen pointed out, Bronxites in this area hadn't received a mayoral visit since the days of Ed Koch.
De Blasio greeted the crowd with, "Good evening Northwest Bronx." There was a communal Pledge of Allegiance, and then lots of reciprocal shout-outs. Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz warmed up the audience by delivering some unflattering comments about Trump, before thanking the Mayor for "universal pre-K." Darcel Clark was introduced, and she assured those present, "You have a DA who is here for you." Cohen, who functioned as the MC, expressed his gratitude to de Blasio and laid out the ground rules: "Vigorous and respectful conversation. No speeches. Questions please."
Up for re-election, de Blasio did some politicking by running down his accomplishments after observing, "Everyone who is here in this room is here for a good reason."
Noting the current stats for high school graduates (72.6 percent), he added, "Fifteen years ago, it was under 50 percent." He stated, "Seventy thousand kids are in pre-K." De Blasio talked about police and community relations, affordable housing for seniors and vets, getting a rent freeze in place, and traffic safety. Then he told the audience, "I look forward to your questions."
The first inquiry was about the potential impact of Betsy DeVos on public education. De Blasio voiced concern about a reduction of federal revenue due to proposed tax cuts for the wealthy. "We have reserves," he said. "Now we fear Washington, D.C. more than loss of revenue."