We are Jewish residents of New York who read, in the leaked transcript of your private speech to a meeting of AIPAC leaders, the following: “City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job.” We understand that the job of mayor of New York is a complex one that often calls for your participation on the international stage, and we would not presume to define your job for you. But we do know that the needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC, and that no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.
In a secret speech to the Israeli Lobby, AIPAC, De Blasio said that the U.S. should boycott Saudi Airlines, and that the Israeli-Cornell campus that his predecessor Michael Bloomberg set in motion in NY is “an extraordinary transcendent development” that will go forward under his administration. He described deep connections between Israel and New York: The city has no greater alliance across borders than with Israel, Israel and NY share philosophical and democratic values, Israel has inspired NY being on the frontlines of terrorism, and Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer should move to NY after he’s done his job. And that de Blasio’s “mission” and “job description” is to fight for Israel: “Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel…City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I will answer it happily, because that’s my job.”
Perhaps more fatal than that is the absence of an enduring mass movement. De Blasio is a plebiscite phenomenon. His election was the atomized, shapeless expression of discontent. The labor movement had little to do with his primary victory. After that the result was a foregone conclusion so the endorsement and even the leg-work of the city’s unions were about lubricating their own access to the new administration more than placing that administration in any debt to the movement. And that labor movement today is a frail reed anyway when it comes to mobilizing people. Community and civil rights organizations and non-profits of various sorts also pitched in, but none of this amounts to a robust structure of massively mobilized power existing outside the Democratic Party. Indeed one reason some of the Mayor’s appointments have been disappointing is precisely because there is no “shadow government” so to speak from which to choose such functionaries.
In his inaugural address, de Blasio restated his pitch for universal pre-K. “We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K . . . And when we say ‘a little more,’ we can rightly emphasize the ‘little.’” Hoping to assuage fears of Robin Hood-style banditry, he proposed wealthy people pay what he said amounts to “about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.” Americans are used to hearing how much child welfare their spare change can buy, usually from charitable organizations. Why did a leading progressivepopulist make this latte appeal? The only thing bolder than suggesting wealthy taxpayers fund early childhood education for the poor is suggesting they might send their kids, too.
For all his campaign bluster against the two cities New York has become, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio isn’t exactly shying away from some of the people who helped make it that way. This morning, the mayor-elect announced that Alicia Glen will serve as Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, a newly created position that will aim to make housing more affordable, as well create living-wage jobs for New Yorkers. “We need to invest in key emerging industries and affordable housing so New Yorkers have a better shot at working their way into the middle class. Alicia has the record, fresh ideas and bold outlook to make that vision a reality,” said de Blasio at this morning’s press conference. De Blasio discussed Glen’s vast experience, but mostly skirted the topic of Glen’s last position, as the head of Goldman Sachs’s Urban Investment Group. While at Goldman, Glen worked with the Bloomberg administration on the public-private partnerships that Bloomberg championed throughout his reign.
Doubts were rising about mayor-elect Bill de Blasio when he picked a police commissioner with a history of racially based stops and frisks when he was the police chief of Los Angeles as well as one who promised he would have removed the Occupy encampment more quickly. Now doubts are being raised higher as it has come out that de Blasio has an unannounced, shadow transition team made up of traditional consultants with ties to big business interests. The consultants, Civic Consulting USA, also advised right wing, neoliberal Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In Chicago the involvement of the firms working on the transition resulted in no-bid contracts that were questioned by many. De Blasio is looking less like the change he promised every day. We hope activists in New York are organizing and mobilizing to put significant pressure on the incoming mayor as it is evident he will not do the people’s bidding without substantial pressure from the people. Thus far he has been allying his administration with the security state and big business interests.
Bratton personally commissioned a 2009 Harvard study of the LAPD which showed an escalation of stops— both pedestrian and motorists—from 587,200 in 2002 to 875,204 in 2008, equally or surpassing the stop-and-frisk numbers in New York, where the policy was ruled unconstitutional and was a central issue in de Blasio’s campaign. Well over 70 percent of 2008 LAPD stops in inner-city precincts were of African American and Latinos, a ration similar to New York’s. There was a “steep increase” in arrests for minor crimes, known as Part Two [loitering DUI, disorderly conduct], in keeping with the Bratton philosophy of “broken windows” policing, while arrests for serious [Part One] crimes such as homicide and rapes declined to only fifteen percent of total arrests from 2003-2007. Broken communities, not broken windows, are the real socio-economic crisis in LA, and Bratton’s approach simply served to perpetuate the divide. The priorities set by Bratton were untouched by police reform because of they were considered “police management decisions to use arrest powers more aggressively for less serious crimes.” The Harvard report found a 17 percent increase from 2006-2008 in the use of non-lethal force [stun guns, bean bags, etc] in the predominately black Central Bureau. “A troubling pattern in the use of [non-lethal] force,” the report concludes, “is that African Americans, and to a lesser extent Hispanics, are subjects of the use of force out of proportion to their share of involuntary contacts with the LAPD.” Only 1.6 percent of 2,368 citizen complaints of officer “discourtesy” were upheld. There was a total rejection of 1,200 racial profiling complaints during 2003-2008.
Capital New York reports that incoming NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, known for his “broken windows” approach to law enforcement during the Giuliani administration, told a former New York City official that if he were commissioner during Occupy Wall Street he would have “cleared them out right away.” And during a speech in Manhattan last year, Bratton bluntly stated that “You can’t allow people to occupy public space.” Bill de Blasio’s transition team did not respond to our request for comment on Bratton’s Occupy Wall Street remarks. But it’s not just Occupy Wall Street supporters who may be disappointed by our new commissioner’s fascist disregard for the Constitutional right to freedom of assembly. Although the NYCLU tentatively embraced de Blasio’s choice for commissioner yesterday, Bratton has been an enthusiastic supporter of the controversial stop-and-frisk tactic. In an interview with the New Yorker earlier this year, Bratton “emphatically endorsed” stop-and-frisk.
The Democratic primary election has just about assured that de Blasio will be the next mayor of New York. De Blasio surged ahead to the front of a crowded race in recent weeks by fashioning himself as champion of the downtrodden — to the point of getting himself arrested in protest of a hospital closure. In his youth, he was active in struggles against U.S. military policy in Latin America and nuclear power plants, and more recently, he has made overtures to sympathizers of Occupy Wall Street. In August he told The Wall Street Journal that “As mayor … I would work to build spaces where OWS and government officials could communicate and discuss ways to address their demands.” He has also been highly critical of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s brute-force method of eliminating the occupation at Zuccotti Park, calling it, in an interview with The Nation, “a very troubling precedent.”