Gotham Gazette Sat, 16 Dec 2017 09:21:21 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) At the City Council, Better Gender Balance Among Chiefs of Staff aya keefe and cm mark levine crop

Council Member Mark Levine & his Chief of Staff, Aya Keefe (photo: Levine's office)

The New York City Council, a 51-member body, currently includes only 13 women, down from 18 in 2009, and that number is likely to soon fall to 12 when the next Council is seated in January, if this year’s elections continue as expected. There has been widespread recent attention given to the City Council gender imbalance, in part because the Council’s Women’s Caucus released a report on the subject, and there are efforts underway to improve female representation in the Council through future elections.

But, at one level at least, the Council is faring much better in gender balance. Of the 50 sitting Council members, 24 have women serving as their chiefs of staff, the highest ranking aide, buoying hopes among members, aides, and advocates that these positions can serve to further the political careers of numerous qualified and experienced women in city government. For men and women alike, being a top aide to a City Council member is often a path to elected office, as evidence by the victory in last Tuesday’s primary election by Diana Ayala, the former deputy chief of staff to outgoing City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited.

Ayala, seen as an underdog against sitting Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, secured a narrow victory in the primary, with Mark-Viverito’s help, and is expected to easily win the general election in November.

Chiefs of staff play vital roles in Council members’ offices, overseeing their legislative headquarters near City Hall and their local district offices where staffers provide constituent services. It’a role that involves liaising with other Council members’ staff, advocates, and others, and can require a working knowledge of priorities and policy proposals of nearly the entire Council. Most significantly, it can serve as a foundation for political careers. Many Council staffers, particularly chiefs of staff, go on to run for elected office, often to fill seats left vacant when their bosses are either term-limited or leave office for other reasons.

“As the saying goes, ‘If you wanna get something done, ask a woman to do it,’” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who is co-chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus and whose chief of staff is a woman, in a phone interview from a restaurant. “Women are awesome, dynamic multitaskers,” Cumbo said, chuckling that she was talking to a reporter, ordering food and breastfeeding at the same time. Cumbo was pregnant on the campaign trail as she ran for reelection, and recently gave birth to her son. She won a tough primary battle on September 12 and is expected to easily beat two opponents on November 7.

Cumbo stressed that the role of a chief of staff involves “really wearing multiple hats at the same time,” being able to understand the issues a Council member is focused on and being able to troubleshoot problems before they arise. And, as much as she said she hates stereotypes, “Women are able to do that well,” Cumbo said.

In a city government so heavily dominated by men -- the mayor, the comptroller and most of the City Council are men, while the public advocate is Letitia James, the first woman of color to hold citywide office -- having women serve in top positions helps inform policy and the legislative process, Cumbo said. And chiefs of staff bring that valuable perspective to the table. “I think it’s something that happens by nature, because of staffers eating, breathing, and sleeping this work,” she said.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the second woman and first Latina to hold that powerful seat, has made it a future priority to increase the number of women elected to the City Council. She is spearheading the “21 in ’21” movement, which aims to elect 21 women in 2021, when more than 30 Council seats will be up for grabs along with incumbents seeking reelection. The speaker also launched the Young Women’s Initiative to provide enhanced services to girls and women, particularly those of color, between the ages of 12 and 24.

Monica Abend, Cumbo’s chief of staff, said her position gives her the opportunity to “participate in contributing ideas to legislation, to policy and contributing to progressive legislation for a progressive city that is a frontrunner in many of those policy areas.”

“To be able to wear that chief of staff role positions you in a wonderful arena to understand local government,” she said. It’s on-the-job training in the legislative process and in understanding how the city changes at the local level, she said. “While our communities change on a constant basis, a lot of the work stays the same,” she added.

Abend doesn’t envision running for office any time soon but she did agree that working for a Council member provides the skills to do so. “Maybe one day in the future,” she said.

Under the de Blasio administration and the largely progressive City Council, led by Mark-Viverito, the city has increased its focus on issues of gender equity. The mayor established the Commission on Gender Equity in 2015 through an executive order, and also banned city agencies from inquiring about salary history, a step towards ensuring pay equity for women.

The Council has passed and the mayor has signed numerous bills related to empowering and aiding women across all walks of life. These include legislation to enhance support for caregivers, who are largely immigrant women of color; establishing public lactation stations; increasing access to feminine hygiene products in shelters, jails and schools; improving contracting opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses; enhancing protections for victims of domestic violence; among other measures. A bill from Public Advocate James to ban inquiries about salary history in the private sector was passed and signed earlier this year.

The Women’s Caucus also released its report last month that examines the cultural and institutional barriers to women’s representation in New York politics.

“I think that the City Council is really a great place for women to work and take on leadership positions and express themselves, and advocate for policies that benefit all New Yorkers,” said Aya Keefe, chief of staff to Council Member Mark Levine. She noted that Levine’s director of constituent services and budget and legislative director are also women. “It’s a powerful statement for our office,” she said. “We’re very much a partnership-driven office. There’s a strong female style of management, not necessarily being hierarchical but collaborative. And that works really well on legislation. Ultimately, you have to bring a lot of interests to the table and women are uniquely positioned to do that.”

Keefe personally has no intention of running for office, she said. “But I definitely think that chief of staff gives you great insight into the ins and outs of working in government,” she said. She also noted, as did others, that there should be a push to translate the gender balance at the staff level into elected positions.

Alexis Grenell, a Democratic political consultant and writer on gender issues, cautioned against being overly celebratory about the number of women chiefs of staff, saying it meets the “baseline expectation” since women represent half the population. “Women make up more than 50 percent of many graduate degree programs, making them arguably more qualified than their male counterparts,” she said.

She argued that it’s more important for women to receive support in their aspirations for elected office, pointing to the “crisis in women’s leadership” in the City Council, where the next speaker is likely to be a man for the first time in 12 years. “Empirical data shows that gender balance directly results in better outcomes,” she said. “This is true for corporate boards, and for legislation. That is undeniably the case.”

She did agree that chief of staff is a pipeline to the Council, with outgoing Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland being a prominent example. She also pointed to two Council staffers -- Ayala and Carlina Rivera -- who ran for City Council this year to replace the term-limited Council members who they worked for. Ayala was deputy chief of staff to Mark-Viverito before leaving to run for the speaker’s seat in District 8. Rivera, who served as legislative director to outgoing Council Member Rosie Mendez, handily won the primary for Mendez’s District 2 seat on the Lower East Side. “These are women who served in the Council for two terms and backed their staffers to replace them,” Grenell said, in the hope that other Council members do the same for their own staff.

While Ferreras-Copeland, who decided not to seek another term due to family considerations and a move to another state, is being replaced by a man, term-limited Council Member Darlene Mealy will be replaced by a woman, Alicka Samuel, who won a crowded primary in District 41. And while term-limited Annabel Palma is being replaced by a man, Adrienne Adams won the competitive primary to replace Ruben Wills, who had recently vacated the seat due to a corruption charge.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York, also hoped that the Council’s “abysmal” record of women’s representation would improve. “The good news is that while there are less than 25 percent of women in the City Council, a 50 percent rate of women chiefs of staff says to me that there’s a lot of potential,” she said. “They know the community well, they know the job.”

She agreed that women add a diversity of opinion that is necessary for good policy. “But we need a representation of leaders that reflects our community,” she said.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal, co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, whose chief of staff is also a woman, said the numbers were “heartening” but was cautious of drawing any conclusions. “I think that sounds normal to me,” she said of the nearly 50 percent representation. “It doesn’t necessarily reflect in what people are submitting legislation about or doing in their districts.”

“To the extent that there aren’t barriers to having chiefs of staff, it is an equalizer,” she acknowledged. But she wondered about the larger questions it raises about the entire city government. She also recognized that the Council as a body should perhaps do more to support women. “Should we have a daycare?” she said, for instance. “I think that’s something we should talk about.”

Council staffers also don’t have set pay ranges with titles, so it’s hard to gauge whether there is pay parity across the Council. “It’s not something I’ve explored,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a great question. Every Council member has their own fiefdom. Council members can choose to pay staff whatever they want. We’re not given a range and perhaps we should.”

“I’m lucky to have strong women leadership in the office and I benefit from it every day,” said Council Member Levine. “I think we certainly strive to be accommodating to women,” he said of the City Council, adding that he would support extending maternity leave. “We can do more,” he said, “there’s no doubt about it.”

Keefe, Levine’s chief of staff, also said the Council should do more to accommodate women. “I think we should have a better maternity leave policy, that sets the example for businesses and nonprofits across the city,” she said. She did note that when she gave birth last year, she received three months leave, but that that isn’t the standard policy across the Council.

Abend, from Cumbo’s office, said, “There’s always room for improvement,” but insisted that “this has been an incredible time to be a woman in local city government.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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At the City Council, Better Gender Balance Among Chiefs of Staff Tue, 19 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Representative vs. Substantive Representation

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette

August 15, 2017: Representative vs. Substantive Representation, with Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell

grenell max greerOn this episode of the Max & Murphy podcast we're without City Limits' Jarrett Murphy, who is on a much-deserved vacation, but joined by political analysts Dr. Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University, and Alexis Grenell, a Democratic strategist, founder of Pythia Public, and columnist on gender and politics.

With our Ben Max, Greer and Grenell discussed issues commonly referred to as "identity politics" dealing with gender, race, elections, and government. The three talked about the mayoral race between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican nominee seeking to become the city's first female mayor; de Blasio's record on gender equity; the low number of women in the City Council and what's at stake in this year's elections; barriers to entry into politics for women; and more.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax @Dr_CMGreer @agrenell. You can hear the conversation through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Representative vs. Substantive Representation Tue, 15 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Nicole Malliotakis on Trying to Become New York’s First Female Mayor malliotakis fearless girl nmalliotakis

Assemblymember Malliotakis with Fearless Girl (via @NMalliotakis)

In 2013, one storyline of the raucous and unpredictable Democratic mayoral primary was Christine Quinn’s bid to become the first woman elected Mayor of New York City. Then the City Council Speaker and the early frontrunner in the race, Quinn largely avoided talking about that history-making potential. Running as the continuity-with-change candidate based on her close working relationship with outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Quinn finished third in a crowded primary field behind the eventual winner of the election, Bill de Blasio.

As de Blasio seeks reelection this year, he appears set to face Republican Nicole Malliotakis in the general election -- de Blasio is a heavy favorite in his Democratic primary and Malliotakis became the presumptive GOP nominee after her toughest competition, real estate executive Paul Massey, dropped from the race last week.

Malliotakis, a 36-year-old state Assembly member from Staten Island, is the only woman in the 2017 mayoral race and is looking to become the first woman to lead a major party ticket since Ruth Messinger, a Democrat, in 1997, and Diane McGrath-McKechnie, who was the Republican nominee in 1985.

In an interview, Malliotakis said that while she is excited to inspire younger women and girls, she does not plan to make her gender or history-making potential a campaign focus, nor has she thought much about a policy agenda related to so-called women’s issues. She did say, though, that she is honored to be in the position she’s in and hopes women rally to support her; and she promised, “I'll be coming out with my sort-of a women's platform in the future.” Its contents are still “to be determined,” she said, though she did cite Latina suicide and domestic violence as key concerns that fit the general category.

If she does face de Blasio in the general election, as is expected, Malliotakis will be competing against a mayor who has received a lot of praise for his work on gender equity and empowering women at the highest levels of city government. For example, de Blasio recently signed legislation put forward by Public Advocate Letitia James that bans city employers from asking job candidates for their salary history, a practice that disadvantages women. But, de Blasio also recently came under fire after a New York Times article pointed to a disproportionate percentage of female departures from his administration, something Malliotakis referenced in the interview with Gotham Gazette.

Asked if she’s thinking about making history as the first woman to become the city’s mayor, Malliotakis said, “of course you think about it...especially in a city that claims to be so progressive, we've never had a female mayor.”

“I'm very proud to carry this banner, and it's really an honor. But I don't think people should vote for me because I'm a woman,” Malliotakis said. “I think it's great. I would love to see more women coalesce around me, as the female candidate in the race, but certainly I believe that I should be judged on my policies, and what I put forward. I think I have some really good ideas for this city, and I think that I've presented many ideas over my time in the New York State Assembly.”

Pieces of her Assembly record and stances on key issues may make it challenging for her to appeal to many New York women, and are already fodder for the de Blasio campaign.

Malliotakis, who will also appear on the Conservative Party ballot line in November, and possibly others, is a Republican in a heavily Democratic city. But, she is hoping to woo not only Republicans, but Giuliani Democrats, the city’s sizeable population of voters unaffiliated with a political party, and disaffected Democrats who are disappointed with de Blasio for whatever reason.

She’s already shown some movement leftward as she eyes the general election: she announced her support for marriage equality after having voted against it in 2011, when it passed through Albany. (She was subsequently criticized by the head of the Conservative Party, as reported by Politico New York, showcasing the balancing act she may be attempting as she attempts to hold the Republican base and appeal to moderates.)

Asked where she stands on some of the typical, higher profile topics often referred to as “women’s issues,” like gender pay equity, reproductive choice, and family leave, Malliotakis said she voted in favor of the bills in the “women’s equality agenda” that came through the Assembly, which included measures like pay equity and protecting domestic violence victims. However, she voted against the bill that would write the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision into New York law.

“The one bill that I did not support is the abortion expansion bill,” she said, “which would allow abortion to the third trimester. And I think most New Yorkers, if you look at some of the polls, are opposed to that, in the third trimester.” As for her abortion policy, Malliotakis said, “I don't like that question, because I feel it's not just pro life and pro choice, it's not black or white, I think there's a lot of things that go into a decision of that magnitude.”

She continued: “Personally, it's not something that I could do, but it's not to say that my views should be imposed on other women who may have different experiences. So I don't like being pigeonholed into one category. I never found that to be appropriate. But what I will say is I am opposed to that third trimester legislation that has come up again and again.”

“I'm not looking to change the law,” she said, “I'm not looking to repeal Roe v. Wade. I have my personal beliefs, but I'm not looking to impose my views on other women.”

De Blasio and his campaign aren’t sitting back and letting Malliotakis define her candidacy without their criticism, quickly playing offense and seeking to tie Malliotakis to Republican President Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular in New York City.

"No one who made the decision to support Donald Trump after his unconscionable and illegal behavior towards women should be lecturing anyone on women's issues,” said Monica Klein, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s campaign, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “Whether she's opposing access to reproductive healthcare, voting to deny LGBTQ couples the right to marry, or supporting the sexist President, the Assembly Member has shown time and again she's dangerously out of touch with New York City's women.”

Klein was referencing Malliotakis’ votes against marriage equality and against a bill that would prohibit the state from denying access to abortion services. Malliotakis has said she voted for Trump in November after having supported Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primary.

“Under Mayor de Blasio, employers are banned from asking about salary history, we have a new Commission on Gender Equity, tampons are free in city schools, and lactation rooms are open in social service agencies,” Klein also said. “That's what a real champion for women's issues looks like."

“I'm sure we'll be talking about women's issues” on the campaign trail, Malliotakis told Gotham Gazette, standing outside City Hall after a press conference where she released her homelessness-fighting plan. Homelessness, it seems clear, is much more of a political vulnerability for de Blasio than issues related to gender equity or women’s rights. (Malliotakis' campaign followed up with Gotham Gazette to note that the Assembly member recently voted in favor of state bills to prohibit employers from asking salary history of applicants and to remove sales tax from feminine hygiene products.)

While Malliotakis can speak to issues that will resonate with women, it’s not clear how much she will. Thus far, her campaign has focused on attacking de Blasio’s ethics and management, and on “quality of life” issues like homelessness, public transit, and traffic.

“I know how difficult it is to be in a male-dominated field,” Malliotakis said of politics and government, “and so I think it's having a woman be mayor, I mean that's the greatest thing we could do for women's equality.” It “would do more for women's equality than any other types of bills...or proclamations or anything like that. And so, if I can deliver that for the women of New York City, that would be wonderful.”

Whether or not Malliotakis chooses to put her gender and history-making potential at the front and center of her campaign, she can’t escape being viewed as a woman running for office, says Alexis Grenell, an expert on gender norms and research and co-founder of Pythia Public, a political consultancy.

“Women don’t have a choice whether to run on their gender or not on their gender,” Grenell said in an interview. “You have to deal with gender no matter what because the electorate sees gender. Is she going to ‘run as a woman’? She has no choice.”

But, Grenell stressed there are still many relevant choices to make. “There’s a difference between having a platform that affirmatively puts forward gender as a qualification or putting forward a platform that deals with gender issues.”

Malliotakis’ policies may not match what the majority of New York City women believe in, but, Grenell explained, “Speaking to issues that women tend to care about is a mainstream strategy that will help win elections.”

No matter her political beliefs, Malliotakis faces a normative disadvantage, Grenell said, because “Women have a higher barrier for entry in terms of qualifications....She will really have to lead with her qualifications.” The electorate judges women more harshly than men.

Malliotakis may be just 36 years old, but she’s a veteran politician who has been in office since 2011, after she defeated an incumbent, and possesses quick wit and political instincts. Still, as state Republican Party chair Ed Cox recently told Gotham Gazette, she is a legislator, and needs to show voters that she can be an executive. As Grenell points out, this bar may be higher for many voters because she is a woman.

De Blasio must be careful campaigning against Malliotakis, Grenell said, especially when they face off in debates, if it gets to that point. The mayor must “fight some of his inclination to be patronizing,” she said, “which would take on a whole new dimension when facing a strong, young woman on a debate stage.” Grenell referenced Joe Biden’s roundly-praised performance against Sarah Palin in their 2008 debate, which some saw as a potential minefield for the soon-to-be Vice President.

Malliotakis is not making gender the focus of her candidacy, but she does see it resonating on the trail. “I do see particular excitement coming from women when I interact with them,” Malliotakis told Gotham Gazette, “when I go to parades, for instance, or events, that women are very excited that I'm running...a lot of people want me to take photos with their little girls.”

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been corrected to more clearly reflect Malliotakis' "no" vote on the Roe v. Wade measure.

Nicole Malliotakis on Trying to Become New York’s First Female Mayor Wed, 05 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Bill De Blasio's Resurrection Challenge de blasio gracie mansion celebration

Mayor de Blasio at Gracie Mansion (photo: Demetrius Freeman, Mayor's Office)

After several months of what the mayor himself called “relentless negative headlines” around investigations into his administration and campaign fundraising, Bill de Blasio is facing low public approval ratings, strong doubts about whether he deserves to be re-elected in 2017, and a resurrection mission ahead of him.

For the Democrat more than halfway through his third year in office, the upcoming task comes down to solidifying his base and convincing more New Yorkers that he is a good Mayor - good enough that he deserves a second term. Out of his hands is the necessity that the various state and federal investigations end without charges against him or any of his top associates.

The extent to which de Blasio must improve his standing is not completely clear at this point, though in general New Yorkers do not appear to have great confidence in the mayor. Of New York City voters polled by Quinnipiac at the end of July, 51 percent said that they disapprove of the way de Blasio is handling his job; 42 percent approve. Fifty percent said they do not believe he deserves to be re-elected; 42 percent said he does. In this very Democratic city, however, those numbers are significantly better among only Democrats.

Additionally, how New Yorkers view their sitting Mayor in the middle of his term is not necessarily indicative of how they’ll treat him at the ballot box come election day and against actual opponents. How vulnerable de Blasio is and the best path to unseat him are both matters of widely varying opinion. There’s little doubt, though, that the mayor is not where he wants to be in terms of public perception.

“We fully expect the atmosphere next year to be different than the current one,” said Phil Walzak, senior advisor to de Blasio, by email. “And when the people compare this mayor’s record of achievement for millions of everyday New Yorkers to those of others who want this office, it won’t be much of a contest.”

Walzak, de Blasio, and others close to the mayor tout successes on pre-kindergarten, crime, and affordable housing. They point to the fact that the most recent poll shows similar numbers to the prior one, which was released in May, and say that after the hits the mayor took from all those negative headlines and news associated with the investigations, things seem to have stabilized. There is work to do, they know, especially around communicating the mayor’s accomplishments to his constituents.

It is evident that many New Yorkers don’t see de Blasio as the tough, expert chief executive that they want in a Mayor. This mayor has struggled with projecting the image of a municipal leader focused on city problems, in control and on top of things, despite the fact that many indicators show the city doing well.

“The good news is that he still has a lot of time to turn around the narrative about his administration and his time as mayor,” said Evan Thies, a Democratic political consultant who runs Brooklyn Strategies. “The Fall will be a critical time.”

One issue, Thies notes, is that “It was never clear New Yorkers thought de Blasio was going to be the manager that New York needs, there was always just the potential for that.”

Developments throughout de Blasio’s tenure, basic political rules, and conversations with experts make clear the mayor’s work ahead. De Blasio must ensure that his accomplishments are clear to New Yorkers, connect directly with as many constituents as possible, shore up and showcase allies, and project a stronger sense of executive command. He must also avoid repeating some of the missteps that have hurt him to date, like taking on political fights he can’t win, such as those with charter school supporters and Uber.

A big new policy announcement, either late this year or early next year, could also garner de Blasio the type of positive attention that could help right the ship in terms of public perception and approval.

If news comes that de Blasio and his associates are cleared of wrongdoing in the multiple investigations involving pay-to-play allegations and possibly illegal campaign money maneuvers, potential opponents could be dissuaded from running against the mayor.

The first thing de Blasio must do, Thies believes, is solidify his base, namely black and Hispanic New Yorkers who continue to support the mayor by healthy margins. “I would suggest that he immerse himself in public events and forums, largely in that base, talking about issues important to that base,” Thies said.

For de Blasio to regain momentum, dominate the media with positive stories, and convince New Yorkers that he’s the leader they want, Thies argues, the mayor should get out more. “He should be doing a half a dozen public events a day. He should be everywhere all the time, always looking like he’s in charge,” Thies said. “He should be visiting a construction site making sure it’s safe, he’s cutting a ribbon on a park, he’s at a community board hearing on local schools, he’s hosting a forum on senior issues - constantly out there.”

De Blasio appeared to dabble recently in this type of approach, though it doesn’t seem to be one he embraces. Two weeks ago, the mayor seemed to make a spontaneous decision to endeavor a five-borough tour on National Night Out Against Crime, the annual evening of community events put on by the police department. A few days later, the mayor walked a parade in Queens and a beach boardwalk in the Bronx with his next police commissioner, Jimmy O’Neill. Last week, he held another community town hall, this one in the Bronx. He’s not doing six daily events as Thies suggests, but it’s also not yet the Fall - and the Democratic mayoral primary, for which de Blasio may not have a serious opponent, is 13 months away.

“Our mission is not to get lost in the noise or the day-to-day churn,” said Walzak, de Blasio’s advisor. Extolling the mayor’s “compelling record and vision,” Walzak said that “Mayor de Blasio is at his best when he is out across New York City talking directly with the people.”

People close to de Blasio expect more appearances at community events, where there are naturally occurring crowds and de Blasio can make a positive showing. There will also be a variety of milestones to celebrate as certain de Blasio programs hit benchmarks or anniversaries. One example is likely to be the two-year anniversary of the city’s popular municipal identification card, IDNYC, which will occur in January.

“Along with regular neighborhood town halls, visits to houses of worship and radio appearances,” Walzak said, “community hits” like the appearances with O’Neill “will continue, and so will [the mayor’s] direct interaction and communication with the people of New York.”

Unsurprisingly, Democratic and Republican analysts have different assessments of the path ahead for the mayor and his re-election chances. On a recent segment of NY1’s Inside City Hall, Republican consultant Kevin Fullington said that de Blasio is “in a very difficult position” with the administration “trying to change the narrative, but they can’t as long as all these investigations are going on.”

“Until these investigations are wrapped up, he can’t advance his policy agenda and create a compelling reason for him to be reelected,” Fullington said, citing a “General growing sense of incompetence and dysfunction in his administration.”

Alexis Grenell, a Democratic strategist who partners with Thies, indicated on NY1 that short of indictments, the corruption stories are not really that influential with voters. “Voters typically judge mayors on the economy and well-being of the city, as well as their sense of safety. By those empirical measures,” she said, “the mayor has done actually a very good job,” but “a very poor job of communicating to those constituencies his record of success there.”

Indeed, crime is at all time lows, but 49 percent of those polled by Quinnipiac said they dissaprove of how de Blasio is handling crime, with 42 percent saying they approve. 

Perhaps two data sets in the most recent poll indicate de Blasio’s struggle most clearly. Among only Democrats, de Blasio received high marks for whether he “understands the problems of people like you or not” with 64 percent saying “yes” and 31 percent saying “no.” Yet, also among only Democrats, on “Would you say that Bill de Blasio has strong leadership qualities or not?” the numbers dropped to 49 percent “yes” and 44 percent “no.”

“I am very, very proud of what we have done,” de Blasio said in April on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show after listing some of his top accomplishments on pre-K, crime, policing reform, and affordable housing. “The bottom-line is keep doing it. And, of course it is important to get out to the people, spread the message in every neighborhood. I have been doing town hall meetings and I will be doing a lot more.”

The question will be how New Yorkers feel the impact of de Blasio’s city government in their daily lives and what they credit, or blame, the mayor for. The Quinnipiac poll shows that 46 percent of voters were either very or somewhat satisfied “with the way things are going in New York City today,” while 53 percent were either somewhat or very dissatisfied.

“It’s not too late to adjust New Yorkers’ opinions,” said Thies, “[de Blasio]’s done the most important thing, which is he’s achieved some real broad positive changes in New York at a time when New York is arguably in the best shape it’s ever been. So now he’s just gotta convince folks that it was really him that got us to where we are and project that image that he can run the city and run it well and that we should trust him to keep doing it.”

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Bill De Blasio's Resurrection Challenge Tue, 16 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000