Progressive Advocates Weigh in on De Blasio’s First Two Years

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Mayor Bill de Blasio attends a tabletop meeting on New Year's Eve security preparations last week.

Michael Appleton/ Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio attends a tabletop meeting on New Year's Eve security preparations last week.

Bill de Blasio has had a good few weeks. Even the New York Post had to grudgingly admit that the year-end crime statistics weren’t anything to be alarmed about. Andrew Cuomo’s prodding New York municipalities to shoo homeless people off cold streets—not the first time the governor has tried to out-hustle the mayor on shelter policy—came off like an overreach. De Blasio appointed a new deputy mayor, claimed high-power support for his zoning proposals and was even named one of the state’s best-dressed pols. Not all the news was rosy, but it felt like the mayor ended on an upswing a second year that was more than a tad turbulent.

Having reached the midpoint of his current term, assessments of de Blasio’s performance are rolling in. The Nation asked City Limits to check with some of the city’s progressive advocates to get a sense of what they think of his work so far. Progressives won’t have the only say on whether de Blasio gets re-elected 22 months from tomorrow, or what his legacy looks like when the history of his mayoralty is written, but given his prominence as a standard-bearer for the left, progressives probably have the most riding on the mayor’s success or failure.

It’s cliché and overly simple to say de Blasio’s grades are “decidedly mixed.” From a distance everything about a public official blurs to a fuzzy average, but New Yorkers’ proximity to the mayor permits engaged observers to distinguish among individual episodes, different policy challenges and the various demands of his job. Some on the left are terribly disappointed with de Blasio (“The problem is that there’s been no significant change,” Robert Gangi, executive director of the Police Reform Accountability Project, told me.) but most seem to harbor admiration for his accomplishments alongside frustration over some moves. Somehow, one sentiment doesn’t dilute the other; they coexist in an odd tension.

A consensus concern, though, is de Blasio’s ability to survive politically. Laden with expectations, trying (with partial success) to shake a reputation for poor management that skeptics chained to him on Day One, dealing with inherent limits to mayoral power that have been sharpened by his rival in the statehouse, it is perhaps no surprise that the mayor’s poll numbers have sagged two years in. Perhaps the way 2015 ended means the mayor will have smoother sailing for awhile. Alternately, the air of vulnerability around him could crystallize into a real threat.

The question for de Blasio and his base seems to be one of trust. As I wrote in The Nation: “Can the mayor trust enough in his vision to be truly bold? Can his allies trust him enough to give him the room he needs to be reelected and buy time to make real change?”

Read the piece here.