New York's new mayor pursues liberal agenda

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Associated Press

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 2:04 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Bill de Blasio, embolded by a landslide victory that made him the first Democratic mayor elected in New York City in a generation, made clear Wednesday he wanted to waste no time enacting an ambitious agenda that could push the country's largest city to the left.

Voters were drawn to the contrast that de Blasio made with the 12-year era of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose policies helped make New York one of the nation's safest and most prosperous big cities but also one that has become increasingly stratified between the very rich and the working class.

De Blasio declared the start of "an eight-week sprint to prepare our administration" before he takes office Jan. 1.

"The people in this city have spoken and the mandate is clear that is our obligation to create a city in which our prosperity is shared and there is opportunity for all," he said at a Manhattan news conference in which he unveiled the leaders of his mayoral transition team.

De Blasio met privately with Bloomberg at City Hall on Wednesday. De Blasio, the city's public advocate, frequently criticized Bloomberg during the campaign but thanked the outgoing mayor for his advice.

"He and his team have been very forthcoming and very positive with their help," de Blasio told reporters, saying that he was confident that the change of power would be smooth.

Bloomberg, who first ran as a Republican and later became an independent, guided the city through the U.S. financial meltdown and the aftermath of the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is leaving office after three terms.

Though polling shows New Yorkers largely approve of Bloomberg's policies, those same surveys revealed the city was hungry for a change.

De Blasio, 52, reached out to New Yorkers from the city's four outer boroughs, who he contended were left behind by the often Manhattan-centric Bloomberg administration. He pledged to improve economic, educational and quality-of-life opportunities in minority and working-class neighborhoods.

He decried alleged abuses under the police department's stop-and-frisk policy that allows police to question people deemed suspicious. De Blasio enjoyed a surge when a federal judge ruled that police had unfairly singled out blacks and Hispanics.

A white man married to a black woman, de Blasio also received a boost from a campaign ad featuring their son, a 15-year-old with a big Afro hairstyle.

Despite his reputation for idealism, de Blasio has also shown a pragmatic side, having worked for both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton and being known for closed-door deal-making while serving on the City Council.

He has vowed to maintain the public and economic safety gains made under Bloomberg and his Republican predecessor, Rudy Giuliani.

His first hires were meant to signal a commitment to that balancing act. Jennifer Jones Austin, who runs a social services organization and specializes in early childhood education and civil rights, and Carl Weisbrod, who helped shepherd the economic revitalization of Times Square and found the New York City Economic Development Corporation, will run his transition.

De Blasio will need the momentum from his commanding victory to tackle his signature campaign promise: to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers in order to fund universal early education known as pre-kindergarten.

He has not revealed his choice for the top police job but has said he would not retain current Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

De Blasio comes to office with the backing of most major unions, but they will soon sit at the other end of the negotiating table as the new mayor will be forced to face a major fiscal crisis.

All of the city's municipal unions have expired contracts, and many of their leaders are demanding back pay, which could total $7.8 billion, a payout many economists believe would hurt the city's finances.

Despite his reputation for idealism, de Blasio has also shown a pragmatic side, having worked for both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton and being known for closed-door dealmaking while serving on the City Council.

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Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Jennifer Peltz and Michael Casey contributed to this report. Contact on Twitter @JonLemire

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