This problem is not unique to Mr. de Blasio; it is a challenge to anyone entering City Hall. Choosing a commissioner that will be the right fit and one that has the right vision is going to be a major factor in how the city judges public management going forward.
A second area of city management that is going to have dramatic long-term effects is whether the new mayor wants to have control over the public school system. He may want that control, but how he sees the future management of poor performing schools will be important.
De Blasio’s advantage in this case is that he has kids and he knows what it’s like on the parental end. The challenge with public education policy is that there are so many moving parts, including parents, children, unions, and taxpayers.
The third area of importance is the MTA. In guessing on what matters most to New Yorkers, the MTA does not come to mind right away, but in public policy courses that I have taught, this issue is always right at the top.
How people navigate the city is a big deal, and even though the MTA is largely a state issue, a lot of it falls in the mayor’s lap. To get around most of the city for $2.50 is still not a bad deal. It is the instability of rising rates that makes underpaid New Yorkers nervous.
In other words, New Yorkers want safety, better schools, and a way to get to around in an affordable manner. After that, the issues of development, rent, and hospitals are also right at the top.
None of these challenges are insurmountable, but they pose a list of “report card” categories by which City Hall is often judged. Those categories are unchanging elements in New York City.
On Personal Behavior
I confess to having been more than lightly interested in the shenanigans of Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Although not entirely sure what the attraction to this troubled mayor’s activities were to me, I would still check in with the 24 hour news channels to see what Ford had done each day.
The falling over while throwing a football, knocking into people, and bizarre press conferences were hard not to watch. But why would a person who looks at politics so deeply care about a sensationalist story like Mayor Rob Ford? The answer hit me a week into the story where Ford admitted to smoking crack, most likely in “a drunken stupor.”
I did not see this mess as a fun – or funny – story, but I was amazed at how comfortable he was in his own skin. Rob Ford was okay with whatever was coming his way, and that included being stripped of most of his power as mayor.
The odd thing is that his actual duties as mayor were the least of his problems. He was not a bad mayor according to the electorate. He was a mess of a guy. How a person, who lives so publicly, can be that comfortable in the midst of all of this chaos made this hard to ignore.
We are right to expect more from public officials. Rob Ford may have cut spending and he may be a friend to the taxpayer, but he is no friend to his office. He is no friend to the process of governance.
A big city mayor needs to take pride in his position. Toronto is the biggest city in Canada, which makes it a big city by any standard.