7 November 2013, 01:33

'Victory of de Blasio was real rebuke of recent policies of Bloomberg administration' - expert

Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio

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Bill de Blasio is elected New York City’s first Democratic mayor in two decades. De Blasio, the city’s public advocate and a former City council member from Brooklyn, has defeated Republican nominee Joe Lhota. The latest count reveals de Blasio is leading with approximately three quarters of the vote to Lhota’s one. The newly elected NY Mayor thanked his supporters and promised to change the city for the better. De Blasio will take the office at the 1st of January, replacing three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg. For more on this topic the Voice of Russia spoke with Michael Owens, who is a professor of Political Science at Emory University, specializing in governance and public policy processes, religion and politics. His current book project is called Prisoners of Democracy.

Bill de Blasio said that he and his wife, who is Afro-American, represent the ongoing changes in the US society. Do you agree with that? Is this a really positive sign as far as a social climate in New York is concerned?

I think that definitely is the case. It really does affirm the idea that rainbow politics is something we should be celebrating and investing more in. The idea is that a variety and diversity of Americans can actually come together in coalition to resume the sorts of policies that they think would benefit almost all members of those groups. De Blasio’s election is emblematic of the tremendous demographic changes that are going on within the US. I think the margin of 49% is pretty amazing.

What promises got him victory do you think? And what will be the first thing he will address coming into office?

In some ways the victory of de Blasio was a real rebuke of many of the recent policies of the Bloomberg administration. But at the same time, people were also voting for a hope and the idea that he could do something with income inequality, variety of social inequities in the city and also some of the racial inequities that still endure within NY.

What do you think is it, that people got sick of toward the end of Bloomberg’s term?

One of the main things was with regards to African Americans and Latinos in the city, and even some Asian, and the way in which the NY City Police Department was engaged in this disparate treatment, the idea of stop-and-frisk policy, which was really detrimental. The big issue came up with regards to whether or not there should be bans or taxations on different sizes of soft drinks that one could purchase.

This is the first Democratic Mayor for quite a while. Has it anything to do with the way people feel about the Republicans?

That’s a curious question. I don’t think we’d be too far off the mark in saying that sometimes local elections are in fact messages about national politics. NY city is not generaliseable to the nation, although we could say NY city is actually generaliseable and remains a bellwether to those types of cities that have had long traditions of liberalism and progressiveness. So, maybe what we are seeing in NY is actually the resuscitation of liberalism.

What is going to be the biggest thing that’s changed?

I think we are going see some pretty interesting appointments of some very smart and capable policy makers at the local level. I think we’ll start to see the rule out of some pretty interesting ideas about how to reshape some of the municipal agencies. And maybe some new ideas about how to continue the engagement of the voters who really came out and supported de Blasio yesterday.

He’s going to have to be very careful about how he goes about pursuing his policies. But if he does the first couple of years right, why wouldn’t we imagine that he could be reelected for years and also the idea that maybe we could imagine him stepping up to the next level, to something like Governor of the State of NY.


With new mayor, New York City prepares for higher taxes and liberal policies

The newly elected NYC mayor Bill de Blasio promises to begin a new liberal era of higher taxes for those earning more than $500,000 and plans to concentrate his efforts on the poorer boroughs that critics say outgoing Mayor Bloomberg has neglected in favor of Manhattan.

De Blasio positions himself as a clean break with the Bloomberg years. He promotes a liberal agenda that includes a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten and improved police-community relations. His aim is to battle economic inequality and the New York’s image of a city divided between the rich and the working class. The reality that emerged under the pro-business, pro-development mayor, who made his fortune from the financial information company that bears his name.

"We have no illusions about the task that lies ahead. Tackling inequality isn't easy. It never has been and it never will be. The challenges we face have been decades in the making, and the problems we sought to address will not be solved overnight. But make no mistake, the city has chosen a progressive path and tonight we set forward together on it, together as one city," De Blasio said, delivering his victory speech in the Park Slope neighbourhood of Brooklyn where he lives.

Bill de Blasio doesn’t talk much about his family. Well, he has enough to hide.

His father, Warren Wilhelm, committed suicide 34 years ago. Warren Wilhelm, an economist and World War II veteran who battled alcoholism and cancer, shot himself to death in a motel parking lot in New Milford, Connecticut.

De Blasio is not a real name. The real name is Warren Wilhelm Jr. He changed it because he had little to do with the man he was named after following his parents’ divorce when he was 8.

"He was drunk pretty much every day . . . . Sometimes I’d spend time with him earlier in the day when he was less drunk and you could have more of a conversation," De Blasio said on WNYC.

Over the past 30 years, De Blasio changed his legal name at least twice. In 1983, he legally changed his name to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm. In 2002, he legally changed it again, to Bill de Blasio. He decided to stick to his mother’s family, the de Blasios, who origin from Italia.

While De Blasio didn’t want to speak much about his past, he widely promoted his black wife and mixed children during the election campaign. Even outgoing NYC mayor Michael R. Bloomberg heavily criticized De Blasio for running a "racist" campaign.

In a wide-ranging interview with New York Magazine published just before the primary vote, the billionaire businessman and three-time mayor specified that he didn’t think de Blasio (who is white) is racist himself, but that by heavily promoting his black wife, Chirlane McCray, and mixed-race kids in his campaign advertisements and commercials, de Blasio was "making an appeal using his family to gain support."

But while promoting so much his family 'diversity', de Blasio did not often mention that he loves a woman who used to love women. Before meeting Bill, his future wife, Chirlane McCray, was a lesbian. She claims that it al all in the past, but do former lesbians exist?

"I was wearing West African-inspired clothing and a nose ring, and Bill says he had the love-at-first-sight experience," she told Essence magazine, speaking about the first time she met Bill.

By the way, McCray’s past, while never a secret, was not discussed during de Blasio’s successful 2009 campaign for public advocate. It only became widely known last December when news organizations wrote about her 1979 essay "I am a lesbian". McCray and de Blasio then did a whirlwind of television interviews to talk about her past and their relationship.

Although, McCray declined to call herself bisexual, she suggested that she can still be attracted to women.

De Blasio will take office on January 1 as the first Democrat mayor in Gracie Mansion since 1989.

Democrat Bill de Blasio is elected mayor of New York City

Progressive Democrat Bill de Blasio has been elected mayor of New York City, replacing billionaire Michael Bloomberg, US media reported Tuesday.

"Thank you, New York City," de Blasio's campaign tweeted just after the close of polls, together with a photo showing the presumed winner together with his wife and two children.

The 52-year-old will succeed Bloomberg in January at the helm of the United States' largest city.
De Blasio promises a new style in a city transformed by 12 years of tough love under Bloomberg, who is stepping down after a record three terms.

He is one of the most progressive politicians in the country and left Republican rival Joe Lhota trailing in the dust by tapping into the worries of the economically vulnerable middle class.

De Blasio, progressive Democrat who won New York

Bill de Blasio, who won a landslide victory as mayor of New York Tuesday, is a progressive Democrat who now faces a monumental task in governing the biggest US city.

By placing his black, former lesbian wife Chirlane and teenage children center stage, the 52-year-old public advocate connected to middle-class families and the city's diverse electorate.

His public sector career and progressive policies are the polar opposite of outgoing billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg and sit at odds with the gigantic overt wealth on display in New York.

Making much of his "modest" home in Brooklyn's gentrified neighborhood of Park Slope, he presented himself as an ordinary guy determined to improve education and make housing affordable.

"My fellow New Yorkers today you spoke out loudly and clearly for a new direction for our city, united by a belief that our city should leave no New Yorker behind," he said late Tuesday.

The real work had just begun, he said, warning supporters to be under no illusions about the difficulty of tackling inequality.

"The problems we set out to address will not be solved overnight but make no mistake, the people of this city have chosen a progressive path," he said.

Born in New York in 1961, he was brought up in Massachusetts. He went to New York University and Columbia University, before joining city hall and giving his career to the public sector.

He has spoken about a difficult childhood as the son of an alcoholic, World War II vet of German background who walked out and later committed suicide after being diagnosed with cancer.

De Blasio is his mother's maiden name and in his acceptance speech he paid tribute to his Italian family, also speaking briefly in Spanish in a nod to his cross-roots support.

A towering figure physically at six foot five (1m95), he was a regional housing official under President Bill Clinton and a manager for Hillary Clinton's New York Senate race in 2000.

He sat on the city council for eight years and in 2010 was sworn in as public advocate, essentially ombudsman.

It is a background and style the polar opposite of outgoing Bloomberg, who liked to fly off to Bermuda by private jet for the weekends and who steps down after 12 years.

De Blasio has campaigned hard against the yawning gulf between rich and poor - "a tale of two cities" and for minority rights.

He promises to raise taxes on those earning more than $500,000 to fund universal pre-kindergarten education and after school programs.

He has criticized the wildly unpopular "stop and frisk" policy for unfairly targeting black and Hispanic minorities, which supporters say has driven down crime.

And he promises to build 200,000 new affordable housing units and grant extra school holidays for Muslim feasts. A year ago, few had heard of de Blasio. But he ran a flawless campaign that eventually won him the Democratic nomination under tough competition.

He has traded heavily on his family. Like the Clintons, he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, have run as a package. Poet, editor, feminist and activist, she is a constant fixture by his side.

Their 16-year-old son Dante, instantly recognizable by his halo of Afro hair, has been credited with helping to turn around the campaign with an emotive TV ad about how great his dad is.

After winning the Democrat primary, the entire family, together with 18-year-old daughter Chiara, were filmed doing a family "smackdown" dance in Brooklyn. His daughter has reached out to voters, reassuring them that her dad is not "some boring white guy."

The multiracial family struck a chord in a city of great ethnic diversity: 33.3 percent white, 25.5 percent black, 28.6 percent Hispanic and 12.7 percent Asian.

Analysts say de Blasio also oiled his victory by playing successfully to the Democrat city's fear of the Republican party, nationally in disarray, and its Tea Party movement.

Yet some are concerned that his ideals will be sacrificed to pragmatism, calling him a deft politician capable of bargainingHe has been criticized, for example, for flip-flopping over whether horse-drawn buggy rides through Central Park should be abolished to win support from campaigners.

There are also questions about whether he has the experience to lead a city hall staff of 300,000 and a budget of $72 billion. How successful he will be, New Yorkers are about to find out.

Americans choose new governors and mayors on US election day

Voters went to the polls Tuesday to elect governors in Virginia and New Jersey, pick new mayors in New York City, Boston, Detroit and other municipalities, and decide on a host of ballot issues across the country. The mayor of New York City's seat is up this year, as is a key House race in Alabama between two conservative Republicans.

Bradley Byrne wins Alabama runoff, in victory for GOP business wing

Republican Bradley Byrne defeated his insurgent conservative opponent in an Alabama House race Tuesday, notching a hard-fought victory for the business wing of the GOP.

With 91 percent of the precincts reporting Tuesday night, Byrne led Dean Young 53 percent to 47 percent.

Detroit elects first white mayor in decades

Former hospital executive Mike Duggan won the Detroit mayor’s race on Tuesday, becoming the heavily African-American city’s first white mayor in nearly 40 years.

Duggan defeated Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in a runoff. He confronts a city that has filed for bankruptcy and seen an exodus of its population in recent years.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe wins the Virginia governor's race

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has narrowly defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the closely watched Virginia's governor race on Tuesday, NBC and CBS television said.

State election board figures showed McAuliffe, a Democratic Party insider leading Cuccinelli, a favorite of the Republicans' Tea Party wing, 47 percent to 46 percent with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wins re-election

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie easily won reelection on Tuesday claiming a second term by what appeared likely to be a nearly unprecedented margin.

Networks called the race immediate after the polls closed at 8 pm, citing exit polls that showed that he steamrolled his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Barbara Buono.

Voice of Russia, USA Today, CNN, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, CBS, New York Times, AFP, Reuters, The Guardian, NY Daily News, the Daily Mail

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