Despite his various "nanny-state" failings (all of which have been prominently featured on these pages in the past) outgoing New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg has had an impressive track record: New York crime rates are at historic lows, the $72.7 billion budget is balanced, jobs are at an all-time high and a record 54 million tourists pumped money into the economy this year. Homicides have declined by almost 50 percent since Bloomberg became mayor in 2002, and this year’s total of 333 through Dec. 29 is 20 percent below last year’s record low. Of course, how much of this is due to Bloomberg's own actions and how much due to the "rising tide" wealth effect resulting from the Fed's actions that gentrified New York over the past 20 years thanks to Fed wealth-effect boosting policies and which have led to a perilously unstable financial system, is a different question. Regardless, as of midnight the billionaire mayor is no more. His replecament, Bill de Blasio, 52, is the first democrat to run City Hall in 20 years.
Bill de Blasio was sworn in as the 109th mayor of New York City on Wednesday, a few minutes after midnight, but his formal inauguration ceremony on the steps of City Hall is scheduled to begin at noon.
With the arrival of de Blasio to the city's top post, it means that Democratic mayors will preside over Los Angeles; Chicago; Houston; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Antonio; Dallas; San Jose, California; Austin, Texas; and Jacksonville, Florida.
And while de Blasio may have gained prominence in recent days following his proposal to ban horse carriages in Central Park with comments that "we are going to get rid of horse carriages, period," adding that the practice is inhumane, this decision will hardly impact the country's most populous city, his other choices will. Chief among them, pledging to reduce income inequality and restrain aggressive police tactics.
Who is de Blasio? Ironically, here is Bloomberg's take on the new mayor.
In de Blasio, New York voters chose a Cambridge, Massachusetts-bred Boston Red Sox fan who arrived in the city as a New York University undergraduate. He received a master’s degree in international relations from Columbia University. He then worked for a Catholic relief organization, for which he distributed food and medicine on a 10-day trip to Nicaragua.
De Blasio’s career in city politics began as an aide to former Mayor David Dinkins in 1990. He first won election as a Brooklyn school board member in 1999, and served two terms as City Councilman from 2002 to 2009, where he focused on child abuse and the homeless as chairman of its general welfare committee, before getting elected to the citywide watchdog post of public advocate in 2009.
The new mayor's top priority: redistributing wealth.
De Blasio’s task, as he describes it, will be to focus on improving the lives of the 46 percent of New Yorkers with incomes at or below 150 percent of the city’s poverty level, or $46,000 for a four-person household in 2011. He seeks more income distribution in a city where the richest 1 percent took home 39 percent of all earnings in 2012, up from 12 percent in 1980, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a New York-based research group.
In a City Council with 48 Democrats among its 51 members, the overwhelming majority has expressed support for de Blasio’s agenda, including a resolution asking the state legislature to enact the tax increase. De Blasio defeated Republican Joseph Lhota in the mayoral race by 49 percentage points, the widest victory margin by a non-incumbent in city history.
Under de Blasio’s plan, the tax rate on incomes above $500,000 would rise to 4.4 percent from almost 3.9 percent. For the 27,300 city taxpayers earning $500,000 to $1 million, the average increase would be $973 a year, according to the Independent Budget Office, a municipal agency.
“We must first admit that the affordability crisis exists, and then resolve, together, to do something about it,” he said in an October speech to the Association for a Better New York, a group of corporate executives.
He’s also vowed to create 200,000 units of below-market “affordable housing” in the next 10 years, partly by using a $1 billion investment from city pension funds. On Dec. 23, he appointed Alicia Glen, the head of urban investment for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., as deputy mayor for housing and economic development to work out low-cost financing for the construction.
“Instead of pouring billions of dollars into unnecessary and overly generous tax incentives for big corporations, we need to invest in small businesses, in workforce training, and in the City University of New York -- the most reliable pathways for those seeking a shot at entering the middle class,” de Blasio said in the speech to the business group.
Whether de Blasio will succeed where so many other wealth redistributors before him have failed remains to be seen. But first, here is his inauguration. At noon, a ceremony on the steps of City Hall will feature former President Bill Clinton. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former U.S. Secretary of State and a possible 2016 presidential candidate, also will attend. De Blasio worked in the Clinton administration as a regional director of Housing and Urban Development and managed Hillary Clinton’s successful 2000 campaign for U.S. senator from New York. Consistent with the themes de Blasio pushed during his campaign, he set aside 1,000 free tickets for the public for the ceremonial swearing-in.
Everyone else can watch it live below.