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Topic: Joe Lhota

Bill de Blasio and New York’s New Normal

Few doubt that New York’s Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has benefitted from the twenty years of Republican governance he decried to win the Democratic nomination. New Yorkers’ memories of the disastrous Dinkins administration may be fuzzy, but there are also many with no memories of that era at all. For many this is difficult to believe, but yes: it really was that long ago.

That may have helped de Blasio win the election. But the fact that Republicans are victims of their own success to some degree in New York should not be too comforting to de Blasio. He and his backers seem to be forgetting the flip side to this coin: New Yorkers have gotten comfortable living in a safe city, and their tolerance for crime has thus diminished. De Blasio has almost no margin of error because his political base has no idea what it’s like to live in a city that can’t control its crime.

With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy later this month, remembrances of that era are everywhere. But in 2007, the New York Times reported on another reason to look back to 1963:

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Few doubt that New York’s Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has benefitted from the twenty years of Republican governance he decried to win the Democratic nomination. New Yorkers’ memories of the disastrous Dinkins administration may be fuzzy, but there are also many with no memories of that era at all. For many this is difficult to believe, but yes: it really was that long ago.

That may have helped de Blasio win the election. But the fact that Republicans are victims of their own success to some degree in New York should not be too comforting to de Blasio. He and his backers seem to be forgetting the flip side to this coin: New Yorkers have gotten comfortable living in a safe city, and their tolerance for crime has thus diminished. De Blasio has almost no margin of error because his political base has no idea what it’s like to live in a city that can’t control its crime.

With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy later this month, remembrances of that era are everywhere. But in 2007, the New York Times reported on another reason to look back to 1963:

As 2007 draws to a close, it seems very likely that there will be fewer than 500 killings in the city (as of Sunday evening, there had been 492) for the first time since reliable records started being kept.

That was 1963.

The body count that year reflected the beginnings of what was to be an alarming rise in the city’s murder rate through 1990.

So if you live in New York today, you may remember the bad old days of high crime, but you probably don’t remember the last time the city was as safe as it has been in the current era. That’s the message Republican candidate Joe Lhota tried to send in his campaign ads against de Blasio. But the ads fell flat.

In fact, the reality of New York in 2013 left Lhota–a former deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration–grasping to conjure visions of a dangerous past as prologue. In one ad, he used footage from a recent biker gang attack to make his point. Yet this made no sense: showing recent crimes that took place under the “right” kind of public safety strategy is surely not a very good way to argue against theoretical changes in that strategy.

It was a riddle Lhota never came close to solving: how do you explain the consequences of certain policies to voters who aren’t familiar with either the consequences or the policies? Lhota might as well have been regaling the crowds with stories of how he used to walk to school uphill in the snow both ways while carrying his shoes.

But that doesn’t mean the new normal worked solely to de Blasio’s benefit. The very same elements that helped him win the mayoral election will likely have the opposite effect once in office. What kind of tolerance will the brunch-and-farmer’s-market crowd have for unsafe streets? De Blasio doesn’t want to find out.

And that means de Blasio will be confronted with a fact many on the left have, against all evidence, relentlessly denied: the NYPD is keeping the city safe. As Heather Mac Donald explained in the New York Post just before Election Day:

In the ’90s, the local press incessantly promoted other cities’ crime records as rivals to New York’s, so desperate was it to discredit the idea that New York’s dependency-routing Republican mayor and his newly assertive police department were behind the New York turnaround. Yet, by decade’s end, those other cities’ crime declines — most notably San Diego’s and Boston’s — flattened out or reversed. …

Today, Boston’s murder rate is twice New York’s; Washington DC’s is three times New York’s; Baltimore’s, five times. If New York’s blacks faced the same homicide risk as San Diego’s blacks, our city’s overall homicide rate would be nearly 75 percent higher.

Policing alone explains the New York crime-fighting difference. New York was nearly the same city in 1990 and 2010 regarding the same liberal “root causes” of crime — income inequality, poverty and drug use have not diminished. Even conservatives’ own pet “root cause” of crime — illegitimacy — hasn’t improved.

That will be a reality check for de Blasio, who subscribes to the classic liberal mode of governance: decry the rich while depending on them for revenue. This approach to governing really should have been discredited long ago: the rich already keep the city running with tax revenue and the money they spend around the city, and enabling the poorer city dwellers to improve their standard of living doesn’t get any easier when you soak the job creators.

But again, it’s hard to discredit something people have no memory of. There is no frame of reference for so many younger New Yorkers or those who have moved to the city in recent years. The New York they know–the only New York they know–is the one they live in now. They expect de Blasio to keep it that way.

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Could a de Blasio Win Give GOP a Boost?

After months of buildup, the citizens of New York City will finally be heading to the polls tomorrow. The buzz surrounding the race for mayor has consistently made national news. Unfortunately for the future of New York, however, that buzz has centered largely on the scandal-plagued candidacy of Democrat Anthony Weiner. While all eyes are on the Democrats facing off tomorrow, with a come-from-behind Bill de Blasio campaign taking center stage, the Republicans in the race, John Catsimatidis and Joe Lhota, have largely escaped the media’s glare. Many view tomorrow’s primary as the conclusion of the race with tomorrow’s winner the automatic general-election victor. Past electoral history, including the relatively recent victories of Republican Rudy Giuliani and independent Mike Bloomberg serve as warnings that in New York City “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

While there is very little reliable polling to be had for the Republican primary taking place tomorrow, the limited data available seems to indicate a Lhota victory over the billionaire businessman Catsimatidis. Presuming de Blasio and Lhota win tomorrow, in the general election all is not lost for the Republican contender.

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After months of buildup, the citizens of New York City will finally be heading to the polls tomorrow. The buzz surrounding the race for mayor has consistently made national news. Unfortunately for the future of New York, however, that buzz has centered largely on the scandal-plagued candidacy of Democrat Anthony Weiner. While all eyes are on the Democrats facing off tomorrow, with a come-from-behind Bill de Blasio campaign taking center stage, the Republicans in the race, John Catsimatidis and Joe Lhota, have largely escaped the media’s glare. Many view tomorrow’s primary as the conclusion of the race with tomorrow’s winner the automatic general-election victor. Past electoral history, including the relatively recent victories of Republican Rudy Giuliani and independent Mike Bloomberg serve as warnings that in New York City “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

While there is very little reliable polling to be had for the Republican primary taking place tomorrow, the limited data available seems to indicate a Lhota victory over the billionaire businessman Catsimatidis. Presuming de Blasio and Lhota win tomorrow, in the general election all is not lost for the Republican contender.

As recently as the end of July the presumed Bloomberg successor Christine Quinn was leading the polls after Anthony Weiner’s implosion after new details emerged of the sexting scandal that brought down his career in the House. Democratic primary voters have had very little time to get to know each candidate as they somewhat schizophrenically wavered between the half-dozen possible contenders. What might sound appealing to more left-wing primary voters, taxing the rich and an end to the controversial but effective stop-and-frisk program of the NYPD, would likely go over less well with more moderate and pragmatic New Yorkers, especially middle-class voters in the outer boroughs.

These voters will likely not see the allure in targeting the rich, the famed 1 percent they heard about for months from the largely white and privileged youth who took over a public square in Lower Manhattan last year, calling themselves Occupy Wall Street. These voters have watched as the policies of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, including stop-and-frisk, lowered the city’s crime rate considerably over his tenure. Democrat de Blasio has promised to remove this popular and effective police commissioner from office, a move that wouldn’t be taken kindly by those who have benefited from his work. 

It’s too soon for any general-election polling between de Blasio and Lhota, but the Observer’s Politicker blog has already taken note of Lhota’s potential cross-party appeal:

A surprising number of this morning’s attendees said they, too, were planning to cross party lines for Mr. Lhota because they considered this year’s crop of Democratic candidates–especially front-runner Bill de Blasio–too liberal, soft on crime or polarizing.

Susan B., 61, who lives in the West Village and declined to give her last name, said she’d grown “increasingly uncomfortable” with city Democrats over attempts to rein in the controversial stop-and-frisk police tactic and attempts to halt surveillance of Muslim communities.

According to unnamed sources speaking with the New York Posteven independent and relatively liberal current Mayor Michael Bloomberg may also be leaning toward supporting the Republican Lhota if de Blasio is tomorrow’s Democratic victor. While his endorsement may not carry much weight with voters, it serves as an interesting window into the thought processes of New Yorkers who, while overwhelmingly liberal, also don’t want to see a return to the days of former New York Mayor David Dinkins. Though any Republican optimism in deep blue New York may seem delusional, this match-up might make the next two months a bit more interesting than if a more moderate Democrat were nominated.

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Will Liberals Meet Reality on the NYC School Bus Strike?

In the New York Post last week, John wrote an excellent piece on the latest union-taxpayer showdown in New York City–the school bus driver strike that began earlier this month. This battle, like many across the country for oversized compensation for unionized workers that outpaces a municipality’s ability to pay, could shape the financial future of New York City for years to come. In the Post John explained, 

You should watch this one closely, whether you have kids who’ve been kicked off a bus or not, because it’s a sneak preview of what is likely to be coming over the next decade in municipalities across the country.

These workers aren’t city employees. They work for private companies. The city’s contracts with those companies are up in June. The city plans to bid out the work.

It has to. You want it to. Trust me: Under the terms of the current contracts, providing this bus service costs — I hope you’re sitting down before you read this next clause — $7,000 a year per passenger.

That’s seven grand per kid.

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In the New York Post last week, John wrote an excellent piece on the latest union-taxpayer showdown in New York City–the school bus driver strike that began earlier this month. This battle, like many across the country for oversized compensation for unionized workers that outpaces a municipality’s ability to pay, could shape the financial future of New York City for years to come. In the Post John explained, 

You should watch this one closely, whether you have kids who’ve been kicked off a bus or not, because it’s a sneak preview of what is likely to be coming over the next decade in municipalities across the country.

These workers aren’t city employees. They work for private companies. The city’s contracts with those companies are up in June. The city plans to bid out the work.

It has to. You want it to. Trust me: Under the terms of the current contracts, providing this bus service costs — I hope you’re sitting down before you read this next clause — $7,000 a year per passenger.

That’s seven grand per kid.

Predictably, the unions have spent a considerable amount of time, effort and money trying to convince parents that their children would be safest in the hands of unionized drivers. The New York Post reported on the statistics regarding bus accidents with supposedly safer unionized drivers yesterday: 

Buses with public-school contracts were involved in more than 1,700 accidents in which the driver was at fault in each of the past five years for which numbers are available, according to statistics compiled by the city’s Department of Education.

The incidents range from minor fender-benders to collisions that resulted in 912 injuries in 2011, the latest year for which stats are available.

A year earlier, there were 1,792 accidents resulting in two deaths and 1,796 injuries.

Despite this bloody record, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 claims its crippling bus strike is being waged in the best interests of its student passengers — because only its members can do the job safely.

While thousands of New York City parents have been inconvenienced, the strike has hit the city’s disabled students the hardest. The New York Daily News reported on the heartbreaking reality for students who rely on school transportation to provide them with physical therapy and social interaction. The strike has left these vulnerable students homebound indefinitely, setting back progress they may have been making not only educationally, but also physically and emotionally. 

The former head of the MTA (the city’s transportation authority), Joe Lhota, recently announced his bid for mayor as a Republican, immediately shaking up the field of contenders. On Fox 5 New York this week Lhota commented on the strike,

These are private sector bus drivers who want to be treated as civil servants. That’s a very, very slippery slope that we’d go down. This is a contract arrangement between a private company… and these bus drivers. These bus drivers aren’t like transit authority workers, they are private sector workers, but they want the same benefits… The mayor is absolutely correct. The courts have held that what the union is asking for is illegal. You should not negotiate when something is illegal. 

The perceived mayoral front-runner, Christine Quinn, refuses to get involved in the debate, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s hard line with the strikers. If the dispute outlasts Bloomberg’s administration (ending in November), which it may, its future under a new mayor is still very much up in the air. Candidates’ stances on the strike could play an outsized role in the race for parents and grandparents inconvenienced for the remaining months of the school year. 

While the strike is a local issue for residents of New York, it is yet another example of how unions across the country, despite claims regarding their competency and dedication, are interested in their own bottom lines and little else. For New Yorkers famous for their extremely liberal voting records, this could be a very rude awakening about the reality of union conflicts across the country.

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New York GOP: Victim of its Own Success?

It was one of the great ironies of the 1992 presidential election that talk of a “peace dividend” contributed to Bill Clinton’s victory over George H.W. Bush by portraying Bush not as a failure, but as a success. As vice president and then as president, Bush presided over the American victory in the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its peaceful passage of power from Gorbachev to Yeltsin. Americans could attempt to fully turn their attention away from foreign policy, and thus away from the need to reelect Bush.

Along those lines, Charles Lane at the Washington Post had a very perceptive column last month arguing that when it came to crime, Republicans were victims of their own success. Lane wrote:

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It was one of the great ironies of the 1992 presidential election that talk of a “peace dividend” contributed to Bill Clinton’s victory over George H.W. Bush by portraying Bush not as a failure, but as a success. As vice president and then as president, Bush presided over the American victory in the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its peaceful passage of power from Gorbachev to Yeltsin. Americans could attempt to fully turn their attention away from foreign policy, and thus away from the need to reelect Bush.

Along those lines, Charles Lane at the Washington Post had a very perceptive column last month arguing that when it came to crime, Republicans were victims of their own success. Lane wrote:

It is a GOP triumph, because the enormous decline in crime over the past two decades coincided with the widespread adoption of such conservative ideas as “broken windows” policing and mandatory minimum sentences….

We’ll never know whether 2012 would have played out the same way if crime had staged a comeback during the recession, as many expected. Certainly in the past, crime was as important to the Republican brand as abortion and gay rights, if not more important.

Safer streets, though, have blunted what was once a sharp wedge issue, and, perhaps, freed the electorate to consider social and moral issues in a different light.

In fact, in recent times no place has been more important to the GOP’s image as successful crime fighters than New York City, where many of those policies were tested and proved their worth. Lane wrote that Democrats cannot afford politically to stray far from the GOP’s stance on crime because voters believe it is the GOP’s approach that reduced crime.

This, too, is an ongoing phenomenon in New York. And both factors may very well influence New York’s next mayoral race the way Lane believes they influenced the 2012 presidential election. With no prominent Republican in the mayoral race, Joe Lhota, the city’s transportation authority chief, stepped down to explore a run for mayor. Lhota is a well respected alumnus of Rudy Giuliani’s administration, and as the New York Times reports, Giuliani’s success has changed the city’s self-perception in ways that may hinder Lhota’s run:

One of Mr. Lhota’s earliest challenges could be determining how to characterize his ties to Mr. Giuliani, a polarizing figure who was an influential mayor.

Kathryn S. Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, the city’s premier business association, said in an interview that a Lhota campaign would provide an opportunity to “remind us of what New York City was like 25 years ago” — before Republican administrations seized control of Gracie Mansion.

“So many current residents don’t remember,” she said. “It will be a good education for many young or new New Yorkers, who take for granted that New York has always been as vibrant and safe and livable a city as it is today.”

Lhota, essentially, may have too good a record to run on. To be sure, there are other marks against Lhota, the primary one being a fare hike Lhota helped bring about. Others include starting off with relatively weak poll numbers and the usual low Republican voter registration. But the fare hike is another irony: voters may concentrate on having to pay more for a subway ride, but may gloss over the speed with which Lhota’s MTA got the city’s transportation system back up and running after Hurricane Sandy.

New Yorkers may take their subways for granted. I don’t remember fully appreciating the New York transportation system until experiencing the Washington, D.C. metro–known for its constant delays, derailing trains, ever-broken escalators, doors that open when the train is in motion but not when they trap an infant without its mother, train schedules that will get you to a Nationals baseball game but may not be running trains when the game is over, and of course the occasional bird of prey joining morning commuters or even, on special occasions, getting its own train.

So Lhota has his work cut out for him. But the New York GOP can take some solace in the fact that if Democrats take the mayor’s office for the first time in two decades, they won’t have done it without 20 years of Republican success in the interim.

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