Why We Should Not Endorse Bill de Blasio for Mayor

by Glenn Kissack

Glenn Kissack is a retiree representative on the PSC Executive Council. He posted this statement on the PSC Delegate Assembly listserv explaining why he couldn’t support the resolution to endorse Bill de Blasio for re-election.

ratner

An endorsement of Bill de Blasio for re-election would be inconsistent with the progressive principles of the PSC.

We Should Receive Support In Return For Our Endorsement

We should only endorse candidates who pledge to support our most important demands. For instance, we support the CUNY Student Bill of Rights, which among other things calls for adjuncts to “have secure positions and pay parity with their full-time colleagues.” Political candidates should be asked: “Which of these goals can you publicly support and advocate for?” Their answers should determine our endorsements.

Does de Blasio support the CUNY Student Bill of Rights or our demands for full funding of CUNY? There’s no evidence he does. And what was his reaction to Cuomo’s proposal to cut state funding to CUNY by 4.1% — the worse CUNY budget in many years – and to raise tuition by $1250 over five years? In his City Hall budget presentation on January 24, de Blasio praised Cuomo’s “tuition plan” (which will not benefit any student with a course load under 15 credits a semester) and said nothing about the 4.1% proposed cut.

De Blasio Is Not Pro-Labor: Part I

When PSC members marched in Staten Island in 2014 to protest the killing of Eric Garner, or marched down 5th Avenue on Father’s Day in 2012 to demand the end of stop-and-frisk, we demonstrated an anti-racist solidarity that was not only morally right but also vitally important to building the unity of labor necessary to take on the billionaire class. Today we have a mayor who appointed Bill Bratton as Police Commissioner, knowing that Bratton had initiated “broken windows” policing in NYC in the 1990’s under Rudy Giuliani. “Broken windows” is a discriminatory policing strategy promoted by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank. It’s had a devastating effect on poor communities of color. In the last three years, hundreds of thousands of NYers (80% Black and Latino) were arrested under “broken windows” for low-level infractions such as riding a bike on the sidewalk, drinking a beer on one’s stoop, being in a park after hours, smoking marijuana or selling loose cigarettes – what Eric Garner was accused of doing when he was arrested and killed.

Even after a recent report by the Office of the Inspector General found “no empirical evidence” to demonstrate that arresting people for small transgressions reduces felony crime, de Blasio said he would continue “broken windows” policing. In 2015, the NYPD arrested 20,000 people for possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana (92.5% were people of color) and even more people this year![1] Arrests for “broken windows” infractions have negatively impacted the lives of CUNY students who now have criminal records that can affect future employment.[2]

Furthermore, we know the target of Trump’s deportation orders will be undocumented immigrants with criminal records, many of whom have those records only because they’ve been arrested under “broken windows” policing.

De Blasio Is Not Pro-Labor: Part II

Some of the most powerful and wealthiest people in New York are real estate developers: billionaires like Jerry Speyer, Mortimer Zuckerman (who also owns the Daily News), Stephen Ross, Richard LeFrak, David Walentas, and of course Donald Trump. The Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) represents the interests of real estate tycoons, and de Blasio has a close relationship with REBNY.[3]

When de Blasio ran for Mayor in 2013, he promised that only union workers would be hired do all city-financed building construction. With the encouragement of real estate developers, he quickly reneged on that promise, contending that union labor would be too expensive. That’s because union construction workers make $30/hr for laborers and $50/hr for skilled trades, and receive benefits. By contrast, non-union workers are “brutally underpaid,” with wages as low as $10/hr with no benefits or overtime pay. 80% of these workers are misclassified as “independent contractors” so developers don’t have to pay social security taxes.[4]

Union workers receive apprenticeships and journeyman training, including the necessity to follow proper safety precautions. Non-union workers don’t receive this training and can be pressured to ignore safety rules. This has contributed to 31 deaths over the last two years, 29 of them at non-union construction sites in NYC.[5] One of the most recent deaths was at the city-financed affordable-housing (though with mostly luxury units) site at the former Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg, where a worker fell from a scaffold to his death. The development is owned by Two Trees Management, whose owner is the above-mentioned billionaire David Walentas, who put his son Jed is in charge of the Domino site. Jed Walentas is a “major donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio”; he contributed $100,000 to the Mayor’s non-profit Campaign for One New York (CONY). Walentas is also part of a business group pushing the city to build a streetcar running through downtown Brooklyn and passing the Domino luxury condos.[6]

A mayor who thinks it’s “too expensive” to use union workers on city-financed construction cannot be called “pro-labor.” If he believes that using union labor is too expensive, what would he say about paying salaries to adjunct professors on par with those of their tenure-track colleagues?

What Are the Grand Juries Investigating?

Two grand juries are investigating how the de Blasio administration raised millions of dollars from companies doing business with the city. De Blasio has maintained that there was no quid pro quo with the donors, who the Mayor maintains were just people who shared his progressive views. It turns out, however, that a good number of the donors are actually deep-pocketed supporters of conservative politicians. Yet their business interests depend on receiving city contracts, tax breaks and zoning changes, and their contributions to de Blasio were made with those interests in mind.[7]

Walentas, for instance, profits from tax incentives, being able to use low-paid non-union workers, and stands to make a nice profit from the Brooklyn-Queens streetcar. Of the $4.3 million raised by CONY, at least $3 million came from company executives with pending business before the city.

The corrupt nature of these transactions are so transparent, they seem to come out of an Upton Sinclair or Theodore Dreiser novel.

De Blasio Is An Unreliable Ally

1. Our main nemesis since 2011 has been Andrew Cuomo, whose strong connections to Wall Street and big real estate are striking.[8] At the 2014 nominating convention of the Working Families Party, Zephyr Teachout had considerable support among the delegates. Despite Cuomo’s austerity budgets, his awful Tier VI pension plan and concessionary contracts forced on state employees, the WFP voted to endorse the Governor for re-election. De Blasio played a major role in securing the endorsement for Cuomo:

The driving forces included, most conspicuously, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who, despite his being slapped down by the governor on charter schools and in his attempt to finance universal pre–K with a millionaires tax, urged delegates to accept on faith his portrait of Cuomo as a genuine progressive blocked by Senate Republicans. (That the governor has supported and engineered a working Republican majority in Albany was left unmentioned.)[9]

Bill de Blasio has been a long-time associate of the Clintons. He served in Bill Clinton’s administration, along with Andrew Cuomo, and was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager when she ran for Senate. Unlike Sanders, de Blasio has never been critical of a Democratic Party that caters to the needs of corporate interests, which returns its favors with heavy donations. We saw that in his endorsements of both Clinton and Cuomo.

2. De Blasio ran for office in 2013 pledging to reduce inequality. His actions since reveal just how hollow his rhetoric was. Over the last few years the number of homeless has skyrocketed and the response of the de Blasio administration has been punitive:

Police throw homeless peoples’ possessions in the trash. A thirty-eight member special unit polices the homeless population that resides along 125th Street in Harlem. Mayor Bill de Blasio supports these tactics and pushes rezoning initiatives in the low-income neighborhoods that threaten to displace residents who are already most likely to become homeless.

And despite de Blasio’s “tale of two cities” message, he favors the unabashedly pro-gentrification policies of prior administrations and — as his appointment of Bratton as police commissioner makes clear — aggressive policing tactics.[10]

3. NYC is the most unequal city in the U.S. and has more billionaires than any city in the world. Yet de Blasio insisted that hundreds of thousands of city employees receive only 10% salary increases over seven years (below inflation). After the increases take effect this year, a newly hired custodial assistant at CUNY will make an annual salary of $29, 279, while a new elevator operator will make $29, 966 a year. When the PSC was asking for salary parity for adjunct professors, what was the response of Robert Linn, de Blasio’s Labor Commissioner: All you’re getting is 10% over seven years!

Meanwhile, Wall Street executives and real estate tycoons are making money hand over fist. While CUNY employees struggle to pay for necessities, the plutocracy enjoys 5th Avenue duplexes and European homes, and sends their children to expensive private schools. In 2014, the wealthiest 1% of New Yorkers grabbed 39% of all income in the city. When de Blasio first took office, he proposed a minuscule increase in taxes on millionaires, for which he was chastised by Cuomo and hasn’t said a single word about since.

A recent report from State Comptroller DiNapoli projects a NYC budget deficit of $2.2 billion in FY 2018, and deficits of $2.9 billion and $2.4 billion the following two years, and that’s before the impact of Trump’s cuts in aid. Those deficits could be covered – and more money found for K-12 schools and CUNY – with increased taxes on NYC’s fabulously wealthy or with a financial transaction tax, but de Blasio has no interest in that battle.[11]

Conclusion

A Mayor who welcomes “broken windows” policing, who won’t insist on having union labor on city-financed construction sites, who punishes the homeless, who’s in bed with the wealthy real estate developers, and who won’t stand up to the billionaires (preferring to take their money instead) or stand up to Cuomo’s austerity budget, is no friend of labor and no progressive. He should not receive our endorsement.[12]

We’re told that we need de Blasio on our side, even if he refuses to make commitments to us. Two and half million people marched on Saturday against President Trump and the policies he promises to enact. If we build a movement of activist faculty and students, we can take on our enemies without dubious friends like the Mayor.

 

[1] Police Reform Organizing Project report, January 10, 2017, http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=f6b63e2555a5fd40610a66a67&id=37eb1b8e3d&e=f71379df0b

[2] CUNY School of Law Associate Professor K. Babe Howell vividly describes the racial and class disparities under “broken windows” policing; for instance, black New Yorkers are eight times as likely to be arrested for marijuana as white New Yorkers are, even though the rate of use is the same. Babe Howell, “The Costs of ‘Broken Windows’ Policing: Twenty Years and Counting,” Cardozo Law Review, http://www.cardozolawreview.com/content/37-3/HOWELL.37.3.8.pdf

[3] E.B. Solomont, “De Blasio, REBNY teamed up to win control of public schools,” The Raw Deal, August 30, 2016

[4] Gregory Butler, “The Involuntary Philanthropists: How Low Wage Non Union Construction Workers Subsidize New York City’s Real Estate Developers,” Gangbox News, http://gangboxnews.blogspot.com

[5] Dominique Bravo, “Death on the Construction Site,” NY Times, January 17, 2017

[6] Rosa Goldensohn, “Worker falls and dies at city-back affordable-housing site of Domino Sugar factory,” Crain’s, December 9, 2016;  Greg B. Smith, “NYCLASS, a key de Blasio donor, hit with subpoena in mayor fund-raising probe,” Daily News, April 22, 2016

[7] Laura Nahmias, “Some donors to de Blasio nonprofit also gave heavily to conservative causes,” Politico, January 3, 2017

[8] Glenn Kissack, “Cuomo, Wall Street and Class Struggle at CUNY,” Socialism and Democracy, November 2016, available upon request from the author at gkissack@nyc.rr.com

[9] John Halle,  “Pulling the Plug on Working Families,” Jacobin, June 6, 2014

[10] Ben Holtzman, “Gentrification’s First Victims,” Jacobin, May 13, 2016

[11] “Review of the Financial Plan of the City of New York,” Office of the New York State Comptroller, December 2016

[12] A similar argument is made about de Blasio by the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and LES, January 2017: https://peoplefirstnyc.org/2017/01/

Advertisements

1 thought on “Why We Should Not Endorse Bill de Blasio for Mayor”

  1. Tania Mattos, 31, a DACA recipient and organizer at UnLocal, a legal service organization for immigrants, knows just what the stakes are.

    “I have a deportation order already. I would be one of the first to go,” she told the crowd. “It’s not okay that the mayor can say that he’s a progressive mayor and not do anything to protect immigrants, that the City Council can not do anything. I live in Jackson Heights, Queens, and police are all over immigrant communities enforcing Broken Windows. This is just unacceptable.”

    http://www.villagevoice.com/news/immigrants-to-de-blasio-get-off-your-soapbox-and-stop-helping-the-feds-deport-us-9637719

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s