As this is written, one week before the New York City mayoral election, polls show that 87 percent of likely voters say Bill de Blasio will win. In fact, he is has maintained a steady 45 point lead over the last six weeks.
While New Yorkers seem ready, and eager, for a course correction after two terms of Rudy Giuliani and three terms of Michael Bloomberg, it appears that the recent de Blasio endorsement in The New York Times managed to get Heartland America's knickers in a twist. The negative response to de Blasio from non-New Yorkers, based upon responses to the Times' endorsement, surprised even a jaundiced New York City old timer like me.
I chalk the negativity up to the absence of fact-based reasoning that permeates American society. In this knee-jerk world of the critical thinking-challenged, where only lip service is paid to cherished Judeo-Christian values, "compassion" spells weakness. Only an iron-fisted "my way or the highway" regime seems to deserve respect. Concern for "the little guy"? Hey, this is America; you're on your own, fella!
Joe Llota's foundering campaign metastasized into a red hot ball of negativity. The net takeaway of the ads from this former Jim Dolan water boy: a vote for de Blasio is a vote for the return to the city-as-cesspool. Calling Snake Plissken: it's time for an "Escape from New York" remake, the ads imply.
Based on the online comments I found, America is buying into a defeatist, doomsday scenario for a de Blasio mayoralty. As a Real New Yorker, and one who has lived -- since the 1950s -- in four of the five boroughs (sorry, Staten Island), and experienced first hand those "the Bronx is burning" years, and the crack epidemic years, I do not share that viewpoint. Nor does the majority of New York City's taxpaying residents.
I suppose us New Yorkers should be flattered by all the attention. I really don't care who the next mayor of Atlanta will be, or Dallas, or Milwaukee, or Sacramento. But boy, there is such vitriol out there in fly-over country regarding a de Blasio mayoralty:
(from Georgia): "If crime rates increase, the blood will be on de Blasio's hands."
(from New Hampshire): "Good luck, New York, You'll need it. A return to the Pre-Giuliana (sic) era of high crime and dirty streets vs. a someone who will continue what has worked..."
(from Texas): "Good luck, NY. If de Blasio, a socialist by all accounts, wins the election and fulfills his promises of increased spending and higher taxes, NYC will be holding out a tin cup to the rest of the country in 10 years. Just like Detroit."
(from Houston): "A disaster waiting to happen for the working people of NYC. For the criminals and generational welfare crowd, the best thing since that other disaster, David Dinkins."
(from Los Angeles): "Rich, full-time, high tax-paying residents will flee to other cities and states, replaced by rich, part-time, low tax-paying residents. Stop-and-frisk protects the poorest, most vulnerable communities. The guy's a disaster, and the city will suffer."
(from Tallahassee): "The blind shall lead the blind and all shall fall into the ditch. Goodbye New York City. Hello Detroit."
(from Baltimore): "Obviously, a decision for you New Yorkers, but after almost two decades of smart Republican management where your city has come back from the dregs to be considered among the best places in the world, you really want to look to a populist left leaning mayor? Hope you make a considered choice."
(from Pennsylvania): "Anyone with the letter D after their name is endorsed by the NY Times. So in the short term or long term, what does it really matter? Living in rural PA I could care less. NY is a cesspool and the poor people living there don't even realize it."
(from "America"): "Vote de Blasio. Pay more in taxes, worry about getting murdered! What a candidate!"
(from Albuquerque): "NYT headline in 2023: Clinton to City: Drop Dead."
(from Okeechobee, Florida): "While I don't live in NYC, I often travel there for business and leisure. If your suspicions prove true (as I believe), I won't be coming to NYC unless forced. I could handle the rough and tumble nature of NYC when I was 21, but as a 50-something graybeard I don't feel as confident."
Golly, thanks for your concern, America. You seem to really care about us New Yorkers after all. I'm verklemmt. But I think we'll be ok, here. Honestly.
Because we fact-based, real New Yorkers know that crime was already in decline during the Dinkins years, thanks in large part to smart and aggressive community police programs such as Safe Streets, Safe City, led by Dinkins' Commissioner, Ray Kelly.
We know, too, that retaining and enriching our middle-class tax base is the key to a balanced and thriving metropolis. It's not all about attracting the non-resident, pied-à-terre buyers at One57, where total sales are expected to exceed $2 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal, and penthouses edge towards $100 million.
Yes, America, New York is -- and always has been -- about money, and power, and success, and real estate development and sharp elbows. But it's a question of degree. The pendulum, after 20 years of Rudy/Mike, has swung a bit wide to one side. A modest course correction will not bring down the house.
Schools were priority-one for Michael Bloomberg. Can we agree that there is still room for improvement with our public school system? Crime stats are at historic lows and there is every reason to believe that fine-tuning street tactics will not degrade departmental metrics. And, as a company town, Wall Street has rebounded and then some even after the hits it took in '87, the early 2000s, post-9/11 and 2008. A big caveat: the municipal workers' union contracts -- a can Bloomberg kicked down the road for three terms.
But fear not, America. If de Blasio is our next mayor, the city will still be safe to visit. It will still pull talented, energetic, creative young people from all over the country -- the world. It will still be a great place to play and conduct business.
Even for 50-something graybeards from Okeechobee, Florida.