THE BLOG
12/29/2014 09:51 am ET Updated Feb 28, 2015

The Mayor's Freshman Year Report Card

Andrew Burton via Getty Images

Like many freshmen, Mayor Bill de Blasio had some moments of glory and some rookie stumbles in his first year in office. Now, as we head into the holiday season of good cheer (and school break) here is a brief report card of how the mayor performed in some of the difficult subjects. No letter or number grades because a good progressive school (like the one the mayor would likely attend) would only do comments:

PUBLIC SAFETY - It's hard to believe that major crime went down once again this year, continuing a remarkable two decade plus slide in a City that many thought was ungovernable and out of control in the early 1990s. Murders dropped once again and overall crime is down 4.4% from last year. Even more remarkable is that all this was accomplished with a huge decrease in the use of "stop and frisk," one of the key crime-fighting techniques of the previous administration. The mayor and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton deserve huge kudos for keeping the city safe while also reforming "stop and frisk."

EDUCATION - Getting universal pre-K approved in his first few months in office and then launching what is essentially a whole new grade by September definitely stands out as the singular achievement of the de Blasio administration's maiden year. There's no doubt that getting kids in school a year earlier will pay long-term dividends. On the other side of the ledger, however, the mayor still seems to have an aversion to charter schools, but is grudgingly allowing them to expand because they have a strong ally in Albany in Governor Cuomo. Now de Blasio has to tackle the black hole of middle school education, raise the overall high school graduation rate, work on teacher development and retention and, of course, make sure the Common Core curriculum succeeds. There is lots of homework and tests ahead for the mayor and his Chancellor, Carmen Farina.

POLICE/COMMUNITY RELATIONS - Some may say that the mayor is not to blame for the Eric Garner incident, lack of indictment and the chaos that has ensued with mass protests and the recent assassination of two cops. They may be right, but one of the downsides of being the boss is that along with the kudos, comes the blame when things don't go well. The mayor has tried very hard to skate between qualified support for the men in blue and feeling empathy for the family of Garner and the thousands of protesters who have hit the streets after the no-indictment grand jury. Gone are the days of a mayor who is absolutely, positively always siding with the cops; Giuliani and Bloomberg made an art of that and it invariably bruised the city's minority community at times. Now, with Al Sharpton back in the racial mix (where was he during the Bloomberg era?) and with city's tabloids fanning the flames of cop vs. citizen conflagration, we are witnessing a brush fire that may become a four-alarm blaze if things continue to escalate. The mayor needs to become the Uniter-In-Chief and make the head of the PBA and Sergeant's Union his besties or this issue could engulf his next few years. Did someone say "Dinkins Redux?"

AFFORDABLE HOUSING - The mayor hired a great team of people, including Alicia Glen and Carl Weisbrod, to spearhead his ambitious attempt to build more than 200,000 affordable units in the next decade. His first year, he definitely set a strong tone and precedent with his hardball negotiation with the owners of the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. But the actual number of new units getting off the ground in the first year is not on pace with the mayor's ambitious long-term plan so he may have to hit the remedial room in 2015 to make up lost ground. He also didn't help the affordable housing cause by ham-handedly campaigning for Senate Democrats who lost badly in the recent election; with rent regulations up for renewal in 2015 in Albany, he does not have many allies in the Senate Republican majority. If a large chunk of rent-regulated apartments go to market rate in the next few years, the mayor will feel like Sisyphus as the net number of affordable units actually goes down during his first term. Stay tuned and watch how the mayor plays ball with Albany and the governor in early 2015.

THE NEW ADMINISTRATION - The mayor has surrounded himself with an extremely talented team of commissioners and agency heads and he's done it in an extremely diverse way, except when it comes to Latinos in top positions (the mayor has come under attack from the Latino community for this). Bill Bratton was an inspired choice for Police Commissioner and it's hard to imagine how much worse things would be for the mayor if crime had actually spiked up this year. Carmen Farina has proven to be an energetic and able Education Chancellor and she has led the charge to get universal pre-K off the ground with few glitches. Tony Shorris is a quiet, competent presence as deputy mayor who knows his way around government and has helped ease the transition. The Parks Commissioner has come under a bit of criticism for being out of town a lot, but on the whole, this has been a "no drama" mayoral team (with the exception of the recent protests and the shaky relations with police).

LEARNING FROM MISTAKES - The mayor probably needs to have more than a better alarm clock to make sure he shows up when he says he will; he needs a body person he trusts to pull him out of bed, end meetings or cancel unnecessary appointments so he can shake his reputation for tardiness. And in personnel matters, he probably needs to be more decisive in getting rid of non-essential staffers like Rachel Noerdlinger when their alleged misdeeds start dominating the tabloid headlines. The mayor probably also needs to hit the reset button in his relations with the police unions; their antipathy was one of the things that sunk David Dinkins in 1993 -- and since the mayor had a front-row seat at that slow motion debacle he should be especially aware of the perils of upsetting the city's "thin blue line."

Tom Allon, the president of City & State, NY, was the Liberal Party-backed candidate for mayor in 2012. He can be reached at tallon@cityandstateny.com