They Still Like Mike

You wouldn’t know it based on the rhetoric in and around City Hall these days, but New Yorkers have fond memories of Michael Bloomberg’s 12 years as mayor. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed that 64 percent of respondents agreed that Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure was “mainly a success.”

Perhaps surprisingly to some given the tenor of this past election, 50 percent of black Americans judge the Bloomberg years in a positive light, and that’s after months of heated criticism of the city’s stop-and-frisk policy. Fifty-nine percent of Hispanics said they believed Mr. Bloomberg’s administration was a success.

Mayor Bill de Blasio would do well to keep these findings in mind the next time he tells his tale of two cities. Simply put, most New Yorkers don’t share his opinion of the Bloomberg years. They clearly voted for change in November, but that doesn’t mean they wanted to turn their back on Mr. Bloomberg and his many successes. 

One of those success stories, as the new mayor knows and acknowledges, came in the field of public health. Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign against tobacco and sugar repositioned New York as a leader in 21st-century public health policy.

And yet, when Mr. de Blasio announced the appointment of Dr. Mary T. Bassett as his new health commissioner, he once again tried to put distance between his administration and Mr. Bloomberg’s. He said that under Dr. Bassett, who served as deputy health commissioner during the Bloomberg years, the city’s public health policies would be “more community-friendly” and would adopt a “community-focused approach.”

Translation: We won’t be like Mike.

Mr. de Blasio needs to get out of campaign mode. He won the election, handily. He no longer needs to position himself as the anti-Bloomberg. He doesn’t have to score political points with every utterance.

Why not acknowledge that Mr. Bloomberg handed him a legacy and that he intends to build on it? 

To do so, of course, would require a gracious remark or two about the former mayor. Mr. de Blasio’s core supporters might resent such an utterance. But the all-important polls show that most New Yorkers would see wisdom—and no small amount of class—in such a statement of the obvious.