Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first deputy mayor this morning provided a rosy assessment of the administration’s tenure so far, concluding that “we’re in a pretty credible place,” despite a “few bumps along the way.”
Speaking to business leaders, lobbyists and reporters at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast forum in Midtown, Mr. Shorris broke with the mayor and acknowledged the pace of appointments in the administration has been “a bit slower than some.”
Mr. de Blasio has yet to fill more than a dozen commissioner positions more than two months after his inauguration, leading to frustrations from advocates and criticism from editorial boards. But Mr. Shorris insisted the result was an especially competent and diverse administration.
“In the end, I think all of you … know that choosing the right people is far more important than choosing people quickly,” Mr. Shorris argued. “Nobody ever remembers how long a cabinet took to assemble,” he said, only who’s in it.
Mr. Shorris went on to make the case that hiring people who share common values–as the mayor has stressed–may be an unusual approach, but has the benefit of reducing friction and “allows for a greater delegation of decision-making” because his new hires can be better trusted to make decisions without constant supervision from higher-ups.
Overall, he argued that just over two months into the new administration, the city is being managed well. He pointed to the city’s record-low murder rate, the city’s handling of its snowiest winter in recent memory and the “careful, thoughtful and balanced” preliminary budget proposal.
He also pointed to the progress the new mayor has made so far keeping his campaign promises, including “a new approach to policing,” legislation to expand mandatory paid sick leave, plans to reduce pedestrian fatalities, and a change in direction at the Department of Education, marked by the appointment of a long-time educator as schools chancellor.
Mr. Shorris also provided a preview of some of the initiatives the mayor will be rolling out in the weeks, including “new systems, new structures and some new tools to track our performance against not only the sort of traditional core operating goals, but also the transformational goals.” In the days to come, he said, the mayor will be announcing new programs to help connect graduates with employment opportunities and a broader restructuring of the city’s workforce development programs.
“It’s a big complicated circus and there’s lots of rings in it, right? So we’re operating in all the rings simultaneously,” Mr. Shorris said.
The first deputy mayor also shared harsh words about both the city’s Sandy recovery efforts–describing the city’s progress as not “defensible” and “way too slow”–and slammed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which he used to head, in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal.
“Look, what’s going on there is very sad to watch” he said, describing an agency “riven with politics and filled with poor business practices.”
In closing, he said he believed the new administration would make a lasting mark on the city.
“With every new administration, the city writes a new chapter in its history,” he said. “I believe it’s going to be a chapter about the restoration of hope for so many left behind, about the return of the open, compassionate metropolis that has been a magnet for centuries.”