Bill de Blasio Hammers Home Liberal Agenda on MLK Day

Mayor Bill de Blasio today.
Mayor Bill de Blasio today.

Hammering home several of the campaign themes that rocketed him to City Hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio and a host of elected officials celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this morning. 

Along with both of New York’s U.S. senators, Mr. de Blasio’s newly-minted police commissioner and speaker of the City Council addressed the crowd in BAM’s ornate theater, touching on issues like income inequality, the reformation of stop-and-frisk and a new paid sick days bill that could become law shortly. 

“Dr. King would tell us we can’t wait. The time to act is now. The time to build shared prosperity is now. Now is the time to do the things we can do to reach people in need,” Mr. de Blasio, standing with his wife Chirlane McCray, declared. “Now is the time to extend paid sick days to hundreds of thousands of hard working New Yorkers. A basic, basic act of giving people a little more stability and security in their lives and it’s something that we are already setting in motion in this city right now.”

Mr. de Blasio was likely referencing a sudden deal struck last week with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to push a bill that would require businesses with five or more employees to provide their workers with five paid sick days a year, a sizable expansion over the existing law that applies to businesses with 20 or more employees. Ms. Mark-Viverito, a close ally of Mr. de Blasio’s, appears set to shepherd the bill into law with the backing of a left-leaning council.

Mr. de Blasio also renewed his rallying cry to keep struggling, cash-strapped local hospitals like Interfaith Hospital and Long Island College Hospital open–one of the central tenets of his campaign. Drawing repeated cheers from a minority-heavy crowd of several hundred, Mr. de Blasio reiterated yet another campaign pledge: reforming the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy.

“Now is the time to reform a broken stop and frisk policy,” he said. “And yes, we do it to protect the right and dignity of young men of color who are our future. We also do it to give police officers the community partnership they need to in order to keep crime down and keep communities safe.”

Notably, Mr. de Blasio spent less time on the signature proposal of his mayoral campaign, one that he has invested a great amount of political capital in recent days: a tax hike on the wealthy to fund universal pre-kindergarten. While the mayor said full-day pre-K is a “universal right,” he did not directly mention the tax hike that would fund it. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Republicans who help control the State Senate have shown some resistance to the tax component of the plan. (Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also hailed the expansion of universal pre-K, but did not reference Mr. de Blasio by name or his tax hike plan.) 

Mr. de Blasio has nevertheless remained resolute, banking at least partly on popular will to turn campaign promises into reality. 

“This will be one city where everyone rises together. Let’s not wait. Let’s do it now,” he said.  Bill de Blasio Hammers Home Liberal Agenda on MLK Day