Next Week/This Week: There’s a Lot of Comedy at City Hall

The weekly feature from the Observer politics team rounding up the week and looking ahead to the next one.

Bill de Blasio and Louis CK stop for a picture outside City Hall. (Photo: Jillian Jorgensen for Observer)
Bill de Blasio and Louis CK stop for a picture outside City Hall. (Photo: Jillian Jorgensen for Observer)


1. Andrew Cuomo: New York City voters like their governor better than their mayor. Mr. Cuomo garnered a 58 percent approval rating from city voters in a Quinnipiac Poll released this week, and it seemed that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attacks on the governor weren’t particular helpful—the mayor’s polls are lower than ever, and New Yorkers are split when asked about their feud. The good numbers perhaps eased the pain of being booed during a Billy Joel concert earlier in the week.

2. Bob Linn and Stephen Cassidy: The city’s labor negotiator and the head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association reached a contract deal this week—that also settles an outstanding pension issue that has dogged the mayor. But the move represents more than just a raise for firefighters and another contract under the belt of Mr. Linn—it’s a bit of a rebuke to the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association and its president, Patrick Lynch, who is locked in arbitration with the city after failing to reach a deal. The pension fix won’t apply to the PBA, whose youngest officers will still see reduced benefits if they’re injured, and his members will have to keep waiting for a short-term arbitration deal before they get any pay hike. Conventional wisdom would have suggested that Mr. Cassidy would wait to see what Mr. Lynch got out of arbitration before making a deal—but the city was able to woo them ahead of time, and other uniformed unions could follow, leaving the PBA last in line.

3. Carly Fiorina: The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was able to overcome the fact that somebody left her closing statement in a hotel lobby printer, leading to it being posted on Twitter, to offer up by far the best performance in the “kids’ table” version of the Republican presidential debate. While winning the main event might be more prestigious, Ms. Fiorina really has more to gain—a strong performance at 5 p.m. can help propel her to primetime next debate, and get her in the top ten of the GOP’s unwieldy 17-candidate field.


1. Mayor Bill de Blasio: Not one, but two Quinnipiac University Polls this week spelled trouble for Mr. de Blasio—the first showed his approval rating at an all-time low of 44 percent, the second showed that under his watch, New Yorkers found quality of life to be the worst that it’s been since 1997. The New York Post launched a countdown clock until the end of the mayor’s first (and they hope, only) term. The Daily News savaged him as clueless on how to deal with the spread of Legionnaire’s disease in the Bronx, with a shrugging photo on the wood and a screaming headline: “Get a grip!” He had to push his big announcement on homelessness back a day to iron out a policy issue. The mayor is probably looking forward to 5 p.m. this Friday even more than you are.

2. Dr. Mary Bassett: The level-headed doctor who emerged as the adult in the room during the city’s Ebola scare has not had as easy a go of it in dealing with Legionnaire’s. News outlets have raised repeated questions about why the outbreak wasn’t identified earlier, why the city didn’t have better standards for dealing with it, and why Dr. Bassett didn’t enlist help from the Centers for Disease Control. (Mr. Cuomo eventually swooped in to usher the CDC to town.)

3. Democratic primary voters: While Republican voters get to watch 17 candidates duke it out, Democrats will only have six chances to see their tiny-by-comparison field debate. That was likely welcome news to frontrunner Hillary Clinton, but it was panned by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders(who was “disappointed, but not surprised”) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose campaign manager blasted off an e-mail with the subject “Are you kidding me?”


Aside from the Republican debate, in New York City this week the big story was Legionnaire’s disease—and it was a story with more sticking power than Mr. de Blasio might have hoped. The disease has continued to spread, with more than 100 infected and 10 dead in the South Bronx. Mr. de Blasio said the city had no way of knowing which buildings had cooling towers, promising legislation and then, after being hammered for taking so long, finally issuing an executive order to have all the cooling towers identified and cleaned in the coming days. But by the time he’d announced that, the state—led by Mr. Cuomo, not one to be shy about big-footing the mayor even on catastrophic health crises—had stepped in, promising free testing and heaping praise on Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s leadership without even mentioning the mayor. The debacle, along with bad poll numbers, distracted from Mr. de Blasio’s big roll-out of a mental health program Thursday.

But there was also a slighter lighter side: it was a star-studded week, by comparison to normal anyway, in the city’s political circles. On Monday, there was comedian, TV and film star Amy Schumer standing beside her cousin Sen. Charles Schumer at a (quite somber) press conference on gun control. On Wednesday, a particularly boring meeting of the state’s financial control board was livened up by the appearance of stand-up star Louis CK, who was shadowing Mr. de Blasio. And of course, Thursday saw the final episode of The Daily Show that will be hosted by Jon Stewart, yielding plenty of teary-eyed farewells to the man who has taken on national issues and local ones and has had real influence—just ask former congressional candidate Domenic Recchia.


Expect continued focus on homelessness and quality of life crimes. Despite news reports that the mayor would tackle the issue, Mr. de Blasio’s big announcement this week offered little in new programs aimed specifically at reducing the homeless population, focusing more largely on mental illness. Meanwhile, New Yorkers seem to feel that crime and homelessness is on the rise. Expect pushback from the administration on these issues—after all, it’s hard to believe quality of life could really be worse than it was when Quinnipiac first started asking about it in 1997 and the city was considerably more dangerous—as they try to regain the narrative and portray the city as the safest big metropolis in the world, while the Post keeps describing it as the “rotting apple” and counts down the moments until Mr. de Blasio’s term ends.


Remember Cecil the lion? You know, the one who was killed by an American hunter in Zimbabwe? The only lion you know by name? We can forgive you if you’ve already moved one—Cecil’s death was reported in July—but City Council Candidate Satnam Singh Parhar hasn’t. He put out a press release on the lion’s death on August 5, well after the news cycle had moved on.


After inviting Louis CK to shadow him for two days, Mr. de Blasio will shadow the stand-up comic—doing a set at the Comedy Cellar where Gov. Cuomo shows up just to heckle him. And after duking it out on the debate stage, Chris Christie and Rand Paul take a vacation to the Jersey Shore together—but don’t hug.


Expect lots of the city’s left-wing Democrats to try to make hay of the Republican debate, and plenty of attention on how that debate will move poll numbers. Next Week/This Week: There’s a Lot of Comedy at City Hall