After speaking on the phone with Dr. Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested the retired neurosurgeon could become the “reasonable voice” in the incoming administration and help New York City “develop our people.”
Earlier this afternoon, mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips announced the pair had spoken for the first time ever and had “vowed to work together” said that he has never had a conversation with Carson before. Apearing this evening on his weekly “Mondays with the Mayor” segment on NY1, de Blasio described the discussion as “pretty brief” but “pleasant” and “still very good.”
“We share a common belief that the mission of government is to develop our people, and that’s not happening enough in cities all across the country,” de Blasio, who worked at the agency during the Clinton administration, told host Errol Louis. “And if that’s part of what animates his leadership at HUD, that’s a place where we can find some real common ground. We’ve got to think about human capital much more in the equation rather than just financial capital or physical capital.”
He also said he extended an invitation to Carson to come visit New York City, saying that he wants to show him the city’s affordable housing initiatives and public housing “which we’re very proud of.” He praised Carson as an “accomplished doctor” who has “obviously had a very scientific element to his brain.”
“I am hoping that he comes in with a very open mind and sees from scratch just how much cities across the country depend on this federal support to protect the needs of our people and will be open to really working with us,” de Blasio continued. “His tone, as you’ve seen, he’s a gentleman. He’s not an angry voice, he’s a reasonable voice and I was encouraged by the conversation.”
Earlier this month, de Blasio extended an “open hand” to Carson when Trump announced he was his pick to serve as HUD secretary—despite the fact that the doctor admitted weeks before that he lacked the background to run a federal agency. The mayor effectively controls the beleaguered New York City Housing Authority, which owns and operates developments lodging nearly half a million residents and runs an enormous Section 8 program serving almost 90,000 families—all of which is heavily reliant on federal funding.
De Blasio was just back from serving as an elector in Albany, where he and 28 colleagues cast votes for his former boss Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic nominee, as part of the Electoral College. He described it as “painful” to watch another elector, former President Bill Clinton, cast his vote.
The mayor “that should have been a celebration” and ended up feeling more like a wake.
The mayor also said that it “just felt wrong” given that Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and echoed calls for the Electoral College system to be abolished.
“I think the Electoral College was created 200-plus years ago when the concerns of the different states were so much sharper and we weren’t talking about mass media in a society that was so, you know, connected,” de Blasio said. “Today, how do you say that 3 million more votes, 3 million more Americans voted for someone, they still lost? It doesn’t make any more sense anymore.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.