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Ear to the Ground

A Public Advocate for Mayor of New York?

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Posted on Aug 23, 2013
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Bill de Blasio addresses the media on the steps of City Hall in early 2010.

In an interview with The Nation, New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio told Bhaskar Sunkara of Jacobin magazine that he disapproved of Mayor Bloomberg’s handling of the Occupy protests and that if he were elected, he would appoint an independent official to monitor the NYPD and lead the effort to strengthen unions.

In the heartland of American financial corruption, hearing a candidate for the city’s highest office promise to resist the downward economic trend currently devouring the lives of working people is encouraging. “I think unionization is good public policy,” de Blasio told Sunkara. “I think when families secure their economic future that’s good for everyone. I think given what we’ve seen in the economic crisis of the past half-decade, the economic insecurity that people are feeling in this city and beyond, the driving down of wages and benefits, the answer is a higher level of unionization. I support the striking fast-food workers, for example, and I support the efforts of a number of unions to organize, and I think it’s perfectly appropriate for a mayor to be front-and-center in those efforts.”

Doubly heartening is the thought that a top public official would work to empower ordinary people trying to reverse those efforts in the streets. Of Occupy Wall Street, the anti-corporatist protests centered in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park for two months in late 2011 before being aggressively evicted by Bloomberg, de Blasio said: “I think the movement that was expressing concern that people felt all over the city and all over the world required the respect to be given a location where they could continue their protests. I think there were other available locations that could have been identified. The location that they were using did become a problem. I think it was appropriate to say that that had to change. There were other alternatives than to simply clear them out without giving them a place to continue their work. I think that the way it was done excluded the media. Which to me was a very chilling thing. It was a very troubling precedent. City Hall decided to keep the media at bay and not fully observe or know about what was happening. I think that’s unacceptable.”

On wrongdoing by the city’s police department, including unconstitutional surveillance of the region’s Muslim community and “stop-and-frisk,” the practice of detaining, questioning and searching black and Latino New Yorkers for weapons, drugs and other suspected illegal objects and activities—which was recently declared unconstitutional—de Blasio remarked: “I only believe in policing based on specific leads, specific suspect descriptions, and so on. We should have assertive policing but obviously always be respectful of constitutional boundaries. The only way to do that is to appoint an independent inspector general. That will be the difference in policing in this city moving forward. I don’t know the specific nuances. I can say this much: if anything is not constitutional and not based on specific leads, I wouldn’t allow it. I would want a highly respected inspector general to have a set of eyes on it.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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