New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a bumbling punchline of a politician, is finally leaving office at the end of the year, and what better time to give the outgoing mayor a good old-fashioned Bronx cheer?
It's tempting to review de Blasio's seven-year tenure and focus on the clownish moments: accidentally killing a groundhog on Groundhog Day; dressing up in Spock's blue Starfleet uniform and calling himself Captain Kirk; hitting his favorite gym while the rest of the city was under onerous COVID-19 lockdowns.
But then you'd miss the spectacular failures and hypocrisies of his policy initiatives.
De Blasio campaigned on a broad, progressive platform highlighting economic inequality and promising to improve police relations. The hapless de Blasio then managed to completely alienate rank-and-file NYPD officers while simultaneously enraging police reform advocates. Like previous administrations, de Blasio's office defended and expanded police secrecy laws that shielded misconduct files and other records from being released to the public. After the police killing of Eric Garner, he told a story about giving his biracial son, "the talk" about police, which enraged police unions. The mayor never forgot the sting of having NYPD officers turn their backs on him during a funeral for two murdered cops. In the years that followed, he was content to be the doormat for the NYPD.
For example, de Blasio didn't have much to say last summer as NYPD was caught on camera in dozens of instances clubbing and attacking protesters. His weak excuse was that he hadn't seen any of the viral videos that were coming out nightly.
This all wouldn't be so galling—every other New York City mayor in recent history has done the same—if de Blasio wasn't on the record decrying this very sort of thing.
Before he became mayor, de Blasio was the New York City public advocate, an elected position that acts as ombudsman or watchdog (or, to be more honest, a perch for an aspiring pol to take swipes at the current mayor). De Blasio released a "transparency report card" on New York City agencies' compliance with the state's Freedom of Information Law. The report found that about 10 percent of requests to city agencies were simply ignored. The NYPD received an "F" grade for its habit of ignoring nearly a third of all public records requests it received.
But after de Blasio became mayor, all of those high-minded concerns about accountability and transparency disappeared. He tried to hide thousands of emails between him and an adviser. The NYPD's willful violations of New York's Freedom of Information Law continued unabated, and often supported in court by the mayor's office.
When the New York City Department of Investigation began looking into whether de Blasio used his security detail improperly for personal and political purposes (the agency concluded he did), an NYPD officer tried to obstruct the investigation.
The mayor was hostile to just about every other issue Reason cares about. He has a longstanding vendetta against charter schools. He loathed the concept of private property and threatened to seize buildings from landlords. "Look, if I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed," he once said.
(Meanwhile, in 2018 the Justice Department sued the New York City Housing Authority, claiming that city officials systematically worked to cover up squalid conditions in public housing projects, including hiding test results on lead paint exposure.)
On a lighter note, there was the time de Blasio ran for president. It's hard to pick the best moment from de Blasio's embarrassing 2020 presidential campaign, but for my money, it was when he traveled to Miami and approvingly quoted Che Guevara.
De Blasio's candidacy was so ill-conceived and poorly executed that he polled at 0 percent in New York City. New Yorkers may be gluttons for punishment when it comes to electing mayors, but even they didn't want to inflict de Blasio on the rest of the country.
And that was all before de Blasio's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, where he, for example, threatened to have Hasidic Jews arrested for gathering at the funeral of a rabbi. Or who could forget when he repeatedly asserted, contrary to available evidence and to the annoyance of his own health department, that only symptomatic people could transmit the virus?
His only real flashes of political acumen were when he was ribbing disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a thin-skinned blowhard and fellow authoritarian who couldn't help but take the bait.
De Blasio's "progressive" tendencies only manifested themselves in authoritarian diktats against New Yorkers who weren't powerful enough to fight back. He never had a real interest in taking on the injustices perpetrated by the government he ostensibly controlled. The best thing you could say about Bill de Blasio was that he was good for a laugh, but the joke got old far before he was term-limited out of Gracie Mansion. Goodbye and good riddance.