2014 Newsmaker: Bill de Blasio
If 2013 marked the ascent and promise of Bill de Blasio’s progressive mayoral campaign, 2014 was the year de Blasio put his official stamp on the city from a legislative perspective.
De Blasio began the year with some shrewd political maneuvering behind the scenes, inserting himself into the largely backroom-driven City Council speaker’s race by using his newfound power to pressure Council members to back his preferred candidate, Melissa Mark-Viverito, over Dan Garodnick. De Blasio’s gambit succeeded, as Mark-Viverito cruised to victory, and her leadership paid immediate dividends for the mayor when she passed an expansion of the city’s paid sick leave law to cover 530,000 more workers.
On the state level, de Blasio also scored a major victory when Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided funding in the state budget for a citywide universal pre-K program, which would become the mayor’s signature policy achievement. This despite the fact that de Blasio continued to lobby the governor and Legislature (in a statewide election year, no less) to raise taxes on the wealthiest in New York City in order to pay for the program. The mayor’s persistence in pushing the tax hike would eventually be seen as the impetus for the long-running feud with Cuomo and a primary reason de Blasio’s subsequent policy requests in Albany were largely dead on arrival.
Later that summer, de Blasio and Mark-Viverito announced IDNYC – a municipal identification card designed to give undocumented immigrants a means of accessing city services. The bill was signed into law in July and went into effect the following year.
The mayor also rolled out two of his more ambitious policy proposals: a 10-year plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing and Vision Zero, an initiative designed to reduce traffic-related fatalities in the city. While the jury is still out on the overall efficacy of both programs, they will largely define de Blasio’s legacy as mayor.
2014 Newsmaker, Runner-up: Melissa Mark-Viverito
Bill de Blasio’s election as mayor of New York City ushered in a push for income equality to change the “Tale of Two Cities” narrative. Stop-and-frisk had been sharply reduced and community engagement efforts were gaining traction. Then, from the streets of East Harlem, a former Local 1199 organizer and co-founder of Mujeres del Barrio rode the wave of progressive politics from her 8th City Council District seat straight to the second-highest position of power in New York City politics. Melissa Mark-Viverito became the first Puerto Rican woman and Latina to serve as speaker of the New York City Council.
Her friendship with de Blasio (she was the first City Council member to endorse him in the mayoral race) certainly played a role in her ability to get the better of the backroom negotiations that usually anoint new speakers, but so did a grassroots campaign designed to show the City Council that the public’s will was behind the progressive caucus and their choice for speaker – Mark-Viverito. Her victory represented a historic first for the chamber, and that’s why she is our runner-up for newsmaker of the year for 2014.