De Blasio looks to convince less-liberal skeptics

NYC mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio speaks after

NYC mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio speaks after a debate with Joe Lhota at CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan. (Oct. 22, 2013) (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

During Bill Clinton's presidency, his strategists wielded the buzzword "triangulation."

Fans defined the concept as using progressive policies to quell conservative concerns. Detractors called it nothing more than political difference-splitting.

Whether it's triangulating, or just being a politician, Bill de Blasio -- a Clintonista by background -- sounds bent on convincing less-liberal skeptics they shouldn't fear his mayoralty.


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Far ahead in polls, de Blasio of course aims to douse any fires that Republican candidate Joe Lhota may kindle by warning of high crime, heavier tax burdens and educational stagnation if the Democrat wins.

The front-runner also sounds intent on keeping his options open for -- barring an enormous surprise real soon -- running the city after he's inaugurated Jan. 1.

De Blasio denies Lhota's charge that his "tale of two cities" theme creates a political wedge. Poverty and near-poverty among a big share of New Yorkers -- showed in city statistics -- are "deeply felt on the ground," and measures to address them are "for the good of all," he said in an on-the-record meeting with the amNewYork editorial board.

During the Democratic primary, de Blasio, the elected public advocate, declared in TV ads that he alone among candidates would "end stop-and-frisk targeting of minorities." Yet in his most recent remarks, he framed his policing goals as building on past progress.

"We have an extraordinary platform for public safety in that we have the finest police force in the country at 34,000-plus officers, and the progress we've made on crime is now over 20 years, three mayors and six commissioners," he told the amNewYork editorial board.

In the session Monday, De Blasio also made his other positions sound more nuanced.

He supports continued mayoral control of the school system and of its advisory Panel for Educational Policy -- but with "greater respect" for parental and teacher input.

He opposes lifting the current numerical cap on charter schools -- but says if some fail, others could replace them.

He speaks of giving troubled schools better support than did Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- without ruling out any closures. He praises private conservancies that support Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Central Park in Manhattan -- but wants big conservancies to help other, underfunded parks.

Overall, he said, it is "the price of admission for going into city government" that "one do the traditional stuff -- keep the city safe, make sure the trash is picked up, all of that." But beyond them loom "bigger challenges," he adds, and rhetorically asks, "How are we going to thrive if this many people are struggling?"

For all the potential for flexibility, however, the front-running candidate insists that he can overcome obstacles in Albany to put a new tax on the city's top earners to make pre-K programs universally accessible.

"Realities in the legislature as always depend on what happens with public opinion," he says. "I believe the conventional wisdom is missing this reality," he adds, referring to the widespread belief that the proposal is dead on arrival at the Capitol.

As expectation builds, De Blasio won't discuss who may get key City Hall appointments, saying: "The people haven't spoken."