Brooklyn and convention puffery
Elected officials dwell these days in perpetual campaign mode. Fittingly, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials this week embraced a low-risk chance to talk up New York City and Brooklyn to a visiting team from the Democratic National Committee tasked with choosing the site of the party's 2016 convention.
Outside the proposed convention hall, the Barclays Center, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said Tuesday as he stood alongside de Blasio: "This city is the image of the Democratic Party. We are what America should look like, what America would look like and what America is going to become, when we have the convention here."
Puffery of varying quality always accompanies these events. But de Blasio, ever the proud blue-state Democrat, also had to play defense against the lack of a huge anchor hotel in Brooklyn and the fact that New York is not a "swing state," where the party theoretically needs to build appeal.
As for proximity, he emphasized the multiple transit options between Manhattan and the arena. As for politics, de Blasio said he didn't think the belief by some that "a convention in a swing state has a particular lift" has been "proven in fact." He added: "The message in the hall is what matters."
Here de Blasio seemed to hint, diplomatically, at the reality that major-party conventions, capping months of state primaries, resemble coronations where delegates are honored props and adherence to plan the mark of success. They are like multiday rock concerts with selected crowds and roll-call votes. For sure, New York has standing as a show-business venue.
Then there's the most talked-about potential nominee, Hillary Clinton. She, Bill Clinton and members of the mayor's crew are well linked in Democratic Party network. Amy Dacey, chief of the DNC, succeeded the committee's acting director, Laura Santucci, last fall; Santucci is now de Blasio's chief of staff. Like de Blasio, Peter Ragone worked in the Clinton administration under then housing secretary and now governor Andrew Cuomo; Ragone is now de Blasio's strategic planning adviser.
In Brooklyn, de Blasio noted Tuesday, "I was at the '92 convention [at Madison Square Garden] as a young City Hall staffer, which came off beautifully and obviously was the beginning of the Clinton era and a time a lot of us look back on very appreciatively."
Ten years ago, the city, under then-GOP Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hosted the Republican National Convention, also at Madison Square Garden. While Ground Zero's proximity drew repeated reference, police carried out mass arrests and detentions of Iraq war protesters, prompting controversy and lawsuits. "We learned a lot, I think, from the mistakes of 2004," de Blasio said Tuesday. "I think we're going to do things in a way that reflects our values, and I think it will work because we have the greatest police force in the nation."
As it happened, the DNC team landed in the city the week after the Rev. Al Sharpton attracted big news-media attention by planning an unprecedented protest march over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge concerning Staten Islander Eric Garner's death in police custody.
The bridge has no walkway for pedestrians -- and by all accounts wasn't billed as a destination for convention-goers on foot. If Brooklyn is picked, it will be for its other assets.