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De Blasio names key state, federal liaisons

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attends

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attends a news conference with union leaders at the Union Johnson Early Learning Center in Manhattan on Jan. 6, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio made half a dozen additions Monday to his fledgling administration, including legislative liaisons in Albany to advance a plan that would fund universal pre-K by taxing the rich and to Washington, D.C., to promote urban interests.

The appointments followed de Blasio's trend of hiring aides with deep civil service roots. They were announced in a news conference in City Hall's Blue Room -- the first time de Blasio hosted reporters in the mayoral meeting space.

"Our mission remains constant: to form a government that is progressive, effective and diverse," de Blasio said.

Sherif Soliman, who will serve as director of state legislative affairs and is the former communications director for the city Employees' Retirement System, acknowledged at the news conference the difficulties of lobbying state lawmakers for greater local control. "I do have my hard hat ready to go and my fatigues," he joked.

De Blasio also announced Max Sevillia, former director of policy and legislative affairs for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, as federal legislative affairs director.

He named Peter Ragone, a campaign communications expert and former San Francisco mayoral spokesman, as a special adviser; Bill Chong, a deputy commissioner for the Department for the Aging, as commissioner for the Department Youth and Community Development; Marco Carrión, political director for the New York City Central Labor Council, as Community Affairs Unit commissioner; and Mindy Tarlow, executive director of the Center for Employment Opportunities, as director of operations.

The mayor was challenged Monday on the earnings of his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, who will take home about $410,000 between her pension and salary. De Blasio said her double-dipping is "absolutely legal and appropriate" and added that her job isn't an easy one.

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