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Editorial: Bill de Blasio's oddly mixed message

Former President Bill Clinton administers the oath to

Former President Bill Clinton administers the oath to Bill de Blasio. He is joined by his wife Chirlane McCray, son Dante, and daughter Chiara, as he is sworn in as the 109th Mayor of New York City during a ceremony outside of City Hall in Manhattan. (Jan. 1, 2014) Credit: Charles Eckert

Bill de Blasio became the 109th mayor of New York City yesterday with an oddly mixed message before an eclectic crowd of political royalty -- including former President Bill Clinton -- and everyday supporters.

The new mayor began by saying all New Yorkers are bound together with a common understanding that big dreams are not a luxury for the few but the animating force behind every community in every borough.

That idea is wonderfully true.

New York has always believed in upward mobility for its citizens -- and for a moment it sounded like the new mayor was about to heal old campaign wounds and draw everyone to his side who believes local government has a role to play in building a stronger middle class.

Unfortunately, that wasn't where he was going.

In the next breath he doubled down on the unapologetically progressive and occasionally divisive rhetoric of his campaign.

"When I said we'd take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it," he said, reiterating his pledges to: expand paid sick leave, require developers to build more affordable housing, ask the wealthy to pay higher income taxes for a citywide pre-kindergarten program and reform the NYPD's stop-and-frisk procedures.

We don't blame him for sticking to his guns. But de Blasio missed a crucial chance to reach out gracefully and strengthen his governing coalition. While he won the mayoralty by a landslide, his agenda is astonishingly ambitious. He'll need to convince residents of the five boroughs -- and Albany -- to raise city income taxes to pay for pre-k. He'll need state help with a hospital rescue plan.

Meanwhile, the rules of effective governance say he'll need broad support as he hammers out labor contracts with 300,000 municipal workers in 152 unions. They're asking for about $8 billion in back pay -- money the city doesn't have.

De Blasio will need all the friends he can find. He could have made some new ones yesterday, but he preferred to rally the already converted. That's his prerogative.

We share his big dream of a city of opportunity. But we hope that with yesterday's speech, the campaign is over.

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