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Editorial: Mr. Mayor, keep your focus on New York

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the National Action Network's Annual King Day Public Policy Forum in Manhattan. (Jan. 20, 2014) Credit: Charles Eckert

You can’t call Bill de Blasio a mayor of small ideas. He told his fellow mayors in Washington last week that he sees the outlines of a national progressive movement taking shape — driven not by a paralyzed Congress but by the resurgence of American cities. 

Cities, he thinks, should be citadels of shared prosperity and shared opportunity — societies willing to tackle and fix the root causes of inequality. 

And he quoted Fiorello LaGuardia, one of our greatest mayors: “Only a well-fed, well-schooled and well-housed people can enjoy the blessings of liberty.”

These are admirable ideals, but . . .  

We do hope de Blasio understands that Job 1 is to firmly guide 300,000 city employees as they work to beat tough odds and make a fractious city hum. The daily problems are overwhelming enough.

Not only did the ritzy realms of the Upper East Side have to wait days for snow plows last week. So did the lunchpail parts of Staten Island. And what will the mayor do about raises for the 152 unions whose contracts are up?

Ideology can be a shaky lodestar. 

De Blasio spoke beautifully in Washington about the benefits of pre-kindergarten programs: “We know, sadly, that kids who start behind, fall behind, and stay behind,” he said. “It’s not something that we can accept.” 

He’s right. But who’s arguing? De Blasio wants a pre-K program for every 4-year-old in the city — paid for with a tax increase on the rich. Gov. Andrew Cuomo trumped that idea with a plan to give all kids access to pre-K and avoid a tax increase. Now the mayor, avatar of equality for all, says he wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to ensure a dedicated funding stream for pre-K.

Pure ideology? Maybe. Or perhaps de Blasio wants to raise new money for other purposes — like teacher raises. 

His job is to run a hard-to-govern city effectively and fairly, and ideology doesn’t make parks cleaner or police response times faster. Or to paraphrase our favorite LaGuardia quote: There is no progressive way to plow the snow or put out fires. We hope the mayor knows that. 

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