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Janison: A primer to de Blasio's message in 5 easy catchphrases

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de blasio Credit: Charles Eckert

Every New York City mayor brings to the job his favorite buzz-phrases, slogans and verbal tics. Rudy Giuliani, for one, would repeatedly renounce “the old way of thinking,” and Michael Bloomberg made repeated use of “more with less” and “great American dream.”

So far, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s message to the public is crystallized in five phrases.

1: “Progressive values.” Dictionaries define the p-word as favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas. After his election Tuesday, de Blasio said: “We must commit ourselves to progressive ideas that will lift us all.” On Wednesday, he vowed an “emphasis on progressive values” as he makes appointments. But what that will mean in practical terms remains to be seen.

2: “Hit the ground running.” De Blasio deployed this mother of all transition clichés after meeting with his predecessor-to-be, Michael Bloomberg. “Today is now the first day of an eight-week sprint to prepare our administration,” he said. “We are hitting the ground running.” By most accounts, however, he hesitated to get started on transition work before Election Day despite a huge lead in polls — and will also take time off with his wife this week while his advisers are supposed to keep up all the “running” on the “ground.”

3: “Let me be clear,” he said in his victory speech, before saying, “Our work — all of our work — is really just beginning.” But he’s repeated that stock preface throughout the campaign. De Blasio said he wished to be clear before blasting primary rival Christine Quinn over prevailing-wage law. He invoked verbal clarity again in a general election debate, when he said of Joe Lhota: “It’s abundantly clear he wants to continue a lot of failed policies.”

4: “One city.” For months, he decried a “tale of two cities,” to underscore inequality. The phrasing began to evolve, so that his final campaign mailings proclaimed “One New York, rising together.” Presumably, this message is not intended to be confused with Giuliani’s “One City, One Standard” slogan of 20 years ago, or with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s post-Sandy “New York rising.”

5: “Forward.” The message from the Bloomberg meeting was that both men would put aside campaign-time hostilities and thus move forward for the city’s benefit. “As we go forward” was an early favorite of Mayor Bloomberg. Physically, the 6-foot-5 de Blasio tends to lean forward when talking to others, but he uses the word too when he talks of whether he’ll move into Gracie Mansion, saying the family is discussing “what makes sense going forward.”

Dan Janison is a Newsday columnist.

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