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Editorial: Bill de Blasio fumbles his key issue

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his first State of the City remarks at LaGuardia Community College in Queens on Feb. 10, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio of Park Slope, Brooklyn, needs to broaden his horizons. He's packaged himself as a man for all people who tirelessly champions prekindergarten for all children but especially those who need help the most -- from poor families that are struggling to survive in a mean, arbitrary economy.

He has a great idea. But unfortunately he has managed to place his idea in a head-to-head fight against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan for a statewide pre-K program that would not include new taxes.

We're starting to wonder about de Blasio's egalitarian credibility.

A quick recap of the hostilities: De Blasio wants state approval to levy a city income-tax hike on the rich to pay for his municipal plan. That's wrongheaded thinking and especially bad manners in an election year. So Cuomo has proposed a statewide pre-K program that he says would take place without a tax hike. The proper response from de Blasio at this point would be effusive thanks to Cuomo, followed by a relentless campaign to take as much credit as possible for the original idea.

But no. De Blasio continues to push his citywide plan. And along the way he has ventured into invidious, misleading contrasts between the city's underprivileged kids and those in the rest of the state.

He recently tried to sell his go-it-alone pre-K program to Albany by saying that -- while upstate has serious economic problems -- the children in New York City are among "the poorest in the country."

Kaboom. Legislators from outside the city were justifiably furious and Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who already had declared the tax hike dead, buried it even further.

The legislators pointed out that the school districts of Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo all are poorer than the New York City system. And Rochester is the fifth-poorest city in the country.

The point de Blasio has missed as he inveighs against New York's tale of two cities is what Cuomo is calling our tale of two states.

You can see that story unfold district-to-district on Long Island -- and from the postindustrial precincts of the Hudson Valley to the longfading smokestack cities near the Great Lakes.

But de Blasio seems myopic. And because of that, he has set region against region in an ugly beatdown over a program everyone wants.

He's already lost the fight.


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