Bill de Blasio is a public servant who has distinguished himself in all the several positions he has occupied, including one as the Mayor of New York City. He began his public career as far back as the late 80s and has since held various public offices in the state of New York including serving as council representative, as well as public advocate.
In the course of his glowing career, de Blasio has promoted policies that are geared towards addressing the income inequality that has turned the big apple into the proverbial tale of two cities. They include improving public education, expanding affordable housing, protecting tenants’ rights, and reforming social services. He has also lent his voice to national debates on issues such as immigration, policing, voting rights, etc, which have fetched him admiration from far and wide.
He has also faced criticisms from opponents who decry his policies on taxation, charter schools, and the likes. These criticisms have sometimes extended to a personal level as there are allegations that he is favoring his wife with public appointments. Despite all these, Bill de Blasio continues to enjoy the political game and even harbors aspirations of making it to the highest office in America someday.
His Humble Beginnings As a Campaign Manager for the likes of David Dinkins and Hillary Clinton
Bill de Blasio kicked off his career in 1984 by participating in the Urban Fellows Program for the NYC Department of Juvenile Justice. Soon after his graduation from Columbia University in 1987, he joined Quixote Center, Maryland as a political organizer. He then launched his political career proper by becoming a volunteer coordinator for the mayoral campaign of David Dinkins in 1989. That campaign proved successful and he went on to work as an aide for Dinkins in City Hall.
All throughout the 90s, Bill de Blasio assumed many political and government posts. They include serving as a campaign manager for Charles Rangel’s successful House of Representatives re-election bid in 1994; regional director for US Department of Housing and Urban Development for New York and New Jersey; and school board member of Brooklyn School District 15. He also headed up Hillary Clinton’s triumphant bid for a Senatorial seat in the year 2000.
All these heightened de Blasio’s passion for public service and he decided to join the fray himself; declaring his intention to contest for a sit in the New York City Council in 2001.
He Promoted Issues Such As Affordable Housing and Equal Rights during his Seven-Year Term as City Councilor
De Blasio contested to represent the 39th district, including Brooklyn’s vicinity of Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, Kensington, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, and Park Slope, in the NYC Council in the year 2001. He convincingly defeated his Republican opponent, Robert A. Bell, to land the seat and would be re-elected on two more occasions. Overall, the self-described democrat socialist served as a counselor for eight years (January 2002 – December 2009) during which he utilized the opportunity to promote issues close to his heart.
They include affordable housing for all, as well as the promotion of equality for people such as transgenders, same-sex couples, as well as immigrants. For the immigrants, de Blasio helped secure free language services while for same-sex couples, he passed the law that will ensure they get the same benefits as legally-married heterosexual couples.
In housing, Bill made it easier for people with Federal Government vouchers and people living with HIV/AIDS to get shelter. Some of these laws were the HIV/AIDS Housing Service Law, Gender-Based Discrimination Protection Law, and the Benefits Translation for Immigrants Law.
His Time As Public Advocate Saw Him Clash With Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Occasions
Bill de Blasio’s achievements as a councilman raised his profile all throughout the state of New York. This new status emboldened him to aspire for higher office and in 2008, he declared his intention to run for the office of the Public Advocate of New York. The New York City public advocate is an elected position that is tasked with investigating complaints of citizens against public offices. They also oversight various government services, and de Blasio gained the seat after triumphing over Republican, Alex Zablocki, in the November 2009 general election.
The Manhattan native was subsequently sworn in January 2010 and would spend about four years in office. During this time, he challenged decisions by then-Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, that he felt were against the interests of the masses. Some of these policies were Bloomberg’s attempts to cut the budget for child services, lay off thousands of teachers, and reduce free transportation for students, etc.
De Blasio also challenged plans by the New York City Housing Authority to cut down on the Section 8 Vouchers. These vouchers provided rental housing assistance for low-income households and de Blasio strenuously opposed its reduction in June 2010. This was in furtherance of his vision to reduce economic inequality.
Bill de Blasio Made History in 2013 As the First Democrat to Emerge the Mayor of New York City in Two Decades
De Blasio’s time as a public advocate gave him a whole lot of influence but he often lacked the real power to enforce the changes that he wanted to see in his beloved city. This fact motivated him to throw his hat into the mayoral race in the month of January 2013. He subsequently embarked on a months-long campaign during which he outlined his vision to correct the anomalies wrought by Bloomberg especially economic inequality.
He argued that Bloomberg’s time in office had made New York more prosperous but this wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few while many were still struggling to feed. De Blasio also pointed out that even though Bloomberg’s policing policy of stop-and-frisk had reduced crime rate, this success came at the expanse of black and other minorities such as Hispanics. He promised to redress such issues by halting the stop-and-frisk as well as raising taxes on the wealthy to fund free pre-kindergarten programs.
Such a campaign message appealed to many, especially minorities. They, therefore, rallied around de Blasio and helped him to emerge victorious in the primaries. In the main election itself, the man defeated his Republican challenger, Joe Lhota, by a landslide to become the first Democrat to win that office in about two decades. Such a feat impressed the party’s hierarchy and former president, Bill Clinton, swore him into office in January 2014.
His Reign As Mayor Has Had Its Ups and Downs
It has been about six years since the inauguration and Bill de Blasio has kept faith with his progressive and socialist leanings. He has increased taxes on the wealthy to fund free pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs for all New Yorkers. He has also forged ahead with his vision for affordable housing including a plan for 200,000 units. The mayor has also supported the legalization of marijuana as well as the Green New Deal, a set of legislations that aims to address climate change as well as economic inequality.
De Blasio’s tenure has however not been without controversies. His affordable housing plan has been criticized on the grounds that it will change the racial and economic compositions of many neighborhoods thus leading to gentrification. The mayor has also been challenged on his plans to stifle space and funding for charter schools. An even more controversial part of de Blasio’s reign has been his frosty relations with law enforcement. The mayor has always been outspoken about his opposition to NYPD policies such as stop-and-frisk and took measures to reduce them right from day one.
He also implemented measures aimed at greater community policing and there has actually been a reduction in NYC crime rates. Despite this, he has faced opposition from police unions who view him as being against them. They accuse him of stoking anti-police sentiments with his comments and when two NYPD police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were ambushed and killed in December 2014; they blamed him for the deaths and turned their backs on him during his eulogy for the fallen heroes.
His Wife, Chirlane McCray, is a Poet, Writer, and Activist
The role of family in American politics can never be over-emphasized and Bill de Blasio’s family has stood by him on his political journey. The NYC mayor has been married to poet, writer, and activist, Chirlane McCray, for more than 15 years now and they have two kids together.
McCray is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, and was born on the 29th of November 1954. She grew up in Massachusetts and her early life experiences made her become an activist. As a child, McCray routinely encountered bullying and racism in her majorly-white school. She, therefore, used poems as an outlet for her anger and subsequently studied English at Wellesley College.
During her college days, McCray continued writing poems and other articles. She also joined a group of black feminists’ lesbians, Combahee River Collective, that was active in the school during her time there. Upon graduation from college, McCray spent about a decade working as a poet, magazine writer, and editor for various publications including Redbook (an American women’s magazine).
She subsequently went on to work as a speechwriter for various public officers such as former NYC Mayor, David Dinkins, and former New York state comptroller, Carl McCall, in the 90s. By the 2000s, McCray worked in the public relations departments for companies such as Citigroup as well as the Maimonides Medical Center (a health institution).
The Couple have faced Scrutiny over McCray’s Lesbian Past
Bill De Blasio first met his wife during the time he was working as an aide in City Hall, specifically in the year 1991. She herself was working as a speechwriter for then-Mayor, David Dinkins, and was asked to go to City Hall and obtain information for a press release. She ended up running into de Blasio and it was love at first sight for him while she found him funny and smart. They delved headlong into a relationship and by 1994, exchanged marital vows in a ceremony held at Prospect Park.
The ceremony reflected their multi-ethnic background. It featured an Italian folk band, African drummers as well as interracial and gay ministers. The couple honeymooned in Cuba and their marriage has stood the test of time. There is one grey area though. McCray previously identified as a lesbian and even penned a 5000-word article for Essence Magazine back in September 1979 titled I’m a Lesbian. In the article, the poet talked about the feelings of isolation and tears that she had dealt with as a result of the fact that she loved other women. She then expressed how coming to terms with her sexuality had made life easier for her.
Looking at the fact that McCray later married a man, many have wondered what changed for her but she and her husband have refused to acknowledge that part of her past. They have come out in support of gay rights but never make reference to McCray’s past. They rather prefer to talk about friends and family members who are gay. When pressed on the issue in an interview, McCray stated her belief that there is a fluidity in these things while people continue to put each other in boxes. She refuses to be so boxed and is instead living her life.
De Blasio’s Wife Has Also Been Criticized For Her Involvement in Governance
Bill De Blasio and wife have also faced scrutiny for some of the positions that he has appointed her to. Back in 2013, he named her the head of the mayor’s fund to advance New York City. As part of the fund, McCray implemented a mental health initiative known as ThriveNYC. The initiative is aimed at raising awareness as well as promoting access to preventative mental and substance abuse services. ThriveNYC has been praised in some quarters but detractors point out that it has not justified the millions of dollars poured into it.
Additionally, in 2020, McCray was criticized for having a staff of about 14 who collect salaries worth a cumulative $2 million per annum. The criticism stemmed from the fact that many government offices are downsizing while she has many support staff who are paid way too much for unjustified responsibilities such as a videographer and P.R. director. Her husband then defended her by pointing out that the work she does is for the needs of the people.
The couple also courted controversy after de Blasio asked McCray to co-chair a task force on racial equality in the COVID-19 recovery in April 2020. Critics pointed out that the mayor did this in a bid to raise his wife’s profile for her planned ambitions to run for Brooklyn borough president in 2021. His office dismissed these allegations stating that the task force does not have the authority to make decisions and is not designed to further McCray’s political career.
His Children, Chiara and Dante, Have Helped Him With His Political Campaigns
Bill De Blasio and wife have two children, a daughter, Chiara, born on December 6, 1994, and a son, Dante, born in 1998. Chiara is a graduate of Santa Clara University and previously worked with the City Hall as an intern in fighting domestic violence. Currently, she is an advisor on healthy relationships as she utilizes the knowledge she garnered in overcoming drugs and substance abuse herself.
Back in 2013, Chiara revealed that she had struggled with clinical depression and anxiety and took to drugs and drinks to deal with them. She eventually got hooked and had to go to rehab to get clean again. The young lady is now in the all-clear and uses her experience to help others. She is also a social activist and was arrested in 2020 in the course of protests against the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis.
Dante is a graduate of Yale University. He disclosed in a radio interview that he would like to have a career in politics. The young man also used the medium to canvass for his father’s presidential bid. This is not the first time that Dante would be helping his father’s political aspirations. During his dad’s first mayoral race, he featured in an ad for him during which he spotted a huge afro and talked about his father in an emotional way. The ad stirred the heartstrings of many New Yorkers and this helped his dad surge in the polls.