New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is very annoying, but he's going to win easily because he's doing a good job

  • I’m voting for Bill de Blasio’s reelection as mayor of New York City on Tuesday.
  • De Blasio will cruise to reelection for a simple reason: He’s doing a very good job, sometimes in spite of what he projects about himself.

Like a lot of New Yorkers, I can’t believe I’m going to vote for Bill de Blasio on Tuesday. But I’m going to, and so will most of you, whether you like him or not.

Our widely grumbled-about mayor is cruising to reelection for a simple reason: He seems to be doing a very good job.

Police-community relations are improved. Crime continues to fall. Universal prekindergarten has been implemented. Quality of life in New York City seems to be improving a little, or at least not getting worse. Rents are even falling a little bit, in real terms.

Your stereotypical politician talks a good game and fails to deliver. De Blasio does the opposite: He spouts a bunch of annoying nonsense while surreptitiously doing his job well.

So we’re going to reelect him and put up with four more years of his crap.

Bill de Blasio is annoying. So what?

Bloomberg De BlasioJohn Moore/Getty ImagesBill de Blasio speaks with Michael Bloomberg in November 2013

Instead of joining a gym near his home or office like a normal person, he often starts his day by taking a city SUV all the way from Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to a local gym in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where he sometimes works out into the late morning. On weekdays.

He’s late for things, but he’s gotten a little better since he missed the moment of silence at the Flight 587 memorial service in Rockaway, Queens, blaming his late arrival on a “rough night.”

He often seems excessively focused on building a national political profile, rather than focusing his time and energy on us, his constituents, here in New York City. (The national left is not necessarily that interested in him — nobody seemed to care when he went to Iowa in 2016.)

He gets in petty, distracting fights with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the press.

He takes on stupid hobby-horse issues — like trying to ban horse-drawn carriages from Central Park. He tried to do a favour for taxi medallion owners a favour at consumers’ expense by capping the number of Uber vehicles that could operate in the city. (The city council rejected both of these ideas.)

He sometimes says alarmingly communist-sounding things about real estate, which are not borne out in the reasonable policies promulgated by his actually existing administration.

All of this annoys me. But when I step back and take a deep breath, I realise it’s not very important.

Try not to listen to de Blasio when he talks. Imagine him like one of the adults from Charlie Brown, making unintelligible WONK WONK WONK noises. Just look at what his administration is doing and the results it has produced.

His record is good. Sigh.

Bill de Blasio is a successful mayor who has kept his promises

Shane Goldmacher’s feature for The New York Times this weekend provides a good overview of how the mayor’s substantive successes have overcome his political missteps.

When de Blasio ran in 2013, he made three main promises. He would drastically reduce the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice. He would implement universal prekindergarten. And he would create or preserve a large quantity of affordable housing.

He’s delivered on the first two promises and is making decent headway on the third.

Defenders of stop-and-frisk warned that ending the practice would cause crime to go up. But unlike in some other major American cities, violent crime in New York has continued to fall in recent years. We are on pace to have fewer than 300 murders in 2017, the lowest level in decades.

The mayor has had fraught personal relations with police unions, but New York has not seen the breakdown in police-community relations that has been seen, for example, in Chicago. Arguably, the mayor has served a useful role as a punching bag for the police, who can take out their frustration on him while continuing to work effectively with the police commissioner and the public.

It doesn’t hurt that the NYPD has very high staffing ratios — New York has about twice as many police per thousand residents as a typical large American city — that give the agency more flexibility in its operations.

De Blasio’s appointees to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board delivered a two-year freeze in rents on rent-regulated apartments, which make up about half of all rental apartment stock in the city. But contrary to the usual warnings about rent control, this does not seem to have depressed the housing supply. De Blasio has worked effectively with developers to continue construction at a robust pace while adding affordable housing units.

Like most large US cities, New York should be allowing even more and even denser development than it is. But de Blasio’s performance on development has been as good as Mike Bloomberg’s — and about as good as one can expect in the face of neighbourhood opposition to virtually anything big and new.

And universal pre-K has been a positive change for lots of families with children in the city. De Blasio hasn’t won all his fights with Cuomo, but he did get the governor to find $US340 million in the state budget to help fund his signature initiative, which sounded like a pipe dream to a lot of people when he proposed it in 2013.

The most common gripe about government you’ll hear from New Yorkers lately is about our troubled subways. But as De Blasio tries really hard to remind everyone, those are run by a state agency, not the city. You’ll have to take your commuting problems up with Cuomo.

Policy success matters

Federal politics has gotten so stupid that it’s tempting to say “lol nothing matters” about any election. If people vote for president based on a feeling that people don’t say “Merry Christmas” enough, why not vote out a mayor because he won’t stop taking a damn SUV to the Park Slope Y?

The answer is that, unlike the federal government, people have a clear idea about what state and local governments are supposed to do for them. And New York City under Bill de Blasio has been doing the things it’s supposed to do pretty well.

Bill de Blasio wanted to be a cultural leader for America’s left. He’s failed at that. But he’s succeeding, sometimes in spite of himself, at managing a large and complicated city. We should let him do so for four more years.

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