Sunday, April 20, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: Defining a First Lady's Blurred Lines

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The wheels are slowly in motion for the city's new First Lady, Chirlane McCray. As expected, Mayor de Blasio yesterday announced the appointment of Rachel Noerdlinger, a longtime aide to The Rev. Al Sharpton, to be his wife's chief of staff.

Currently, McCray has no staff so the question is what will be in her – and Noerdlinger's – portfolio? McCray has been at many of her husband's press conferences – with the mayor last week even apologizing when she didn't attend an event. But key questions like what will McCray do in City Hall – and will she even have an office there – remain unanswered.

The mayor bristled a little yesterday when asked about a Quinnipiac Poll last week that showed that only 27 percent of city voters thought that McCray "should have a major role in shaping policy" while 66 percent said she should have a minor role or none at all.

It's not always easy being a First Lady while also handling policy. Just ask Hillary Clinton. When she entered the White House with Bill in 1993, Hillary's favorability number was at 59 percent. Three years later – after the national healthcare debacle – that number had plunged to 43 percent. In contrast, Michelle Obama, who has avoided controversial policy thickets, has never seen her favorability rating dip below 61 percent.

While New York City is far more liberal than America as a whole, Clinton's time in the White House is a good object lesson for McCray. Is it more important to be loved or to be a warrior in a policy battle? Like many other things in de Blasio's City Hall, it's an interesting riddle that doesn't yet have a solution.

Postscript: Following up on a column from last week, the mayor today is expected to announce a plan to extend ferry service in the Rockaways – and put out a request for proposals to run it for the next five years. It's a smart move (and I don't say this just as a Rockaway resident) for a politician who was seen by some in the community as uninterested in the neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy.

Bob Hardt

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