The mayor last night finally took to the stage of Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre at 7:50 p.m. – after almost 40 minutes of build-up which included an introduction from his wife and a video presentation that was a vivid ad for Bill de Blasio’s New York City.
During his own time on stage, the mayor waved a little blue book which detailed 12 of his priorities for the city and what he’s accomplished in each category. After that long slog, it was then time for a ten-point plan to help increase civic engagement in the city.
The mayor knows something about civic engagement – or the lack of it – from the near record-low turnout in both of his elections in 2013 and 2017. And he seems to be returning to the rhetoric of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio by calling for more government transparency, something he sometimes shunned in his first term, fighting Freedom of Information requests and almost getting enmeshed in an ugly pay-to-play scandal.
The speech may not have had any “I feel your pain” moments about the city’s mass-transit mess or homelessness but the mayor deserves some credit for taking on an issue that’s not at the top of the list for many New Yorkers but is crucial to making democracy work.
De Blasio probably doesn’t need to create a commission to revise the City Charter to tinker with contribution limits for candidates but such a commission could actually address other issues that’s confronting the city as we move forward.
While the speech was a mish-mash marathon, there was some important wonk at its core. It’s something that even the governor is – sort-of -- acknowledging while still taking tens of thousands of dollars from donors: money is corrupting our system. And we have a textbook example of that every day in Manhattan Federal Court where the governor’s former top aide is facing corruption charges.
While we worry about our trains and the quality of our schools, we also need to have the bandwidth to fight for improving the Board of Elections and creating a statewide campaign finance system. If the mayor can help accomplish that, he can talk for as long as he wants.