WNYC’s Brigid Bergin Breaks Down de Blasio’s First State of the City Address

February 19, 2014 at 12:28 pm

WNYC City Hall reporter Brigid Bergin joined MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman to discuss Mayor Bill de Blasio’s State of the City and Preliminary Budget addresses for the 2015 fiscal year.

In his first State of the City address on February 7th, Mayor Bill de Blasio put campaign promises like income inequality, universal pre-k and increasing the minimum wage on the top of his agenda.

“There are some who have taken issue with our commitment to this cause, who say that income inequality is just a fact of life and that attempts to remedy it are simply sowing the seeds of class warfare,” de Blasio said. “But we know better. We understand that allowing the income gap to stretch further isn’t simply a threat to those at the bottom, but to every New Yorker.”

WNYC City Hall reporter Brigid Bergin shared her thoughts on the new mayor’s agenda with MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman.

“I think what Mayor de Blasio is trying to do first and foremost is to really draw a line demonstrating how different his administration is from the 12 years we’ve had under Mayor Bloomberg,” Bergin said. Mayor Bloomberg’s last State of the City address in 2013 took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with a lot of fanfare and celebration. In contrast, “[de Blasio] got really to the business of governing, which was making good on his promise to end the tale of two cities,” she said.

That promise includes a very public push for universal pre-k, which Bergin believes has become Mayor de Blasio’s signature initiative and has sparked a statewide conversation.

“It’s always important when you look at Mayor de Blasio to think about where he comes from and how he got his start. He is first and foremost an organizer and an operative, he worked on Hillary Clinton’s senate campaign,” Bergin said. “This is someone who knows how to organize around an issue and to keep on it.”

But it’s been an uphill battle as the tale of two cities turns into the tale of two states. Governor Cuomo and lawmakers in Albany are at odds with de Blasio on how to pay for pre-k expansion. Mayor de Blasio wants to increase taxes on New Yorkers making more than $500,000 per year. Governor Cuomo wants to pay for the expansion with state revenue instead and not raise taxes.

On February 10, Republican State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he wouldn’t let de Blasio’s tax plan to go up for a vote while Democratic State Senator Jeff Klein said he wouldn’t approve a state budget without it.  And on February 12, a Quinnipiac poll showed more New York voters siding with Governor Cuomo’s plan.

The state budget is due on April 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. “We can expect this process to go probably fairly publicly between now and then,” Bergin said.

As for the snow that has been plaguing New York City for the past few weeks and the backlash Mayor de Blasio has faced over managing the storms, Bergin said, “I hope [de Blasio] doesn’t have to struggle with these decisions too much longer, I’m pretty much done with the snow too.”

Want to know more about universal pre-k plans statewide? Check out NYNow’s reporters’ roundtable from Albany.