Bill de Blasio for mayor

Many Downtown voters could still smell the 9/11 fires 12 years ago — the last time New Yorkers were certain they would be getting a new mayor. Today, the odor is a distant memory to some, a vivid one to others. But many who will be voting for the city’s next leader Nov. 5 were too young or too far away from New York to remember.

It underscores the point that the city is in a far different place than it was when Mike Bloomberg took over in 2002.

We think Bill de Blasio is the best candidate to succeed Bloomberg. We like his plan for the city and his approach.

He plans to use some of our city pension funds to help finance 200,000 units of new affordable housing over the next 10 years. The plan will not only combat the housing shortage, one of the city’s most vexing problems, it will also spur economic activity, creating jobs.

De Blasio has made education the centerpiece of his campaign — committing to expanding full-day pre-K and afterschool programs. He would be the first mayor to have a child in the public school system, which as we said previously, would send a powerful message to parents, particularly those who have felt they have had no voice in their children’s education.

He seeks a miniscule tax rate hike on the city’s wealthiest residents to pay for his education expansion.  Critics say the tax plan will be dead on arrival in Albany but that overlooks the fact that the idea has caught fire with voters, giving it political momentum. De Blasio’s ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo go back two decades and his plan has a realistic chance of passing.

De Blasio, the city’s public advocate, knows full well the daunting economic challenges he will face as he will have to negotiate long overdue contracts with the municipal unions. His pro-labor outlook should give him a much better chance to get the unions to accept less than all of the retroactive raises as well as the health and pension benefits that they are expecting.

His main opponent, Republican Joe Lhota, the former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, has run a misguided, lackluster campaign, which calls into question his credentials as an administrator.

We’ve heard irrelevant talk from Lhota about the Sandinistas, and suggestions that de Blasio somehow wants to take us back to the dark, crime-riddled days of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The reality is that de Blasio has made it clear that one of his top contenders to become police commissioner is Bill Bratton, who was the best commissioner under Giuliani. It was actually Bratton’s successors who helped feed Giuliani’s well-deserved reputation for being the most divisive mayor in recent history.

Lhota would likely be somewhat of a departure from Giuliani, but not enough for our comfort.

At last week’s debate, he said one of the most valuable lessons he learned from Giuliani was developing a “message of the day” that applied to the entire administration. The practical effect of this policy was that city agencies feared disclosing the most rudimentary information to the public or press, lest they incur the wrath of City Hall.

Downtown Express endorses Bill de Blasio for mayor Nov. 5.

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