Fighting for New Yorkers Doesn’t End at the Edge of the Five Boroughs
I grew up during the Watergate crisis and the Vietnam War. I saw democracy undermined, but I also saw many good people step forward to fight for change. And I saw them drive from office a crooked President and end an unjust war.
Early on in my life, even before I finished high school, I felt the responsibility to be a change agent. Watching events unfold and not doing anything about it was simply not an option.
After college, I joined movements that challenged the Reagan Administration. When Reagan attempted to undermine a democratically-elected progressive government in Nicaragua, I spent years as an activist fighting to stop what felt like the beginning of a new Vietnam War, just closer to home.
Long before I ran for office, I became a citizen activist and took up community organizing. I intend to continue that work long after I leave elected office.
I’ve always tried to bring an activist’s and an organizer’s mindset to the work I do as an elected official. As a newly elected Council Member, I joined protests to stop the Iraq War. As Public Advocate, I worked with activists around the country to protect our democracy from the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
And as Mayor, I’ve joined with leaders and activists around the country to fight income inequality, to protect the right to health care and to ensure that the Federal government invests in our cities.
I cannot separate my concept of how to be an effective public servant from my faith in the power of organizing and activism — these ideas have always gone together in my mind and in my lived experience. I will continue to live by these values in my second, and last, term as your Mayor. And yes, those values were the reason I joined with so many fellow New Yorkers in 2008 to protect the will of the people and to preserve the two-term limit for mayors.
The fights I will take on going forward will have a common element: They will be about protecting the interests of New York and New Yorkers. They include:
Stopping the Trump tax plan, which is just a massive giveaway to the wealthy and corporations
Protecting the Affordable Care Act and the 1.6 million New Yorkers who have health insurance because of it
Restoring federal investment in education, mass transit, affordable housing and infrastructure
Reversing federal policies that hinder that fight against climate change, while supporting cities and states that are devoted to saving our Earth
These are all big challenges that have to be addressed in multiple ways on multiple fronts. But they all deeply affect our lives here in New York City.
That is equally true of another cause near and dear to my heart: rejuvenating the Democratic Party.
My view of how the Party needs to change is deeply based on my ideological beliefs. But my view is fundamentally pragmatic: the Party, as currently organized, simply can’t win often enough and in the places it should. And that has huge ramifications for New York City.
The attempt to repeal the ACA alone should tell us everything we need to know. It was stopped by one vote in the Senate. For those 1.6 million New Yorkers who rely on it, that was too close a call.
We can’t take that chance in the future on the many issues of critical importance to all 8.5 million us. And I for one will devote ample time to Democratic efforts to win back the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2018. But as recent elections in New Jersey, Washington State and Virginia have shown us, change can come rapidly in state capitals if Democratic voters are organized and mobilized. Those changes, state by state, will ultimately have a profound impact on us here in New York City — most notably in the makeup of the next Congress. In New York State alone, estimates are that Democrats would pick up three to four more seats in the House if fair district lines were drawn. That can’t happen with a Republican-controlled State Senate in Albany.
Throughout my tenure as Mayor, I have traveled to Washington and Albany to fight for the city’s interests. But I have also gone to cities around the nation to meet with fellow mayors and build coalitions for change. I have traveled to support Democratic candidates, state Democratic parties and progressive organizations. I went to Atlanta earlier this year to fight for reform and more progressive leadership in the national Democratic party — which I believe is the only way our party will win more elections and make the changes that reach all of our lives.
I will continue these efforts, including next month when I will travel to Des Moines to support a grassroots organization named Progress Iowa, which is fighting for change in one of the most politically important states in the nation — a state that not long ago routinely elected Democratic U.S. Senators and Representatives, and can again.
My predecessors in this office recognized their work required them to think beyond the boundaries of the five boroughs. Mayor Bloomberg acted on this understanding by doing important national and international work on climate change, gun safety and immigration reform. All of my recent predecessors, despite real ideological differences, fought for something we desperately need now: a focused federal urban agenda.
In fact, it was my most distinguished predecessor, Fiorello La Guardia, who helped to found the U.S. Conference of Mayors to fight for the policies that eventually became pillars of FDR's New Deal. I have often said that no mayor will match La Guardia’s greatness — but we can learn from his example, as I try to do every day.
When change needs to happen, New York City must help lead the way. And that mission is more important and more needed than ever.