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Bill de Blasio: A Mayor for the New Economy

New York City's new mayor has laid out a radically inclusive economic agenda.

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"Mayor-elect @ deBlasioNYC names Carl Weisbrod, real estate/planning bigwig, as co-chair of his transition team," Left Business Observer publisher Doug Henwood wrote on Twitter after the announcement. "Status quo can smile."

"The left-wing mouse that roared"

In "commonomics" terms, the most significant aspect of de Blasio's win may be the route he took to power. Taking office with him this January will be a public advocate who generally shares his views and a dozen new progressive city council members—all beneficiaries of a long-term strategy by local advocates of economic justice to reduce local legislators' dependence on establishment-party patronage and big corporate donors.

One way they've done that is by building an innovative labor and community coalition, the Working Families Party, which de Blasio helped to found in 1998. Taking advantage of New York's relatively open election laws, which permit independent parties to run their own candidates and cross-endorse others who share their views, WFP is now being called  "the left-wing mouse that roared."

Brad Lander says that neither de Blasio nor himself would be in office without the WFP and New York's public campaign financing laws. "I wouldn't have been interested in running if there had been no space for the kind of inside-outside partnerships I'm interested in. And even if I had been interested, I wouldn't have known how." Incoming public advocate Letitia James was the first candidate to win election to the City Council running solely on the Working Family platform.

Election laws differ in every state, but after Tuesday, economic-justice-minded city legislators in other states are giving New York a close look.

"Particularly at this moment of very profound gridlock at the federal level, people see a lot of possibility at the municipal and state level," says Andrew Friedman, one of the coordinators of Local Progress, a national network of progressive state and municipal legislators that de Blasio addressed in Washington, D.C., last month. Just a few weeks later, labor and community groups there announced a new "Working Families Party D.C."

Building on the success of initiatives like the Progressive States Network (for state legislators) and challenged by the impact of the corporate-backed  American Legislative Exchange Council, Friedman says that Local Progress is an attempt to build mutual support and relationships among those trying to advance a more inclusive, shared-prosperity approach to local and municipal government.

Local Progress members haven't arrived at any consensus on the "commonomics" questions of procurement practices, worker ownership, localism, and sustainable economic development, Friedman says, but "there's wind in our sails."

Those who promise change, as de Blasio does, will certainly need support. "The role of money in politics can't be overstated," says Lander. "The unequal economy wants to reproduce itself."

By and large, November 5 was a pretty good day for "commonomics" in New York City. For people who long to live in strong, life-sustaining economies, the question after the victory lap is, What happens next?

Laura Flanders is the host and founder of "GRITtv with Laura Flanders." She is the author of "Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species" and "Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians." A regular contributor for MSNBC, Flanders has appeared on shows from "Real Time with Bill Maher" to "The O’Reilly Factor." For more information, visit GRITtv.org.

 
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