Mayor De Blasio talks successes, challenges and selfies
Bill de Blasio says New Yorkers are more interested in stopping him for selfies than to give advice. He's found dealing with lawmakers in Albany to be even more frustrating than he expected. And his hiring of key staff has sometimes been influenced by the movie "Moneyball."
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, New York City's first Democratic mayor in a generation reflected on his first 100 days in office, largely downplaying middling poll numbers and criticisms that his relentless pursuit of universal pre-kindergarten distracted him from other pressing issues.
"I don't think anything that could have been won in the here and now was pushed to the back," de Blasio said in a rare one-on-one interview.
"The real question: what was your agenda? How much of your agenda got done? We did so well on the core of our agenda, I'm not sure how much we would have changed."
De Blasio, who swept into office with a mandate to address the city's widening gap between rich and poor, made pre-kindergarten his signature issue, with a populist pledge to tax the richest residents to pay for it. But de Blasio could only claim a partial victory after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature rejected his tax and offered instead to pay for city pre-k out of $300 million in state money.
"What I've learned is that Albany is built, the whole process is built, to be frustrating," he said. "I don't know anyone who feels good about how difficult the budget process in Albany is and how last-minute the decisions are."
The mayor said he believes his failed attempt to raise the city's minimum wage will get another life. And he will tout his admiration's other accomplishments - such as expanding paid sick day legislation and reforming police conduct policies - in a major speech Thursday. He will also tout improved Sandy recovery, his new affordable housing plan and increased living wage measures.
De Blasio, whose approval ratings are hovering around 45 percent, rejected the widely held notion that he is more comfortable in campaign settings than in the nitty-gritty of governing but singled out a failure to properly explain his decision to revoke some charter schools' space in public schools buildings as his biggest mistake since taking office.
He's also been criticized for sluggishness in filling key staff positions, including the fire and buildings commissioners. But de Blasio attributed the delays to his rigorous demands that hires be experienced, liberal and diverse, saying "it's a tall order to get those pieces to come together."
"I take some inspiration from one of the greatest movies of the modern age: "Moneyball," de Blasio said about the 2011 film based on the Michael Lewis book about the unorthodox roster construction of the Oakland Athletics.
"I love ... some of the scenes when Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are discerning what you are actually looking for from the players in your lineup and it may not be what the conventional wisdom says," said de Blasio. "It may be you're actually looking for something very different."
He also suggested that the stereotypical image of an opinionated New Yorker chewing a politician's ear off on the street may be outdated.
"When people stop me, it's not like `Hi, I want to talk to you or offer you an opinion,' but they want your picture," he said. "I'm happy to do it whenever I can (but) the culture of being in public life has changed in that fashion, that's a surprise."