Thursday, January 2, 2014

Update: "Elections are never the culmination of creating change" - Transcript, NYC Mayor deBlasio, Public Advocate James' Inaugural Speeches, January 1, 2014

Postscript: The Nation acknowledges James' hint of challenge to de Blasio

*"Elections are never the culmination of creating change" --Letitia James *The challenge to New York City's leaders in these years, going forward

Prepared inaugural speech of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, from WNYC.org:
Thank you, President Clinton, for your kind words. It was an honor to serve in your administration, and we’re all honored by your presence. I have to note that, over 20 years ago, when a conservative philosophy seemed dominant, you broke through – and told us to still believe in a place called Hope.
Thank you, Secretary Clinton. I was inspired by the time I spent on your first campaign. Your groundbreaking commitment to nurturing our children and families manifested itself in a phrase that is now a part of our American culture – and something we believe in deeply in this city. It Takes A Village.
Thank you, Reverend Fred Lucas Jr., Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Monsignor Robert Romano, and Imam Askia Muhammad for your words of prayer.
Thank you, Governor Cuomo. Working with you at HUD, I saw how big ideas can overcome big obstacles. And it will be my honor to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with you again.
Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg. To say the least, you led our city through some extremely difficult times. And for that, we are all grateful. Your passion on issues such as environmental protection and public health has built a noble legacy. We pledge today to continue the great progress you made in these critically important areas.
Thank you, Mayor Dinkins, for starting us on the road to a safer city, and for always uplifting our youth – and I must say personally, for giving me my start in New York City government. You also had the wisdom to hire a strong and beautiful young woman who walked up to me one day in City Hall and changed my life forever.
Chirlane, you are my soulmate -- and my best friend. My partner in all I do. My love for you grows with each passing year. Chiara and Dante, I cannot put into words the joy and the pride that you bring your mother and me. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to us, and we love you very much.
And finally, thank you to my brothers Steve and Don, and all my family assembled today -- from all around this country, and from Italy. You have always guided and sustained me.
Thank you, my fellow New Yorkers - my brothers and sisters -- for joining Chirlane, Chiara, Dante and me on this chilly winter day.
De parte de Chirlane, Chiara, Dante y yo, les extiendo las gracias a ustedes, mis hermanas y hermanos niuyorquinos, por acompañarnos en este dia tan especial.
Like it is for so many of you, my family is my rock. Their wisdom, their compassion, and their sense of humor make each day a gift to cherish.
But, what makes today so special isn’t just my family, but our larger New York family. We see what binds all New Yorkers together: an understanding that big dreams are not a luxury reserved for a privileged few, but the animating force behind every community, in every borough.
The spark that ignites our unwavering resolve to do everything possible to ensure that every girl and boy, no matter what language they speak, what subway line they ride, what neighborhood they call home — that every child has the chance to succeed.
We recognize a city government’s first duties: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean; to ensure that those who live here – and those who visit – can get where they need to go in all five boroughs. But we know that our mission reaches deeper. We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA.
Nearly a century ago, it was Al Smith who waged war on unsafe working conditions and child labor. It was Franklin Roosevelt and Frances Perkins who led the charge for the basic bargain of unemployment insurance and the minimum wage. It was Fiorello La Guardia who enacted the New Deal on the city level, battled the excesses of Wall Street, and championed a progressive income tax.
From Jacob Riis to Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Belafonte — who we are honored to have with us here today — it was New Yorkers who challenged the status quo, who blazed a trail of progressive reform and political action, who took on the elite, who stood up to say that social and economic justice will start here and will start now.
It’s that tradition that inspires the work we now begin. A movement that sees the inequality crisis we face today, and resolves that it will not define our future. Now I know there are those who think that what I said during the campaign was just rhetoric, just “political talk” in the interest of getting elected. There are some who think now, as we turn to governing – well, things will continue pretty much like they always have.
So let me be clear. When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won’t be easy; It will require all that we can muster. And it won’t be accomplished only by me; It will be accomplished by all of us — those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city.
You must continue to make your voices heard. You must be at the center of this debate. And our work begins now. We will expand the Paid Sick Leave law -- because no one should be forced to lose a day’s pay, or even a week’s pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law. We won’t wait.
We’ll do it now. We will require big developers to build more affordable housing. We’ll fight to stem the tide of hospital closures. And we’ll expand community health centers into neighborhoods in need, so that New Yorkers see our city not as the exclusive domain of the One Percent, but a place where everyday people can afford to live, work, and raise a family. We won’t wait. We’ll do it now.
We will reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy, both to protect the dignity and rights of young men of color, and to give our brave police officers the partnership they need to continue their success in driving down crime. We won’t wait. We’ll do it now.
We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student. And when we say “a little more,” we can rightly emphasize the “little.”
Those earning between $500,000 and one million dollars a year, for instance, would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That’s less than three bucks a day – about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks.
Think about it. A 5-year tax on the wealthiest among us – with every dollar dedicated to pre-K and after-school. Asking those at the top to help our kids get on the right path and stay there. That’s our mission. And on that, we will not wait. We will do it now.
Of course, I know that our progressive vision isn’t universally shared. Some on the far right continue to preach the virtue of trickle-down economics. They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else. They sell their approach as the path of “rugged individualism.”
But Fiorello La Guardia — the man I consider to be the greatest Mayor this city has ever known — put it best. He said: “I, too, admire the 'rugged individual,’ but no ‘rugged individual' can survive in the midst of collective starvation.”
So please remember: we do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success. We do it to create more success stories. And we do it to honor a basic truth: that a strong economy is dependent on a thriving school system. We do it to give every kid a chance to get their education off on the right foot, from the earliest age, which study after study has shown leads to greater economic success, healthier lives, and a better chance of breaking the cycle of poverty.
We do it to give peace of mind to working parents, who suffer the anxiety of not knowing whether their child is safe and supervised during those critical hours after the school day ends, but before the workday is done. And we do it because we know that we must invest in our city, in the future inventors and CEOs and teachers and scientists, so that our generation – like every generation before us – can leave this city even stronger than we found it.
Our city is no stranger to big struggles -- and no stranger to overcoming them.
New York has faced fiscal collapse, a crime epidemic, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. But now, in our time, we face a different crisis – an inequality crisis. It’s not often the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It’s a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before.
Its urgency is read on the faces of our neighbors and their children, as families struggle to make it against increasingly long odds. To tackle a challenge this daunting, we need a dramatic new approach — rebuilding our communities from the bottom-up, from the neighborhoods up. And just like before, the world will watch as we succeed. All along the way, we will remember what makes New York, New York.
A city that fights injustice and inequality — not just because it honors our values, but because it strengthens our people. A city of five boroughs — all created equal. Black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, straight, old, young, rich, middle class, and poor. A city that remembers our responsibility to each other — our common cause — is to leave no New Yorker behind.
That’s the city that you and I believe in. It’s the city to which my grandparents were welcomed from the hills of Southern Italy, the city in which I was born, where I met the love of my life, where Chiara and Dante were raised.
It’s a place that celebrates a very simple notion: that no matter what your story is – this is your city. Our strength is derived from you. Working together, we will make this One City. And that mission — our march toward a fairer, more just, more progressive place, our march to keep the promise of New York alive for the next generation. It begins today.
Thank you, and God bless the people of New York City!

Inaugural speech of New York City public advocate Letitia James from another's video:

I never expected to make history as the first woman of color to hold city-wide office. And I stand here in this space, filled with anticipation, anchored by the strength and will of parents smiling down from heaven, parents without credentials, humbled individuals, more accustomed to back-breaking work than dinner parties. They taught me to set an example, and to serve as an inspiration to others, to fight for something greater than oneself. And that sense of purpose was sharpened throughout my public school and later at the laboratory of civil rights struggle, Howard University School of Law, which set in motion a public service career.
I joined public service because I felt it was the single most effect way to change the outcome of exclusion and marginalization that has left its mark on so many New Yorkers at one time or another. The wave of progressive victories our city has enjoyed thanks to the city council was in some ways inevitable.
The fabric of our city, of our nation, is made strong by untold sacrifices of so many who are left defenseless, unrepresented, unspoken for. But at some point in history the tide must turn. The policies that makes them voiceless must give way to a government that speaks for them that cares more about child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development.
To live up to that challenge and be morally centered in our decisions is the task before those of us who think of ourselves as the progressive wing of our city. Even as the tide turns towards progress we do not have the luxury to rest.
You see the growing gap between the haves and have-nots undermines our city and tears at the fabric of our democracy. We live in a gilded age of inequality with decrepit homeless shelters that stand shadow of million dollar condos.
Where long term residents are priced out of their own neighborhoods by rising rent and stagnated incomes, where stop and frisk abuse and unwarranted surveillance have been touted as success stories, as though crime can only be reduced by infringing on the civil liberties of people of color. Where what should be the race for the bottom for high quality education has turned into race to the bottom of standardized test scores. And where hospital closures serve as an existential threat to the health of our community and library privatization are little more than land grabs for more luxury condos. Most disturbingly we live in a city where a New York City worker can work full time and still need food stamps to feed her family.
Where more and more jobs pay lower and lower wages until we find ourselves in a place where half of all New Yorkers are living at or near the poverty line. You see, I've heard the stories from fast food workers who are not working one but two or three jobs and helplessly sinking into the poverty of this over the past year of campaigning and organizing I have met the individuals who have made a science of stretching a paltry $7.25 an hour, an act of magic I call it. Trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I have joined them at their walk-outs and pickets and seen in their eyes and constant fear of losing their last economic lifeline but in those eyes I've also seen hope, enduring hope the eternal optimism light in their eyes and it's that same life that I saw today in Dasani's eyes.
Dasani, please join me. Dasani has joined us with her family their family please stand. This is the Dasani Coates you've all read about her in the New York Times and this is my new BFF.
And so, together in seemingly endless recession and an unsparing economic system, working people in this city don't give up. Their spirits have not been broken. New Yorkers get up each day and fight. And when they're knocked down they get up again and fight some more. This is the spirit of our city.
This is the tenacity it will take for our government to strike a blow against inequality and injustice and make our city work for working people again.
It's why those of us taking the oath of office today were elected to serve because as with each ending comes a new beginning. As we recognize the challenges I laid out we must also capitalize on the unique opportunities only a city as amazing as New York City can offer.
We still have one of the most diverse and talented work-forces in the world. New industries continue to arrive and thrive in New York and our city remains the unquestioned hub of creativity commerce and innovation in our region and maybe the world. These challenges and opportunities can only met effectively if we work together.
Let this be our lasting resolution on this new day, I congratulate mayor de Blasio and comptroller Scott Stringer as we come together to join to celebrate this historic day and launching journey that will move our entire city forward. All of us share a progressive vision for this city's rejuvenation.
I pledge to work cooperatively with all of my colleagues and build real consensus. Indeed, moving New York forward will take hard work and a joined determination.
Of course, if working people aren't getting their fair share, if government isn't securing the reforms New Yorkers were promised, you'd better believe that Dasani and I will stand up, that all of us will stand up and call out anyone and anything that stands in the way of our progress.
Elections are never the culmination of creating change, but simply a first step.
New Yorkers should judge their government by whether we make improvements in the education system our children rely upon, whether we improve healthcare access for our patients, whether we help create jobs that pay more than the minimum wage, whether we make our city one that's safer even as we respect the civil rights of all New Yorkers and whether we focus on building more sports arenas or more affordable housing. Above all, our government must maintain an unflinching focus on the spirit of these benchmarks. So, today we celebrate and work to make the promises we have made to New Yorkers motivated by the challenges before us and inspired by the greatness of our cause. I thank you for your trust and I am more determined than ever to roll up my sleeves and seize the opportunities presented by the dawn of a new day. God bless you and god bless our great city.

--Bolding of text by blogger transcriber.
Blogger's note:
This is mayor de Blasio's challenge, if he cannot abide by the Dasanis among New York City's children, if he cannot reopen the shuttered hospitals, if he cannot reverse the apartheid trend --in this city that has the third most segregated urban school system in the nation-- that allows for a rich curriculum of diverse language choices and arts for some and for a bare bones education of just English and math for others, then he stands to be replaced by a true progressive leader.

Postscript:
The Nation has acknowledged James' implicit challenge to de Blasio to stand by a progressive commitment. Jarrett Murphy noted,
What’s received less attention [in media analyses of James' inaugural address], but might be more interesting, was the warning James issued toward the end of her speech.

"All of us share a progressive vision for this city’s future," she said as she congratulated de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer. She pledged to work with her two fellow city officials. Then she said, “Of course, if working people aren’t getting their fair share, if our government isn’t securing the reforms New Yorkers were promised, you better believe Dasani and I will stand up—that all of us will stand up—and call out anyone and anything that stands in the way of our progress.”

The question is, Who did the public advocate mean by “all of us” who are going to stand up, and who are the “anyone” who might stand in the path of progress? Could the new mayor himself get called out at some point?

In theory, at least, that’s James’s new job. The city’s number-two official, the public advocate takes over temporarily if the mayor cannot serve, presides over full City Council meetings, can gather information from city agencies, has the right to propose legislation and makes appointments to some city boards. Its role is sometimes defined as that of an ombudsman: someone to look out for the little guy and monitor the operation of city government. But in New York’s strong-mayor system, the advocate is also positioned as a check and balance on the mayor. . . . . With her reference to calling people out, does James have something a little more aggressive in mind? Progressives love the FDR quote about the importance of pressuring the pols we agree with. “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it,” the late prez said; President Obama paraphrased it seventy years later, and progressives in New York recognize they’ll sometimes need to have de Blasio’s back, and sometimes need to shove it.

Lack of power and shaky media reputation or not. James could be the shover in chief. She’s no stranger to combat—winning a vacant Council seat in 2003 by beating the brother of the assassinated councilman who vacated it, and doing so with only the backing of the Working Families Party; jousting (often breathless with what seemed like barely suppressed rage) with Bloomberg commissioners for years as a councilwoman; winning a public advocate’s race that she was counted out of early on. It will be interesting to see whether James can go from throwing body blows to the more nuanced art of grappling. As de Blasio watched James return to her seat—hand-in-hand with her new “BFF”—after her final fusillade at the Bloomberg administration, a page was turned: the next mayor in James’s cross hairs, if it ever comes to that, will be Bill de Blasio.