New York City's First New Mayor In 12 Years Is Sworn In

Jan 1, 2014
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. Happy New Year.

We begin this hour with big change in New York City. As of today, it has a new mayor, its 109th. Bill de Blasio is the first Democrat at the helm of city hall in two decades. At his inauguration, de Blasio talked up his progressive agenda.

From member station WNYC, Brigid Bergin reports on the beginning of this new era in New York City government.

BRIGID BERGIN, BYLINE: Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family took the subway to city hall, where he was greeted by throngs of well-wishers and offered some advice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Make sure to keep it real, Bill.

BERGIN: Keep it real, Bill, was the message and it was a straightforward sentiment echoed throughout ceremony. Organizers say nearly 5,000 people turned out in their winter weather finest, sipping hot cider from thermal mugs handed out for the occasion.

Former President Bill Clinton administered the oath of office with his wife, former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, nearby.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Please raise your right hand, state your name and repeat after me. I, Bill de Blasio...


CLINTON: solemnly swear...

BERGIN: De Blasio was flanked by his family, his Caribbean-American wife, Chirlane McCray, who he considers one of his top advisers, and their two teenage children, Chiara and Dante. Bill de Blasio campaigned on a pledge to break from the Michael Bloomberg era, which ran for 12 years here. Bloomberg sat stern-faced on the dais throughout the ceremony. While he leaves behind record low crime and record long life expectancy for New Yorkers, de Blasio and his supporters say the city needs to change.

BLASIO: 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.

BERGIN: One of de Blasio's top priorities is expanding early childhood education through a tax on New Yorkers who make more than half a million dollars, something he'll need state lawmakers to approve. He's also aiming at the widely derided police tactic known as stop and frisk, which critics say has unfairly targeted people of color and was found unconstitutional in federal court. And the new mayor has a message for conservatives questioning whether he'll stick to his campaign promises.

BLASIO: There are some who think that now, as we turn to governing, well, that things will just continue pretty much the way they always have. So let me be clear, when I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it.

BERGIN: That Dickensian theme is part of what catapulted de Blasio to his 50-point victory. Mitchell Moss teaches urban policy and planning at New York University and advised Bloomberg on his first campaign. He says de Blasio may struggle to tackle income inequality, as many cities have.

MITCHELL MOSS: But they can raise minimum wages, we can have living wages, there are some quick and easy things cities can do, they have done around the country - in Seattle, in Portland, in San Francisco. So he'll take on those.

BERGIN: Moss says it's striking that the Clintons were front and center at the inauguration. It ties them to de Blasio's liberal agenda, which could help Hillary Clinton if runs for president in 2016. And it may also be about carrying the liberal banner for urban centers, as mayors across the country watch closely to see how Bill de Blasio plans to do it.

For NPR News, I'm Brigid Bergin in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.