Quick, name a bitter woman who muscled her way into power by rushing in to fill the moral vacuum created by her husband. No, not Eva Peron, Imelda Marcos, Hillary Clinton, or Michelle Obama; they’re yesterday’s news. Today’s self-appointed dictatorette is Chirlane McCray, the wife of recently inaugurated New York Mayor Bill De Blasio.
Partly because Anthony Weiner couldn’t keep his surname in his pants and had to withdraw from the Mayoral race last September, Bill De Blasio, one of the farthest left politicians imaginable, became Mayor of New York City by getting 73% of the vote.
Now his wife, who won 0% of the vote, is demanding an office in City Hall, a staff, and a hands-on policy-setting role where her particular outlook on life will affect the lives of 8.3 million New Yorkers.
Voters gave De Blasio their overwhelming support in November, but a Quinnipiac poll in January reveals that only 27% of them want his wife to make any decisions that involve their wallets and futures. Unfortunately, New York’s voters don’t get a vote this time. Ms. McCray’s responsibilities will hinge on whatever her husband is squishy enough to give her.
Already, he seems to have given her quite a few. At a recent press conference, he made it clear she was a major influence behind two administrative appointments. “My wife could not be here,” De Blasio said, “but I will express her deep enthusiasm about the appointments today.”
If voters had paid even the slightest bit of attention during the campaign, they should have seen this coming. During his campaign and transition to Mayor, she described herself as a “sounding board and partner”. In an interview in The New York Times, McCray admitted that she interviews all prospective high-level appointees, edits key speeches, and that policy meetings are planned around her schedule.
So what kind of policies is she likely to set? One clue comes from the chief of staff she just hired for $170,000/year of taxpayers’ money: Rachel Noerdlinger, a longtime spokesperson for the Rev. Al Sharpton. Another comes from her deep roots in the LGBT community. These are fine causes, but they are not the only people in New York who deserve attention. The black population of New York’s five boroughs is 25%, the biracial population is 4%, and the LGBT population is 6%. That’s roughly 35% of the population.
In a related story, many City Hall employees are dismayed about the number of appointments that De Blasio has failed to make, even though it’s been over ten weeks since he was elected. A long list of agencies still have no permanent leaders, including the New York City Housing Authority, which is responsible for more than 400,000 residents, the Department of Buildings, which oversees building inspections at nearly one million properties, and the Department of Correction, which oversees the city’s jails,
At other agencies, including the Department of Health, the Fire Department, and the Office of Emergency Management, the novice Mayor has asked Bloomberg appointees to remain on the job, at least until he finds replacements. At others, including the Department of Investigation and the Parks Department, former first deputy commissioners or other high-ranking staffers are filling in on an interim basis, until suitably progressive leaders are chosen.
At least two agencies, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, don’t even have leftover leaders. “We don’t have an acting commissioner at the moment,” said a Cultural Affairs spokesman when asked who was leading the agency. Similarly, a spokeswoman for the media office said, “There’s currently no acting commissioner.”
So who’s running America’s largest city? Maybe Ms. McCray can answer that question when she gets through speaking at an interactive town hall forum in Brooklyn on January 22. The first lady will discuss immigration policies, reform efforts, and their impact on black immigration.