NY's new Democrat mayor has a tough task ahead

NY's new Democrat mayor has a tough task ahead
Mr Bill de Blasio.

A week ago, New Yorkers elected their first Democrat mayor in two decades and, in a city where even Republican leaders sound like liberals, Mr Bill de Blasio certainly wears his bleeding heart on his sleeve.

Indeed, the 52-year-old mayor-elect scored a landslide victory by running on a platform that promised to tax the rich to pay for universal pre-kindergarten education, building 200,000 units of low-income housing and creating better-paying jobs for New Yorkers.

That could prove to be a tall order, however. On New Year's Day, when he is sworn in as mayor of the largest city in the United States, he will face a deficit of as much as US$2 billion (S$2.5 billion) for the next fiscal year - left behind by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican whose hard line on gun control and attempts to ban supersize soda drinks appalled conservatives.

But a US Census Bureau report released in September confirmed what Mr de Blasio blames on his three-term predecessor and gave credence to his description of New York as a "tale of two cities".

The report found its poverty rate increasing and the rich-poor gap wider than in any other major US city. Fully 46 per cent of New Yorkers now live in or near poverty, up 8 percentage points from levels in 2005.

Mr de Blasio has pledged that, as mayor, he will start making changes by helping fast-food and other low-wage workers to unionise, so they will have a better chance at higher pay, The New York Daily News reported.

"This is what I made my whole campaign about - fighting inequality and fighting economic injustice," he had said in interviews and campaign appearances.

Mr de Blasio does understand their pain. For eight years, he was a councilman for the rough-and-tumble, blue-collar borough of Brooklyn and, since 2010, he has been New York City Public Advocate - the office serves as an ombudsman between the electorate and the city government.

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