NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio was under fire Tuesday evening for traveling to Iowa just weeks after being reelected.
The mayor delivered a speech at Progress Iowa in Des Moines, saying Democrats are “the party of working people.”
As CBS2’s Reena Roy reported, some New Yorkers and labor unions said by taking the trip, the mayor is neglecting the very people who reelected him.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Dorothea Duncan of Midtown. “He was hired to do a job in New York. He should be in New York to do the job.”
“Everybody elected him, and now the people feel that he’s letting them down,” said Lloyd Fogle of Midtown. “I feel the same way.”
Members of the city’s top police union made sure to get that message out loud and clear.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is sending representatives to protest the mayor’s appearance at a fundraiser for the advocacy group “Progress Iowa,” saying de Blasio isn’t as progressive as he claims.
The union claims the mayor who calls himself “a friend to labor” is anti-worker and anti-union, CBS2 reported.
“We’re going out there to say ‘don’t believe two-faced Bill de Blasio.’ He’s anti-labor, he’s anti-union,” PBA President Pat Lynch said. “What he’s doing is using the same tactics that what he calls the ‘greedy corporation’ uses against their workers he’s doing the same thing here to New York City police officers and other city workers.”
The mayor’s office released a statement regarding de Blasio’s trip saying, “The Mayor’s meeting with mayors and progressive activists in an effort to fight back against President Trump’s tax scam. New Yorkers deserve to have a voice in a national conversation that affects their finances. The Mayor’s settled contracts with corrections officers and police officers in the past and we’re confident we’ll reach fair deals once again.”
The police union is currently in contract negotiations with the city, and the negotiations are at a standstill.
Meanwhile, the Transport Workers Union of America is also upset – launching a billboard campaign against de Blasio in Des Moines.
“Warning the folks in Iowa that Bill de Blasio is a phony progressive — he’s not what the national Democratic Party needs, and they need to be aware,” said John Samuelson, international president of the union.
Political experts said the outcry is no surprise, saying the mayor may be neglecting local issues because of a national agenda.
“Are people unhappy? Sure, NYCHA’s got big problems; schools — they’re closing some of them; crime is up, especially sex assaults; transit workers, police not happy — and where’s de Blasio?” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “He’s not here.”
When reporters asked the mayor about the trip nearly a month ago, he saw nothing wrong with it.
“The trip in question is basically a 24-hour trip. I just don’t buy the notion in the 21st century that if you leave the boundaries of the five boroughs, the government ceases to work,” de Blasio said at the time. “I’ll be constantly in touch with people, and we’re going to be addressing a whole range of issues as I do every day — from when I get up to the end of the day. And every mayor before me has done the same thing.”
De Blasio had some defenders among New Yorkers.
“I think that we sometimes nitpick a little bit too much with these things,” said Nora Leonhardt of Midtown. “If he has a national agenda, he’s not the worst person to be in the national market either.”
The Mayor’s office declined CBS2’s request for a phone interview Tuesday. A representative did defend his trip, saying the Mayor’s is going to Iowa in an effort to fight back against President Donald Trump’s tax plan, and that New Yorkers deserve to have a voice in a national conversation.
In another development, the whispers of a presidential run are in the air with de Blasio’s Iowa trip.
Timothy Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa, said it’s not too early to start thinking about 2020.
“Particularly if you have somebody like a Mayor de Blasio or somebody who may not be as well known nationally, those kinds of folks need to come to Iowa fairly early to try to start getting that name recognition,” Hagle said.
In terms of that name recognition, Hagle said the typical Iowan would mostly know de Blasio from the bits of New York City news that turns into a national story, WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz reported.
The mayor has denied he’s thinking about a run for the White House, but if he does he may face a current local political foe, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to be the Democratic nominee.
As for the contract negotiations with the police union, the mayor’s press secretary said the mayor has settled contracts with corrections and police officers in the past, and the Mayor’s office is confident that fair deals will be reached again.