This story might sound familiar.
A mayoral hopeful gets on stage and delivers a speech about the state of things. The elected official takes the opportunity to set the groundwork for a mayoral campaign — appealing to future voters through announcements of new initiatives and priorities.
No, we’re not talking about Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, another likely 2013 mayoral candidate, who delivered his State of the Borough speech last week.
This time, it was City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s turn. For those with their eyes on the mayor’s seat, the beginning of the year is an excellent time to deliver a “State of…” speech to remind folks of your accomplishments and lay out future goals that hopefully signal to voters that you’re destined for greater things.
In her State of the City speech, Quinn, who has raised all the money she is allowed to spend in the primary and who was recently endorsed by former mayor Ed Koch, took the opportunity to present an agenda geared toward supporting affordable housing, job creation, small business, and education reforms.
Perhaps one of the more ambitious plans she announced was a pilot program where the city would cover half the upfront costs of child care — allowing families to pay it back over time through a low-cost loan.
“This program is the first of its kind in the nation,” she said to applause. “And I believe it’s going to become a national model that’ll provide financial stability and quality care for families across the country. Because it’s not just about helping people get jobs today. It’s about keeping them secure far into the future.”
In the area of job support, she also announced a plan to support the Freelancers Union and create a flagship clinic that will provide low cost care to members that need it. She noted that independent workers such as temps or copy editors now account for 30 percent of the workforce.
On the affordable housing front, Quinn said she hopes to address the problem that “affordability has a built in expiration date” — usually 30 years. “So homes we built three decades ago are now in danger of losing their affordability, which means families get pushed right out of their homes and the working class gets pushed right out of our neighborhoods,” she said.
Announcing a push for “permanent affordability,” Quinn said that the city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency is going to start requiring 60 year affordability in many of its biggest developments: “Now I know 60 years isn’t permanent, but it’s a critical first step.”
She also made an appeal to homeless families and advocates, criticizing the current system which she said doesn’t do enough to help homeless New Yorkers get on their feet and stay off the street. She proposed a new rental assistance program to help families cover rent in private buildings — and also said that homeless individuals need to have priority access to public housing and Section 8 vouchers. (She noted that the average cost of a rental subsidy for a family of four is $800 a month, while housing that same family in a shelter costs $3,000).
“The last point I want to discuss today might be the most critical for the future of our communities and the future of our city — education,” she said. (This focus comes a day after a poll was released saying that parents trust the Teachers Union more than the mayor).
Quinn proposed the Student Empowerment Partnership (STEP), which will emphasize a community education model that brings together different stakeholders to discuss ways to improve education. (It wasn’t the only convenient acronym of the speech — she earlier proposed a program to curb gun violence, called Safe Havens, Improved Environments, Local Development, or, you know, SHIELD!).
She also pushed her agenda to make kindergarten mandatory in New York City (speaking in front of Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, seated in the front row). Going along with her “cradle to career philosophy,” she proposed that the city explore models for making a free honors college in the city, with its own campus and faculty.
As per the usual routine, Runnin’ Scared caught up with three possible challengers in the mayoral race after the speech to get their reaction. Nothing too earth-shattering here, but read below for some reactions.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio told us that he was overall pleased: “Good speech. I think there’s some good ideas. You know a lot of us have been fighting for a long time to actually get the city to do homelessness prevention. They wouldn’t do it for years then they did it. Now they’ve dropped it again, so I’m glad she’s talking about that again.” He added that early childhood education has also been his focus — so, you know, he’s very supportive!
“We have a long way to go to make it happen but I’m glad I heard some of those pieces today,” he said. “I think we have to do a lot more but I think they were good ideas.”
Next, we found Scott Stringer, who responded to a reporter’s question asking if he thought Quinn’s ideas were bold enough, saying, “I’m happy to listen to short-term and long-term ideas…Yes, I certainly talked about big ideas and the hopes that I have for this city, and I think Chris tried to do the same today. John Liu’s going to do that next week.” (Comptroller Liu has his “State of…” speech coming up, too!) “I thought it was a very solid address,” he said. “I’m glad I could be here. I had a front row seat.”
When Runnin’ Scared asked Stringer to compare the message of his speech last week to her speech, he said, “Oh, that’s your job. That’s not my job.”
Finally, we found John Liu, who doesn’t have a chance of being mayor according to Bloomberg, who said Quinn’s speech was, you guessed it, good.
“It [was] a comprehensive, cogently delivered speech,” he said to reporters, noting that he has seen all of her past State of the City addresses.
“I think there are more far-reaching reforms necessary at the Department of Education,” he said in reference to her early childhood education agenda. “Kindergarten should be mandatory…I whole-heartedly agree with her and support her in those efforts. And the next step is to go further and provide universal pre-K to all 4-year-olds.”
When a reporter asked him how her speech compares with what we’ll hear from Liu next week, he said, “I enjoyed being here at this speech and I’m looking forward to the one next week. I hope I don’t fall asleep at the one next week.”
Go to Runnin’ Scared for all our latest news coverage.