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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on MSNBC's Morning Joe

December 27, 2021

Joe Scarborough: And Bill de Blasio begins his final week as Mayor of New York City. He's also over the past couple weeks been on our show more than Mike Barnicle and he joins us now, again, but it seems somewhat appropriate here. This is your exit interview, so let's treat this like an exit interview. Mr. Mayor, tell us what you're most proud of, and tell us what you screwed up the most. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Hey, Joe, first of all, can I just say, thank you. It has been a great, great eight years together and I just love what happens on this show. I truly do. I appreciate – 

Scarborough: Well, thank you so much.  

Mayor: The real conversation that happened is here, the American conversation. It's something you should be proud of and I'm going - I've just, I've loved being a part of it. Let me tell you to your question, I came here to fight inequality in New York City and to do something about what I call the tale of two cities – borrowed that from Charles Dickens, but it's still true – and we were able to do something. We were able to make a real impact, to put money back in the pockets of working people, to give kids a full day pre-K and 3-K for free, create a lot more affordable housing, fought and won the $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, things that I think bluntly the Democratic Party and progressives need to focus on going forward. We have to be about working people and we actually made a change in this city. There's a lot more to do, and listen, COVID laid bare profound inequalities, and I think therefore all the more reason to go straight at these inequalities going forward in a very blunt way, because if we don't, we don't have a sustainable society if it becomes one where rich and poor, that gulf widens all the time. It actually happened during the COVID pandemic, the rich truly got richer and a lot of working folks suffered. We've got to address that. I think we have a good model here in New York City of some of the things that work. 

Scarborough: And so – and what was your biggest failure? What's the one thing you'd love to have a do over on and wish you could turn the clock back eight years and start over on it? 

Mayor: Well, I'd say in terms of approach, you know, I've learned a lot about the need to communicate better and differently. I feel very good about a lot of the substance of what we did. I don't feel so good about how I communicated it, and I think it's important, if you're going to be effective in this work, to really spend the time and the focus to get the message across in an honest and open way that people can connect with. That's something I've got to do better. Again, I'd say a lot of people in my I beloved Democratic Party have to do that better too. And Joe, you and I have talked about homelessness. That's an area where I don't think in the beginning the approaches we tried worked well enough. I do think the ones in the last couple years have worked a lot better, and that gives me hope for the future, that we'll be able to make a more profound impact on that issue. 

Scarborough: Let's talk about crime in 2019 when I had you on, I read a New York Times article that said crime in New York City was at its lowest rate in 60 years, lowest rate ever on record, and the Times said you would have to estimate what the crime rates were back in the 1950s to get close to a time that was as safe in New York City as it was in 2019. Talking about do overs again, and this is certainly not specific to you, you could talk about every major city in America, but New York City holds a special place I think for a lot of people looking at a massive, major metropolitan city that per capita crime has been extremely low over the past 20 years. So going back to 2019, if you had to do over again on crime – lessons that Eric Adams could learn, lessons that the mayor of San Francisco, the mayors of Portland, Seattle, other cities impacted by violence and crime, what what's that lesson that you learned over the past two years? 

Mayor: Joe, it has been a revelation that the best solutions are actually at the community level. We've put a lot of resources into the Cure Violence Movement and the Crisis Management System. This is all part of violence interruption, and community members are best positioned in a lot of cases to stop violence before it happens. To create a different approach, we need our police obviously, but there's something that could be done at a community level that's irreplaceable and has been missed for many, many years. President Biden's now keyed in on this, I think he's absolutely right to, but ultimately when we created neighborhood policing and rebounded police and community 2014 through 2019, that's so much what drove crime down. We need community members to know the cop on the beat by name, and we need the cop on the beat to feel a connection to the community and spend real time there so they sense, you know, what's going on in the community, humanly, organically get to know people. And that was what was missing in the past. So, that part worked, we drove down crime for six years, of course COVID threw off everything, but the formula, you know, Joe, it's so important that we not take the huge tumult of a global pandemic and allow it to blind us to what actually was working before the pandemic and needs to continue. Neighborhood policing needs continue 100 percent and it will deepen in this city and we will ultimately be safer than we were before the pandemic. I'm really confident of that.  

Jonathan Lemire: So Mr. Mayor, there's been a lot of speculation about your next move. I'm not going to ask you about your rumored bid for Governor, because I know you're not going to answer me, but on the subject of that office, your relationship with Andrew Cuomo was famously antagonistic, and I'm being kind. How different would your eight years in office be if he had not been Governor? 

Mayor: Oh, it would've been so different. I mean, I got to tell you having for four years Cuomo and Trump at the same time was a tremendous challenge, and it almost felt surreal at times, honestly. Like everything we had been told were the norms didn't exist anymore. It doesn't have to be that way. You know, it's funny at the end of all this I feel more optimistic than when I started. It sounds kind of strange to say, but there have been a lot of reckonings. A lot of people who did the wrong thing have ended up paying the price for it. There has been many, many times where the goodness of the people came through and we saw that in this pandemic. So, I'm more optimistic than ever, but those were, to me, those were strange, aberrant realities. They really were. And it's a funny thing, I'd say this to everyone who's a real public servant, sometimes it's important to tell yourself if something seems wrong, if it seems like it shouldn't be, well, maybe that's just the truth. Don't get lost in it. Don't get overwhelmed by it. And a lot of times, particularly with Cuomo, I just said to myself, this ultimately will not stand, and I believed it in my heart because you can't treat people that way. You can't treat people the way he did. You can't bend the government to personal will and personal need the way he did, and it catches up with you eventually.  

Lemire: So I also wanted to ask you about the other side of the coin to Joe's question about policing, which of course is police reform. You came into office, ended the practice of stop and frisk, obviously had some moments of tension with the police department where officers turned their backs on you at a funeral, a couple of their officers who were slain in the line of duty, where do – with only an in increased focus the last few years, the relationship between police and community. And police at times, abuse of people, particularly African American men. What progress do you think you've made on that subject and what still needs to be done?  

Mayor: I feel very good about the foundation we've laid here. We have a police force now that looks more like New York City than ever. It really is reflective of the diversity of this city. We have a police force where every single officer has been trained in de-escalation, every single officer in implicit bias. You're talking about the finest police force in the country, but also one that has embraced a whole series of reforms. And now with a neighborhood policing philosophy, really listening to communities, connecting with communities, respecting the community based solutions to violence, like the violence interrupters, it is an entirely different NYPD than it was eight years ago. And don't let the horrible disruption of COVID fool you, we made reforms that now are reaching to the core. You know, Eric Adams to his credit suggested a year or two ago, have the community involved in the selection of their precinct commander. We instituted that. People love that, they love the fact that they get to have some say in who's going to lead the public safety efforts in their community. As this deepens, I truly believe this is the future of American policing, guardians, not warriors, a focus on the human relationships. By the way, when the community is trusting of the police, they share information, they work with the police, they help them get the job done, and the police feel more appreciation and more connection, and they don't feel some of what they've been through the last few years, which has been very tough for police as well. So, I am hopeful that we found something here and now I think it's going to blossom when we get out of the COVID era. One last point, we got to get out of the COVID era. Today, historic day for New York City, we're implementing the strongest vaccine mandate in the country, all private sector employers today. This is what we need to do everywhere. Every mayor, every governor, every CEO in America should do vaccine mandates now because we have got to – 2022 has to be year we leave COVID behind. If we're going to fix public safety, we actually have to first get out of the COVID era. 

Reverend Al Sharpton: Mr. Mayor, Al Sharpton, let me go back to what you started with and give you – ask you a broader point question. Undoubtedly you succeeded in terms of stop and frisk, and pre-K, and things that you touted and you undoubtedly have dealt with that. I think what a lot of people do not understand around the country is you came after 16 years of politics going one way in the city, of four years of Giuliani, 12 years of Bloomberg, who are Republicans. The question I'm asking is the substance of the Democratic Party. As you go forward, many of us feel your weighing a run for Governor, I'm going to ask you to announce or not, but as we look at this, one of the things that we've said in the civil rights community, specifically National Action Network, is that we're grading people on substance, is that what does the party represent and what should it represent in clear language as opposed to the opposing party, both nationally and locally, if it is going to remain a winning party? If you run for Governor, whoever runs for Governor, Democrat or people around the country, what does this party stand for as one that came in and had to contrast being a successor to almost two decades of an opposing party, what does the Democratic Party stand for? What should it stand for? 

Mayor: Rev, I appreciate the question deeply. It’s one of the most essential questions, I can put it into just a few words, working people first. This is what the Democratic Party unmistakably stood for, for generations, and that changed this country for the better. It also gave the Democratic Party the real political allegiance of people, rural, urban, all parts of the country, and we got to get back to that. We lost that. We got to get back to it. So, the bottom line to me, why don't we listen to what working people going through. Their lives have become more and more stressful, more sense of economic insecurity than in generations, and so let's reach out to people and give them the things that they need and be the party that is willing to challenge whatever power, whatever interests it takes, and say, you know, if the wealthy have to pay more in taxes to have help everyone else, that's fairness because working people are struggling like never before. The vision I put forward for this state, every kid should be in school if they want – if the family wants all day, all year, all free, that's the kind of thing that's going to take a lot of stress off families and take a lot of expense off of families. When the democratic party does that, we reconnect with a lot of the working people we've lost and we can do it. And that's why I'm going to push this party and this state to do, because working, people deserve it after everything they've been through, especially in this pandemic. 

Scarborough: Yeah, you know, Katty, you know when you can tell a public servant – it really it's all about to people, is when he's the Mayor, he's not just concerned about New York City, he's concerned about the entire State of New York. He puts together proposals, education proposals, Katty, for all of New York State, and he's the Mayor of New York City. So that shows you what a big heart, Katty, he's got a heart as big as Empire State, doesn't he? 

Katty Kay: His hear as big as the Empire State –  

Mayor: I like that, thank you Joe.  

Kay: And full smiles here on Morning Joe.  

Mayor: Thank you for that.  

Scarborough: So, the question is, of course, Mr. Mayor, as you go across New York State, and listen, do you have a timeframe for making any future decisions on whether you run for Governor or not? 

Mayor: Yes, real, real soon. I've got one more week and I'm been focused obviously on fighting COVID, and I'm happy to say, by the way, we did a booster incentive and it has been heard and felt by the people in New York City. Since I announced the incentive, I came on the show and talked about it, Joe, 180,000 more New Yorkers have gotten a booster since Tuesday.  

Scarborough: Oh my gosh. Holy cow.  

Mayor: 180,000 boosters Tuesday, almost two million overall.  

Scarborough: That’s great. 

Mayor: So I'm going to finish that fight and then there's a, a new fight up ahead to change this State, I'll have a lot more to say and very, very, very soon, Joe. 

Scarborough: Okay, you can make your announcement here, Mr. Mayor, just keep the seat warm. Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you so much. Great having you today and I hope you have a wonderful New Year. 

Mayor: Thank you for – seriously – for everything you do for this city and this country, you and all your colleagues, this is an indispensable show and it is a dialogue we need a lot more of in this country. I say it from my heart. Seriously, it has been an honor to be a part of this for the last eight years and keep going brother. 

Scarborough: Well, it's very kind of you to say and I will pass that along to my wife because as she thinks, Morning Mika is a wonderful, indispensable show as well.  


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