February 7, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Right out proper here – no, you – see you – you’ve got to spread out. Let’s see how good you guys are at your symbolic spreading here. Get to know your new friends, people. I’m bringing people together here in the Blue Room today.
Well, this – this, to me, is a particularly exciting press conference because I'm going to announce a dream team to you of tremendous professionals, some of whom have served me in the last months and years, some of whom – one of whom is returning to us, one of whom is new to us, all of whom are tremendously talented. Let me do as I always do and start by thanking the leaders of our transition, Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod for their for their exceptional work, and Laura Santucci, my Chief of Staff, for her exceptional work in bringing this team together.
Now, as everyone knows, we got our administration off to a very fast start. Some things that we planned, like the inauguration and the open house at Gracie Mansion and our announcements on our next step in our pre-K campaign, but other things we did not specifically anticipate, such as a snowstorm the first full day on the job. And as I've said, so much credit goes to the entire team, all of the agencies, and in particular our First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris for the extraordinary response on all of these things and the great coordination you've seen.
But it was not just the city agencies and the people running the different parts of this City Hall and this city government who swung into action. It was also our extraordinary communications team, who, even though they were just getting their feet on the ground, instantly responded to the crisis, and helped make sure that we could get accurate and timely information out to the people of the city. So, it’s a little indication of the kind of talent and ability that we have pulled together here.
One thing you know is I believe, in everything we do, we need to exemplify our values. And perhaps some people might say, "Well, when it comes to your media team, it might not play out the same way," but I think, in fact, what we have sought in every part of our administration is just as true when it comes to our media team. We want a highly effective, experienced group of people, and we want a team that looks like New York City. We want a team of people who share the values of this administration – and that’s what we have here.
Everyone standing beside me has devoted so much of their life to public service. Whether it's non-profit advocacy, whether it's government campaigns, or even journalism, they've devoted themselves to doing good works to better our society.
And it is imperative to us that as we build out our very ambitious and forceful agenda that we have a group of individuals who can make sure that every New Yorker in every corner of this city hears it in every imaginable way.
Professionals in this room you'll come to know very well – you'll work with them very, very closely. And I can tell you, since I have worked with them and know some of them very, very well, you'll find them to be tremendous colleagues – honest and decent and hardworking people who it will be your pleasure to work with just as it’s been mine.
And so, I will introduce to you formally the new members of the City Hall Press Office – and if at any point, from this moment on, I seem to be doing a poor job of communicating, well, then you know who to blame. Thanks, guys.
So, first, for all of our Spanish-speaking colleagues –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
Let's begin with the fascinating story of Phil Walzak. It's an immigrant story. You know, in New York City we welcome people from all corners of the globe, even the snowy hills of Wisconsin. And you've seen Phil along the way, standing by my side, often whispering insightful comments into my ear. He's been a fixture in our effort and I'm so proud that he will be my Press Secretary here at City Hall.
Now, Phil is battle-tested. Even before he joined the Office of Public Advocate and then later my campaign, he was battle-tested. Just before coming to New York, he helped elect the first openly LGBT member of the U.S. Senate in history, Tammy Baldwin. And he really has been through the wars – and even though he's known for his bubbly, effervescent personality, he is a hardened, grizzled veteran of many difficult struggles. He was a State Communications Director in the battleground state of Wisconsin, the 2008 Obama campaign. Director – before that – or, I’m sorry – after that, director of Strategic Communications for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. And on Capitol Hill, he served as press secretary for two members of Congress. So, all that work was extraordinary and when I first met him I could tell instantly that he could do great things for us here in New York.
And I can safely say that his service over the last year has been exemplary – one of the people I've turned to the most, one of the people I've trusted the most to make sure we were communicating well – and I think the proof has been in the pudding. He has brought a coherence and a vision to our efforts.
And there are those who say that this is the toughest press corps in the world. I think it's a group of very polite and friendly people, but there are those who say it's the toughest press corps in the world. It takes someone with commitment, focus, a tremendous sense of the craft to not only get the word out reactively, but to help make sure that we're getting our larger set of ideas and proposals out proactively – and I am convinced that Phil is going to do a great, great job as our new press secretary. And I want to just call him now – he has left the Wisconsin phase of his life behind – he is now a proud Brooklynite. I'd like to welcome and congratulate Phil Walzak.
Phil Walzak: Well, I'll try to be brief. Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: He – he's in mourning from the situation that the Green Bay Packers experienced this weekend, so please be gentle with him.
Phil: They almost blocked that field goal. Anyway, so it was almost exactly a year ago that I had the privilege of joining the ranks of the de Blasio team, and it has been a wild, fascinating journey, to say the least. Through it all, from the endless forums on the campaign trail, and the subway stops with the crush of press, the policy speeches, we spent some time in the trenches together. This includes everything from 100 degrees outside of LICH to the frigid cold outside of your house shoveling snow. But I want to thank you for entrusting me with this responsibility now and over the past year – it's a great honor. It's a great honor. And I'm eager to do my part to help make your bold and progressive vision a reality for New York.
I do want to just take a few quick moments and thank some people – in addition to the mayor, of course, for his trust. I want to thank Bill Hyers who advocated for me to be on his team. I think it's likely I may not be here today without Mr. Hyers. I want to take a moment to thank a host of seasoned New York communications experts, who helped me along the way learn the ropes of this market, including folks like Jonathan Rosen, Dan Levitan, John Del Cecato, Alex Navarro McKay.
I'm going to thank the people on the stage, many of whom I'm looking forward to working with – a couple I have, especially Wiley Norvell and Rebecca Kirszner Katz and Mahen Gunaratna – great colleagues. I also just want to [inaudible] to my mother Maggie and stepfather Steven, Inwood residents in Upstate Manhattan, she a social services worker, he a public school teacher – they’re constant reminders of the people of New York City that we strive to serve every day in the Mayor’s Office – and my family back home in Wisconsin and friends back home in Wisconsin as well. And finally, thank you to the press corps. We may have our disagreements from time to time, but our press office will strive each day to make our relationship a productive one that works for us all. Thank you very much.
Mayor: Well done. You know, I do want to be honest that I try to let everyone freely express themselves in my team, but, you know, Phil did want to wear his native ethnic garb of the cheese head, but I told him it would be inappropriate for this press conference. I just wanted to let you know.
Unknown: Makes sense.
Mayor: There’s no football fans here, so they're not laughing at my joke.
Next I want to announce someone I have such appreciation and respect for – and I want to bring forward in a moment – Rebecca Kirszner Katz, who I'm naming special advisor. Rebecca has done outstanding work for me and my operation now, going back, in fact, to our run for public advocate.
And somehow she's put up with all of us for this long – and me in particular, because from time to time I'm known to have a strong opinion. But Rebecca will oversee our long-term media projects and planning, and she’ll be a crucial guide in our communications efforts. And she's done this for me before with great effectiveness, again, in my campaign for public advocate, my campaign for mayor, and many times in between.
One of the things – there's many things I love about Rebecca, but one of the things is that she understands what families are facing in this city. She is a proud mother of two. She is a proud Brooklyn resident. And whenever we’ve talked about education and childcare and so many other issues facing families in this city, she brings a special understanding of the challenges of families and always infuses that into all we do. So, beyond her tremendous communication skills, she has a conscience and a heart that informs so much of what we do. And she, I have to say, has been like sometimes the fifth member of our immediate family. Chirlane and I have turned Rebecca so frequently and we have such personal trust in her and such appreciation for all she's done to guide us.
She also happens to be a master of the digital age, and particularly focused on social media. From Twitter to Facebook, from BuzzFeed to HuffPost, she has focused us all the time on the full range of media that people are learning from every day.
She also, however, has plenty of old school traditional press jobs as well, serving over the course of her career as Communications Director for U.S. Senate Leader Harry Reid. She ran the Senate's communications war room. She assisted in the planning and execution of the White House’s communications strategy for the confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. And she assisted Planned
Parenthood nationally in the fight against the unprecedented assaults on women's rights and women's health by the Congress in 2011.
She has done it all, but now, she gets to have the ultimate experience of New York City Hall. We welcome Rebecca Kirszner Katz.
Rebecca Katz: I've known and worked with Mayor de Blasio for almost ten years, and I am so proud and humbled to be joining his administration. There were many days over the course of the last few years that I was told that this day – this administration – was never going to happen, but here we are. And after years of talking about his progressive vision for New York and about ending this tale of two cities, I'm ready to make it happen.
As a soon-to-be New York City public school parent, working in this administration is personal to me, and I couldn't be more thrilled to get to work. So, thank you, Mayor de Blasio, for this honor.
Mayor: Thank you. Now, here's the question – I want you to stand here a moment. Do we need to step stool because I –
Rebecca: Is this going to be a short joke?
Mayor: No, this is a step stool question. Did we need the step stool in that situation?
Mayor: All right, come forward – we have to be seen together. I want to apologize for the last step stool. It won't happen again. All right. I want the step stool over here for the next step-stool individual – step-stool-capable or qualifying individual. Who will be our next announcement? Who's got the step stool? Ronalie, you ready? Step stool, at the ready? All right.
One newcomer today and she is just an extraordinary talent – and I do not lightly bring new talent into such a charged and challenging atmosphere. They have to prove to me that they've walked through fire before, and I can safely say that Marti Adams has met that test, and she will join us as First Deputy Press Secretary.
Now, again, you know a number of people that are here, and they're extraordinary. Marti's work in her still-young career really stands out and convinced me quickly that she belongs here with us, and she will serve as the Chief Spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, a tough job but one for which she is ready.
Her career has been nothing short of meteoric. She started as a Press Assistant to the Obama campaign in New Hampshire back in 2007 – and I have seen and we talked about this – I've seen her résumé – she was in the very, very, very early wave, before was a sure thing. And things looked quite speculative, but she joined and she believed and by the end of campaign, she had risen to become the Deputy Press Secretary for Michelle Obama.
She was one of the original 19 day-one staffers at the United States Treasury Department, beginning in the midst of the financial crisis. Remember what January 20th, 2009 was like at the Treasury
Department. The folks who went in there in the first wave had to deal with extraordinary challenges, literally world historic challenges and she was part of that core group that helped to stabilize the dynamics.
She served for three years at Treasury as a Spokesperson for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Later, in President Obama's reelection campaign, Marti was the Director for Event
Communications for the national campaign. She was responsible for the planning, messaging, branding, and logistics for every event that President Obama appeared at in the course of the 2012 campaign. She is a rising star. She is battle-tested, but she also brings a great and winning personality and intellect to her work, and we welcome Marti Adams.
And you will get a step stool. The step stool – look at that – it happened. Well done, Ronalie.
Marti Adams: Flawlessly executed. Good afternoon. I am deeply grateful to Mayor de Blasio for the opportunity to join his administration as First Deputy Press Secretary. Nothing can truly prepare someone for the New York City press corps, but given my experiences working in the trenches of the Treasury Department at the height of the financial crisis and on both of President Obama's campaigns, I've developed a great deal of respect for the press corps here and I'm ready to get to work.
Mayor de Blasio has committed to resolving the inequality crisis that exists in our city today. And as he takes the city in a new progressive direction, my colleagues and I will be telling that story, ensuring a free flow of information to members of the media and to residents of New York about the work that the administration is engaged in.
Our job is to open up the hood of City Hall to show you the work public servants are performing each and every day. Again, thank you, Mayor de Blasio. It's a great privilege to be named to this position, and I look forward to working with you to facilitate a full and robust dialogue with the people of the City of New York. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Welcome. We're working on our step stool timing. Ronalie is really increasing the speed with each transaction here.
Now, this next announcement is very, very personal for me. And I mentioned to you guys yesterday when I stood up here for the first time that, as a guy who started out as a junior staffer in this building, it was a very personal and moving moment for me to stand on this side of the podium.
Well, when I was in this building as a junior staffer, I had a day in 1992 when I finally had gotten enough of a meaningful portfolio that I was allowed to have an assistant – and I was blessed to have an assistant named Angela Banks.
Now, many of you have gotten to know Angela over the years, and I've heard very, very warm things from members of the press corps and from so many people who’ve worked this building about her great work. But I have the fondest memories of being a young staffer starting out and having someone who I could turn to and trust and who was a wise head even at that young moment in her life, and very effective. And so, we are going to officially name Angela as the Director of Operations for the Press Office.
We met, as I said, I guess it would be almost 22 years ago at the time that I was an assistant to the late Bill Lynch, who we miss very much. And Angela and I went through the fire together. Those were some tough years, tough times, but she stayed cool. She always had something wise and insightful to say, and she had a great way with people.
What we didn't know at the time that later became publicly known was that she also was endowed with great musical talent. So, some of you may know that for a period of time in her – outside her working hours, Angela was a well-known rap artist, even at one point gracing the cover of Billboard Magazine – talk about multi-tasking. So – one day, I've devoted my administration to getting Angela to rap again on the public stage.
She has done so much working in the Mayor’s Office, including an ever-expanding role in the press office, and I can safely say – I knew it before, but my staff quickly confirmed to me after just a few days that the Press Office of the Mayor's Office of New York City literally could not run without Angela Banks – and I will be the fourth mayor she has served. And I am proud to give her the public recognition she so richly deserves – welcome back, Angela.
Angela Banks: I've worked with City Hall for the last 23 years, and today is one of my proudest moments. I started working with Bill de Blasio when he was a junior level during the Dinkins Administration, and today I work with him as Mayor of the City of New York. I thank you, mayor. I thank the press team here for realizing my potential.
I know how important this job. And since the press office is the front line of the Mayor’s Office, I am proud to serve my mayor and my city. Special thanks to my family for understanding my hectic work schedule – and thank you all.
Mayor: Next, I want to introduce someone who I have a special appreciation for, because – I tell the members of my team, I’ve been at this work a number of years, and so I've had the honor of having just extraordinary people work with me over the years. But there's a special, special category for people who served on one of my teams and have either the generosity or the madness to return to our team – and Maibe Ponet is such an example. She will serve as one of our two deputy press secretaries.
I have to tell you a little story about how Maibe and I first worked together. We had known each other over the years, and then when I was elected public advocate, I asked her to come and serve as my press secretary.
Now, you – some of you have some institutional memory. Literally, in the first weeks and months of the Public Advocate’s Office, we literally did not have a budget. Go back and check your history – you’ll remember the controversies at that time.
We started out with a very gray situation about our budget. We could literally have fit our entire staff into a booth at the Little Purity diner in my neighborhood. So we had very little to work with, but we did have heart and commitment to our mission, and no one embodied that spirit more than Maibe Ponet.
I can tell you that anyone who works with her comes to know that she is an extraordinarily generous and good human being that's in this work for all the right reasons. And she got us through. No matter what we were up against, she got us through, she set up an operation, and she made it a great one. And she was particularly helpful to our team as we started our earliest work on education policy, since she had done a previous stint at the New York City Department of Education.
She then had a great opportunity to become the opinion page editor at El Diario, where I must say totally objectively, she has written extraordinary editorials. I think she's been a great voice of conscience in this city. And she spoke out for social and economic justice, and she particularly spoke out on behalf of the over 2 million Latino New Yorkers and their needs. And I remember, in fact, sitting across from her at the editorial board meetings of El Diario. Even though she was my former employee and friend, she was tough, she was insightful. I know her intentions were good, but she grilled me just as hard as anyone.
Now, Maibe will help us in so many ways. She'll bring her great experience in government, her great knowledge of education, her tremendous understanding of the Latino community of this city, and she will be particularly charged with making sure that our administration's message reaches the many, many – well over a million Spanish speakers – primary language speakers – in this city. But I also will say, as you heard earlier today, I know what I don’t know – and I know that my Spanish is a work in progress and Maibe – I've told her she could get one of those rulers that the teachers used to have, and she could rap my knuckles whenever my pronunciation is not good enough. So, she will be my – she will be my leading inspiration in improving my Spanish language skill. We welcome back Maibe
Ponet as Deputy Press Secretary.
Maibe Ponet: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio, and the team for having me back and giving me this amazing opportunity. I am very excited to be part of this press team. As a Latina and immigrant myself, and having to spend many years as a reporter and editor for the Spanish language newspapers, I – I am really looking forward to working not only with Latino press, but also with community and ethnic media, and giving them, you know, whatever help they need to be in touch with all of us here at City Hall. I'm very excited and looking forward to working with everyone. A few words in Spanish?
Mayor: Could you really? Oh, you speak Spanish?
[Maibe Ponet speaks in Spanish]
Mayor: Ronalie almost did a diving – diving removal of the step stool – very impressive.
Now, a man who needs no introduction. Wiley Norvell will also serve as a Deputy Press Secretary – and talk about having gone through the fire.
So, when Maibe went off to El Diario, Wiley stepped in and did an extraordinary job from day one. And I'm going to try and, as much as possible, make fun of you in everything I do in this introduction, so just prepare yourself.
Wiley has been another voice of conscience in our team and someone who just has tremendous personal integrity and an incredible work ethic. I remember we – I think we particularly got to bond together during the great snowstorm of 2010, I think it was. And no matter where we went you remember that it was hard to get around, and Wiley had very ambitious ideas of where we could go on foot to visit the different parts of New York City, and he also believed in the power of mass transit. The problem was a lot of mass transit wasn't working, but his goals were very good, and we went all over the city together, and I got to know right away what an extraordinary work ethic, what extraordinary heart Wiley Norvell has.
Now, Wiley – I don’t know if you know this – Wiley started out his career on the other side of this podium. He started out his career as a reporter, covering City Hall and in particular covering LGBT issues – not here in New York, but in Toronto, Canada – a place with very interesting local politics. And – unfortunately, Wiley was not around for that part – it got substantially more interesting after you left.
Wiley came here to New York City, rose to become the Communications Director for Transportation Alternatives where he really took a wonderful organization, but an organization with very modest means, and turned it into an extraordinary advocacy organization, projecting their message very, very effectively during his watch.
Now, power and influence and status has not gone to Wiley Norvell's head. You will not see him being driven about in his city car. You will, in fact, see him on his bike, biking to work every day, year round, no matter what the weather. Is that a pledge? Are you going to pledge in front of them?
Wiley Norvell: Including today.
Mayor: Including today – the mark of integrity.
Wiley, as I said, joined our team as press secretary, picking up where Maibe left off. He has stuck with this team through thick and thin, and has earned a reputation for honesty and integrity from all staff, but also from members of the media. He was there, as I said, during the snowstorm. He was there – every time we want to do a Worst Landlords Watchlist press conference, it appeared to be freezing cold out – it seemed, again, to be just something we always experienced. Whatever it took, Wiley was there to make sure that our progressive agenda got out to the people of this city – and that's exactly what we expect him to do as he continues his great work on our City Hall press team. Wiley –
Wiley: Thank you very much, Mayor de Blasio. I'm not going to get tired of saying that. I remember watching you on the steps of City Hall, fighting against overturning term limits, and I sort of drank the Kool-Aid then and I never really stopped. I really believe strongly in public service. I’m the son of two public school teachers – one of whom is here today – and I believe the mission we're all done together.
I come out of the world of advocacy, and the great Gene Russianoff starting me off, one of my first days, telling me that press coverage was the coin of the realm – and in government the exchange rates are a little bit different, but still critically important in everything we do.
I look forward to work with everybody here. This incredible team – Rebecca Katz, I probably would not be here if you hadn't convinced Bill to take a chance on me, so looking forward to everything.
Mayor: Finally, I'm happy to bring forward another great veteran of our team, Mahen Gunaratna. Mahen will be our Director of Research and Media Analysis – and his story is just fantastic. He was born in Manhattan, but his parents immigrated to New York City first from Sri Lanka, then by way of Jamaica. So, you know, I – you've met a lot of people like this – they came from Sri Lanka, they went to Jamaica, then they came to New York City – it's very typical.
So, he is – he has got a great personal New York story, and like some of the other folks I've talked about today, when Mahen decided to get into a public work, he got in with both feet and had an extraordinary baptism by fire. He was the communications director in New Mexico and Arizona for Obama for America in the – help me out – which year? – help me – 2012 – I wanted to make sure I was right – and served before as Communications Director for Representative Frederica Wilson of Florida, and served as Press Secretary to Representative Kendrick Meek and his Research Director during his U.S. Senate campaign.
Over the past year Mahen's played a crucial role in our communications and research efforts. He has an uncanny ability to find an extraordinary amount of information, and many times from obscure sources, turn it into usable form, and get out in record speed. We've depended on him throughout, and he's been a great member of this team, and he will complete this extraordinary communications team that we bring to you today. Welcome, Mahen.
Mahen Gunaratna: I'd like to start by thanking Mayor de Blasio for the trust he's placed in his team. Over the past year then-candidate, now Mayor de Blasio has taught me that, despite the odds, when you stand on the side of working New Yorkers, that vision will resonate strongly across our city.
I'd also like to thank my parents Mithila and Shiranee Gunaratna, without whom I wouldn't be here today. Over 20 years ago, my parents immigrated to New York City from Sri Lanka to give their children a shot at the American dream. I'd also like to thank my sister, Shanika, for always being a guiding presence in my life.
It's been an honor supporting Mayor de Blasio's vision for progressive change across all five boroughs, and I'm humbled to get an opportunity to continue doing that in City Hall. Thank you.
Mayor: One day, we will no longer have to give you cold weather updates, but that day is not today, so we're going to go over some cold weather information before we take your questions. We have a wind chill advisory that remains in effect until 6 o'clock this evening, as everyone is experiencing bitter cold and wind – and, again, that will continue into this evening.
The record lows set today and last night – Newark, 3 degrees; Central Park, 5 degrees; La Guardia, 5 degrees; JFK, 7 degrees. And wind chills are expected tonight to go as low as negative 9, so we continue to tell people – stay in, don’t go out if you don’t need to go out. If you do go out keep your exposure limited, dress warmly, dress in layers. Temperatures on Wednesday are forecast to remain below freezing but will rise up into the higher 30s on Thursday.
The Office of Emergency Management has activated the city's winter weather emergency plan in response to these temperatures, and has just had a call with key agencies just in the last hour to coordinate activities – that will be 35 city agencies that are being coordinated on that call. And we've activated the Advance Warning System, AWS, to alert vulnerable New Yorkers about the continuing cold weather. We'll keep monitoring these conditions and we'll take additional steps as needed.
Just some quick agency updates, FDNY has 25 additional ambulance service tours in effect today to be ready for increased demand. Senior centers were on reduced hours today. They will be on regular hours tomorrow. There’s continuing efforts to double-check on homebound clients. Department of Buildings has issued an alert reminding property owners and contractors to secure construction sites in advance of the high winds, and that advisory remains in effect throughout today.
Department of Health continues to send out reminders and warnings related to some of the unintended consequences of people dealing with heat issues – obviously, one of them being the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. And again, if there's any concerns, people should call 3-1-1 if they need help.
Department of Homeless Services continues the Code Blue – extra outreach efforts to individuals on the streets and guaranteeing them immediate shelter.
Now, Department of Transportation – something I haven't been able to say in a while – alternate side parking regulations will be in effect tomorrow, January 8. Again, very important – alternate side parking will be back in effect tomorrow, January 8, to facilitate both snow removal and street cleaning. And my personal favorite – parking meters will continue to be in effect. Staten Island – this is going to be like my running joke for the entire four years. The Staten Island Ferry is running normally. Bridge crews, DOT bridge crews, and Staten Island Ferry crews will be ready with anti-icing equipment as needed.
Department of Sanitation is dispatching salt spreaders on an as-needed basis to particular icy locations, but they have now resumed normal trash and recycling collection and are trying to catch up on backlog at the same time.
Let's see what else we have for you. Just continued focus from, again, Department of Health and from Health and Hospitals Corporation on warning people of any potential danger of frostbite or hypothermia. Again, people being aware of the symptoms – unusual levels of shivering or disorientation – those might be signs of hypothermia, and people should take them very seriously.
So, with that, I think we've covered all of the updates on weather. Again, I just want to thank this extraordinary group of professionals. I really could not be more proud to have them all in the service of the people of New York City. And you will find as I have found that they are honest brokers, they have good hearts, they're good to work with, and they care deeply for the people of this city.
And with that, we welcome your questions. See – let me just do – as I like to do – first, on topic, anything related to our Press Team, and then we’ll go to off-topic. Grace –
Question: I have a question about sort of [inaudible] the hierarchy or roles within the Press Office. Traditionally, the Press Secretary is also the spokesperson for the mayor, but in this case, that’s – that’s not what you’ve set up here. Why is that? And does that mean that we don’t bother Phil, we bother Marti?
Mayor: You’re going to be bothering all of them, let’s face it. I’ll let, either here or afterwards, Phil address the division of labor. It’s a team that – you know, people are going to be handling a lot of different things, obviously. And, you know, Marti is going to be our go-to in terms of our spokesperson role. But I am certain that Phil, at other times, will jump in as well. But I think, in terms of the division of labor, we’ve set up a team that can cover a lot of ground, a lot of information in a lot of languages, 24/7. And in practice, you’ll see people trading off and sharing, but I’ll have Phil, either if you want now or at a later time, go over all the permutations.
Mayor: All right. We’ll keep it broad, and then we’ll go into it as it develops. On this, yes –
Question: Ethnic media were not served well in the previous administration, and now I see like, Maibe is here and one of us – we feel very happy and pretty excited. And so, do you want to say something about how do you want to serve ethnic media?
Mayor: I’ll say my beginning and then, Maibe, perhaps you would like to add, since you’ve lived the life, which is [inaudible] cue to have the step stool ready – we’re working on our systems here. So, we – I am such a believer in the reach and the power of ethnic media and community media. I think it – you know, we’re – we’re a huge complicated city. And I think if you really want to understand how to communicate with people, you – you have to see the whole range. Ethnic and community media play a huge role. They’re the go-to media for many New Yorkers – the first point of information for many New Yorkers. Social media plays a whole huge role, traditional media plays a huge role. And so we – from the very beginning, we tried to do this in the Public Advocate’s Office as well – we really make a focus on ensuring that we’re constantly reaching out to ethnic and community media, because we know how vital it is to so many New Yorkers. So Maibe is going to lead the effort and, again, she knows it from her own personal experience. But I can tell you, it’ll be a big priority. Why don’t you come over?
Maibe: Yeah, I – thank you. I see a few familiar faces from the ethnic media, and I think we have worked together in the past, and I’m very excited that we will be working together now. I know how difficult it can be to get in – you know, sometimes, to get information to compare all the stories, you know, when [inaudible]. And I’m really hoping that I will be able to help you and give you information you need and, you know, bring the best of my ability. So I’m excited to see you again and to see all – all the faces.
Mayor: All right. On topic? Yes?
Question: So I have two questions. One was, during – it was either the campaign or at some point in the transition, there was a story that the New York Post was working on, I think about a family member of yours, and before it was published, there was a statement released broadly to reporters. I was wondering if you could describe sort of the media strategy behind that, and if that’s something that’s going to be – that – that we could expect to see in the future. And secondly, are transcripts from press conferences going to be made available? I – I know usually it wasn’t, under your predecessor. I was wondering if that was going to be something you guys did.
Mayor: You stumped me on the second one. I don’t – I don’t know what the policy has been or should be, so I’m going to defer to the team to figure out the transcript question. That’s a – that’s an area I’m not familiar with. Again, I don’t get into a lot of the tick-tock and mechanics of things. I think the bottom line is that you have a group of folks here who are going to do really, I think, a very, very energetic job at making sure that you guys have the information you need on a timely basis. And I’m going – as I think you’ve noticed in the last few days, I’m going to be very accessible in the bargain. We’ve really tried to – particularly, given the storm dynamics – make sure that I get ample time to give you updates. So I think that’s going to be the watchword of how we approach this. Yes –
Question: Your press conferences have routinely started much later than Michael Bloomberg’s. Do you think, with your press operation here now, you’ll be more on time? Are you concerned about the city in terms of police resources that may have been wasted in idling about while waiting for you to start some of your press conferences?
Mayor: We – we start when we think everything is fully prepared. There’s lots of moving parts and lots of other things that are going on. Sometimes things happen during the time we had scheduled to start that are priorities that we have to deal with. Obviously that’s been particularly true in the last few days and as we go through a transition. So, I’m very comfortable with the way we’re doing things, and I think it will be effective and efficient.
Question: Here’s a question for Phil – I’m just curious, what sort of departures do you see in your press strategy going forward from the previous administration? Are we going to see big differences? Are there specific areas where you think there needs to be a change?
Phil: Well, I don’t want to speak to the previous administration. I think that we have – the mayor has his own vision for how we want to interact with the members of the press corp. As I said at the conclusion of my remarks, our goal is to make this a working relationship for both the Mayor’s Office and the city government and the Press Corp – being attentive to your needs in a responsive fashion. And our approach is going to be based on the leadership from the mayor, of course, and really is not going to be based on how prior administrations did their business.
Mayor: I could sing “I Did It My Way” if you’d like, but we’re – we’re definitely going to do it our way. Who am I missing here? On this topic. Rich?
Question: Just – just generally speaking, do you like the media?
Mayor: Rich, I had thought I expressed my affection to you the other day.
Mayor: The – yes, of course. I – I – as you know, I have a Jeffersonian worldview on this. I think the free press is absolutely essential to making a democracy work, and I think you’re supposed to grill us. You know, that doesn’t mean I’ll always give you the exact answer you’re looking for, but I think this is the part of the checks and balances of our society. And I also have a clear understanding of how hard your job is, and I’m thrilled to have such a great group of professionals who can hopefully get you the information you need in a very timely basis. I come from a family of journalists and – many generations – which is really a problem for these guys because I tend to edit, you know, with a very – Wiley’s experienced this once in a while, just once in a while – the red pen comes out very quickly. But I come from a family of journalists. I truly honor the trade, and we’re going to do our best to be accessible and informative. Yes –
Question: I’m wondering what lessons that you learned during the campaign about media or some of – how that may have developed over the course of the campaign [inaudible] also the beginning days of the administration? Any big regrets? Anything that you thought [inaudible]?
Mayor: It’s hard to regret anything from our campaign. You know, I think several of my colleagues mentioned how humble our endeavor was in the beginning, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the way things played out. And it’s very nice to be standing here with these wonderful people who really, you know, are so much of the reason why I have the opportunity to stand here. So I have absolutely no regrets. I think – what I would say is, everything I had ever known previously got deepened – my conviction, my adherence to these ideas was only deepened in this last year – and it is to be proactive, it’s to be strategic and clear, and to be constant in our efforts. So, you know, we really believed from the beginning that we would lay out our agenda, as you saw on January 1st, and then we would prosecute it very, very aggressively, as you saw yesterday with our efforts on pre-k – and that’s what we’ll continue to do. On this topic, yes –
Question: [inaudible] in regards to pre-k –
Mayor: Let’s just see if there’s anything else on this topic and then we’ll go to pre-k. Anything else on this topic? Going once – yes –
Question: Can you just describe the way in which you sort of take in news? Michael Bloomberg had a routine of fairly waking up early, flipping through the pages. Is there a particular routine that you have for getting your news in the morning and throughout the day?
Mayor: It’s a lot of different things, and it really depends on the day. I – I like to flip through the papers too, either at home or here. I sometimes get to listen to the news radio, depending on where I am and when, and then, you know, one or more of my colleagues will also brief me additionally in a very systematic way. So it’s all of the above. On this topic, anything else? Going once, going – I’m sorry –
Question: The quickest way to get a response from the Mayor’s Office is by sending emails or Twitter or Facebook message to –
Mayor: That’s an excellent question. What is the quickest way?
Phil: We prefer you send emails.
Mayor: We have votes for emails? Emails, emails – emails it is.
Question: What’s the email address?
Mayor: What’s the email address? Okay.
Question: On that note, if we don’t get a response from someone in, like, a couple hours, what should we do? Call the office? Email –
Mayor: I would say you organize a band with clubs and sticks, and you come down from Room 9, and you menace the Press Office. No, no, no – I wouldn’t do that. I don’t think the – I don’t think the Intelligence Division would like that all. No, that’s not a good idea. I – I think with these talented professionals, you should get responses quite quickly. And I think, again, as I said, I’m a great believer in Jeffersonian democracy, I’m a great believer in the free press. We will give you a response. It may not always be the response you were hoping for, but we will give you prompt responses. On this topic – yes, Rich.
Question: Just a follow up –
Mayor: Rich is about to say, “Well, about that idea with the stick and the clubs.” No, no – Rich, that was a joke. That was a joke.
Question: Since you do come from a family of journalists –
Question: – did it ever occur to you to maybe follow that, to do that? Did you ever think about it?
Mayor: I appreciate the question. I did for a bit, never overly coherently. It – it certainly went through my mind what an incredible impact – I – I must say, and this is part of my love for the media – it doesn’t always show, but it’s in there – I always say, I’m a child of the Watergate Summer. And I had an extraordinary experience a year or two ago, when I first met Carl Bernstein, who’s, I think, one of the people – I never met him before – but one of the people who had the biggest impact on my life with Bob Woodward, because, for any of us who were deeply affected by that moment in history, those two individuals framed and, you know, created that moment so much and so deeply. So – and I – by the way, something I shared along the way with my former employer, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, those of you who know your facts know, was on – was a staff attorney for the Watergate Committee. And so, from my point of view, some extraordinary noble things have been achieved and societal-changing things and very progressive things have been achieved because of the efforts of journalists. And the Watergate Summer, if you – if, like me – and I guess I was a strange 12-year-old that I wanted to spend my summer watching the Watergate hearings – but if you have ever – if you’ve ever seen them, if you were there for it, if you’ve seen the tape, it was one of the most riveting things that’s happened in the history of the Republic, but it was an affirmation of democracy. It was an affirmation of what good elected leaders can do, even in the face of tremendous odds. It was certainly an affirmation of the role of the media in our society. So I’m sure I thought about it, but I think I felt more moved by this type of public service. Anything else on this topic? And now, we will go to off-topic. Who had their hand up for off-topic? Yes –
Question: Hi. Congratulations to your team. So Governor Cuomo has unveiled [inaudible] policy to fund pre-K out of the state budget rather than through taxes. Is that good enough for you, or must it be a tax on the wealthy? And is this contrasting view from a fellow Democrat and colleague adversarial?
Mayor: I have – everyone knows I have tremendous respect for Governor Cuomo, so much because I had worked directly for him and with him for three years of my life, and just consider him a great, great colleague, and I think we’re going to be able to work together on behalf of the people of this city seamlessly. I think this plan we put forward is absolutely necessary for the future of New York City. And I talked about this yesterday, we need consistency in this funding. Once we start this, we have to see it through. And that’s why when I originally proposed it in October 2012, I talked about a five-year plan. We named the dollar figure from the beginning, we talked about how we would get it done, but the only way it’s going to work is with a dedicated funding stream. We need the money – at the level we’ve asked for, we need a dedicated funding stream. We need it for five years. And doing things in annual budget fights, that’s not a secure way of funding a long-term plan. And I also think it’s fair. I think the way that we want to bring this revenue into the city is absolutely right and fair. I think those who make a half million or more can afford to help a little more, and it’s just good government to do it this way. So I remain focused on getting this done this way, and as you know, we have tremendous support for this plan. Yes –
Question: You released your tax return when you were running for mayor. I’m wondering if you think that Melissa Mark-Viverito should release hers, and also to what extent did you vet her before supporting her for City Council Speaker?
Mayor: I’ve known her for almost a decade. I’ve worked very closely with her. I have tremendous respect for her. I think she’s a person of great integrity. So my vetting process was through working shoulder to shoulder with her in the City Council and on a whole host of issues. I believe in disclosure. I hope and I believe everyone should do disclosure as quickly as they can, and I would encourage that. Yes –
Question: I asked this question several days ago, but if you – if you want a consistent funding stream, why are you raising the idea of the temporary tax? Why not – why a [inaudible] tax? At the end of five years –
Mayor: Yeah, no, I appreciate the question. I get it, and I talked about this yesterday as well. Because, look, I always remind people one of the things that I experienced directly was the Safe Streets, Safe City program, and I mentioned it yesterday when we announced Mindy Tarlow as our Director of Operations, who was one of the people deeply involved in constructing that effort. That was a seven-year tax that had a huge impact on the city, but it was built to achieve its goals and then lapse and ensure that the work would be continued in another manner, and I think that’s fair. I think when you ask the public to participate in achieving something we need to achieve, there has to be specificity. In this case, for example, I’m not saying support education in all its forms – I’m saying support pre-k, support afterschool, because I believe this is the most pivotal investment we can make. I believe five years gives us enough time to get it up and running, and running effectively, and then we have to find other resources to support it. So I think it’s a fair investment, and it’s fair to ask people in this city who happen to make a half million or more to give us that start. And then we will show, by increasing the efficiency of government, that we will sustain it thereafter. Yes –
Question: Can you talk about re-implementing [inaudible] vouchers [inaudible]?
Mayor: Yes. I don’t have the timeframe yet. I said throughout the last year that I intend to do that and I look forward to doing it. You know, I fought for years to preserve them. I think it was a deeply unfair action by the previous administration to cut them fully – and 100 percent cut – and I look forward to restoring them as quickly as possible, but I can’t give you a timeline until we have a little more chance to research the situation.
Question: Mr. Mayor, do you believe that the City Council should have the power to set the city income tax rate, and have you considered asking Albany to give the city that power instead of asking them specifically for this tax hike?
Mayor: I – look, this – we talked about this yesterday as well – I absolutely think on taxation issues the City of New York should be self-determining. I believe that about rent regulation, I believe that about a lot of things. I know that that’s going to be probably a longer struggle in Albany to get those changes made, but there’s no question. We – we’re a city of 8.4 million people – we’re larger than most states – of course we should have the right to make our own decisions on revenue. Yes –
Question: Do you think Melissa Mark-Viverito, if she wins tomorrow, she’ll be held to the same level of scrutiny as Speaker Quinn was during her campaign, when you accused her several times of being in the pocket of Mayor Bloomberg, because you are supporting her?
Mayor: I will only say this – the – you know, you cannot – if people want to make the parallel, they can – and I understand if that’s what people see is the logic. I think they were profoundly different realities. I won’t go into details. I think people can fill in the blanks for themselves, but they were profoundly different realities. And the bottom line is, I’ve said throughout, the council members are going to make the decision, and then I know that they will be independent and she will be independent. I have no doubt about it. I think if she’s chosen, she’ll do a great job. And I think we have very similar values and goals for this city, but I guarantee you there will be a lot of independence. Let me go over to this side. Emily –
Question: May I ask about your trip to Albany tomorrow – what you hope to achieve and whether you’ll be meeting with legislators, in addition to attending the speech?
Mayor: Well, the first focus is the speech itself, and I want to be there to support Governor Cuomo, and I want to be there out of a sense of being his colleague in the work we do. And I was honored that he was here for my inauguration, and I expect that we’ll often gather together when either one of us is taking a major initiative. This is someone I can’t say often enough how closely I worked with Governor Cuomo and how close our relationship has been now almost over 20 years. So I look forward to supporting him, I’m excited for his speech, and we’re going to try and see if we can get some other meetings in quickly, but, you know, I certainly intend to go back up to Albany in the coming weeks for more substantial meetings. Yeah –
Question: I’m wondering if you could go back to – during the campaign you promised to – one of the planks was eliminating member items. Now [inaudible] charter reforms and [inaudible] is reforming how member items [inaudible]. I’m curious how plan on reconciling that campaign promise with the [inaudible]?
Mayor: By definition, it’s a conversation we have to have when the new council is in, when the new speaker is chosen. My goal – and I hope to see it implemented as quickly as possible – is to end member items as we’ve known it. It’s happened at the federal level, and it’s happened at the state level. I think the City of New York needs to follow suit. So my preference is that we end them immediately. Of course, there will be a negotiation with the City Council over that. I do think that the reforms put forward – if there were member items for any ongoing period of time – that they’d be reformed, made more transparent, made more fair and equal among districts. That certainly would constitute progress, but my goal is as quickly as possible to see them eliminated.
Question: How do you feel about the governor’s statements yesterday in which he favors tax cuts for corporations and businesses, but he said nothing about a higher tax for the wealthiest in the state?
Mayor: I’ve said this consistently – the governor has to think about the interest of the State of New York. He was elected on a vision that he put forward very clearly. He was elected with a strong vote in 2010, and he’s implementing his vision and he’s talking about the state revenue, state taxes, state government – and that’s exactly appropriate. I’m talking about the needs of the City of New York. I’m talking about the ability of the City of New York to tax its own citizens for city revenue to provide full-day pre-k for every child and afterschool for every middle-school child, so I think it’s apples and oranges. I respect the governor greatly. I respect that he has put forward a platform he thinks is best for the state, but I’ll keep saying this is what the city needs.
Question: [inaudible] he sees it as apples and oranges. There’s been no comment from him supporting the tax on the rich –
Mayor: He’s been, I think, very clear on the building blocks here. He believes that pre-k is essential. He said that absolutely independently of me, and he’s reiterated it many, many times. He has said he will look at this proposal with an open mind, and that will begin a larger process of discussions around it. So I think that’s perfectly fair.
Unknown: Last question.
Mayor: Last question – so many to choose from.
Question: Could you just explain a little bit about the profoundly different realities between Christine Quinn’s relationship with Bloomberg and yours with Melissa Mark-Viverito?
Mayor: You know, you – you have no imagination. I just said you could use your imagination.
Question: Well – well, I know, but –
Mayor: I think I’ll just say it this way – Michael Bloomberg and I are very different people – in ideology and in many other ways – and I just think it’s a different reality. And you know, I am blessed that whatever ability I have to have an impact in this city is derived by the support of the people and nothing else – and I will work with the City Council with that in mind. Thank you very much.