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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Former de Blasio Employee: The Mayor's Socialist Utopia Has Failed

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
Many people in New York City are unhappy with Mayor de Blasio, and a lawyer who worked for him gives many reasons why.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Inside my nightmare working in de Blasio’s government

She was a crusading lawyer and a passionate liberal who wanted to make a difference. So she took a pay cut to work for the city in the Bloomberg era and loved her work until 2014, when a new mayor took office. Four years later, she was out of a job. Now, she tells the Post’s Isabel Vincent what it’s really like working under de Blasio . . .
I graduated law school in 1999 and immediately went to work for a big law firm, representing big corporations. But I am a lifelong liberal and really wanted to put my law degree to work for social justice. I wanted to help the poor, and I was very interested in how a major city dealt with large-scale poverty reform, so I applied to work in New York City’s government.
I got a job working as a lawyer for the city in 2003, a year after Michael Bloomberg became mayor. I happily took a 20 percent pay cut because I wanted to make a difference.
His business background meant Bloomberg ran the city like a big corporation. Initially, I had negative assumptions given that he was a billionaire.
I was concerned that he was out of touch, but even so, I voted for him before I took the job. And my worries were quickly dismissed when I saw the results-oriented approach with which he ran New York City.
Under his commissioners, employees were encouraged to contribute to discussions on some of the biggest social issues that we faced as a city: homelessness, aging and education being among the most important. Everyone’s opinions were valued.
We had regular meetings and performance reviews, and as lawyers we were encouraged to partner with other city workers to visit facilities such as homeless shelters to make sure they were in compliance with the law. Back then, we lawyers were considered very vital partners and worked in tandem with social workers and others in the field.
I loved coming to work every day under Bloomberg. I loved the constructive discussions about how to fix the most urgent social problems — meetings that involved workers at the highest levels of government with the civil servants and case workers at the lowest. All opinions were valued. And I loved being out in the city and seeing how programs worked or didn’t work.
I felt I was making a difference.
When Bill de Blasio became mayor of New York in 2014, things changed drastically.
When Bill de Blasio became mayor of New York in 2014, things changed drastically. I started to hear rumblings early on. My former colleagues who were dedicated public servants were concerned by a large-scale rollback of Bloomberg’s strategic initiatives. These seemed to be based on partisan politics and black-and-white thinking as opposed to critical analysis. It was very disappointing for me since I had also voted for de Blasio.
Although I was still working in the same social-services agency where I had remained at the end of Bloomberg’s term, my job changed radically. I had no contact with the new commissioner who appeared to be disengaged from substantive discussions about social-services programs for an extremely vulnerable population. In fact, she was much more preoccupied with renovating her office — I heard her new desk alone cost thousands of dollars. She even requested that a private bathroom be built for her. She had the attitude of an oligarch and was disturbed that she had to vet invitations to galas through legal and City Hall. She wanted carte blanche to attend expensive events.
She also refused to meet with the lawyers in her department and she kept the door to her office closed and didn’t know the names of the people who worked in her agency.
Under my commissioner, there were no benchmarks, no goals and she did not hold regular meetings with her general counsel. Under her tenure, the legal unit was gutted. And there were no consequences for failing to meet performance goals because there were no performance goals.
Under the Bloomberg administration, there was a concerted effort to deal with the homeless problem. The administration answered reports of homeless people — many of them with severe psychological problems — on the subways and on the streets by immediately dispatching city workers to take them to a network of shelters where they could be cared for. There were also a lot of long-term incentives to help get people off the streets. Bloomberg spent a great deal of time during his first term in office aggressively seeking federal funds to increase the number of shelters in all five boroughs.
Bloomberg didn’t solve the homeless issue by any means, but his track record was much better than de Blasio’s. By the time Bloomberg left office in December 2013, there were about 51,000 homeless people in New York. Under de Blasio, the homeless population has ballooned to 59,638.
Today, I can’t go into the subway without seeing mentally unstable homeless people. I also feel that the demographic of the New York subway is changing rapidly as more and more of my friends take Ubers because they cannot guarantee they will get to work on time.
Nevertheless, the budget for the Department of Homeless Services under de Blasio is set to double from $1.17 billion spent in 2015 to $2.15 billion for fiscal 2018.

In addition to the increase in the homeless population, waste is on the rise in the de Blasio administration, especially when it comes to the legal department.
Well-meaning City Council politicians often bog down agencies by creating a morass of rules that are burdensome and ineffective. Bloomberg was not afraid to use his veto power and engage in negotiations with the council to apprise them of the negative effects of any proposed legislation.
In more than four years in power, de Blasio has yet to veto a single City Council resolution. As a result, the city’s lawyers are drowning under masses of paperwork, compelled to write rules for legislation that comes with an influx of new City Council laws.

Take the 2014 legislation to bring social adult day-care centers — programs that provide elderly residents who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia with meals and care in a supervised facility — under the auspices of the city.
The facilities, which are state-funded, had been riddled with Medicaid fraud and other abuses. Following an article that outlined some of the worst abuses, the City Council took up the cause and de Blasio backed it.
While well-intentioned, it was a political move that didn’t actually address the underlying issues, and the City Council literally had no understanding of the differences between federal, state and city jurisdictions.

The drafting of the rules to implement this piece of legislation took over two years.
And city oversight over state programs is a jurisdictional nightmare. How can a city agency go into a state-funded facility and pretend to have oversight?
This is what happens when there are no clear or transparent conversations between political leaders. Well-intentioned politicians create work — and don’t actually create proactive change. The underlying concerns that drove the legislation in the first place — massive fraud and lack of oversight — remained unaddressed.
In addition to massive amounts of paperwork, I was restricted in how I could carry out my duties under de Blasio.
When two city workers, who were each under a protected class, approached me with workplace discrimination complaints, I escalated their concerns. Both employees alleged discrimination and retaliation by their immediate supervisor.
I thought it was my job to mitigate risk within my city agency, and it was met with contempt.
The commissioner began to retaliate against me, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to talk to the employees who were alleging discrimination. As far as I know, their complaints were never investigated by the city.
Then suddenly this year, after 14 years in city government, I found myself out of a job — fired while I was on family leave, three years after de Blasio came to power. I believe I was terminated for investigating employee complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation and then raising my own issues.
I made every attempt to have peaceful communication, including requesting mediation provided by the city, with the commissioner.
After they refused to address my legal concerns, I had no choice but to file a claim with both the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Almost a year has passed, and there has been no attempt on the city’s part to mediate or even to set up a meeting with my attorney. They have stalled at every turn, and I find this outrageously immature.
Bill de Blasio rose to power on his promise to end “a tale of two cities,” but as mayor he rides around in an expensive car — a limousine liberal. He sues oil companies for climate change while the country’s largest public-transportation system is being run into the ground. Bloomberg rode the subway all the time.
My career spanned a handful of social-service agencies under the administrations of two very different leaders. I was shocked to discover that I actually preferred Michael Bloomberg’s very corporate City Hall to Bill de Blasio’s failed socialist utopia. Who wouldn’t?