New York has a new mayor and the whole world is watching

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World.
Chances are many of you woke up this morning to political changes after yesterday's elections. New Yorkers certainly did. Progressive democrat Bill de Blasio will replace republican billionaire Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York City. It's a big change that's bound to make global headlines. I spoke with John Cassidy about that, he's a staff writer with 'The New Yorkers' magazine.
This isn't just about New York and New Yorkers, is it, I mean New York is a global city, a world city. What do you think Bill de Blasio's victory actually means to the rest of the world?

John Cassidy: Well, I think for anybody who lives in a large metropolis like New York, it means quite a lot. I mean, de Blasio is basically challenging the conventional wisdom about big cities that has been in effect for 20, 30 years, and that was that you... because of globalization, and because banks and big companies like that can move around, basically they hold the whip hand and the city governments have to be pretty tame. They can't put up taxes, they have to give big companies sweetheart deals, etcetera, to make them locate there. de Blasio's saying, "No, hang on a minute, we can actually impose a progressive agenda on a city." We can raise taxes on some of the rich; he's going to raise taxes on anybody earning over 500,000 dollars a year. And we can stop doing these sort of tax break deals with big corporations, and use that money for things like education and other social programs. So it's a big challenge to the conventional wisdom of how you run big cities these days, and I think it does have global implications.

Werman: Is there something you know about Bill de Blasio that might lead us to believe that his ideas for big cities, like what he might do in New York, would they actually be translatable for say, Mumbai, in India?

Cassidy: Well, I think that translatable anywhere, obviously the local context defines what you can do to some extent. But the basic idea of skimming a bit of money off the top and using it to invest in local education, for example, I think that's translatable all around the world. And de Blasio's predecessor was always saying, "We can't raise taxes because we're in competition with London, we're in competition with Tokyo," other great, you know, international cities, and if companies... we'd raise taxes too much, these companies would locate there rather than here. de Blasio's challenging that idea head on, saying, "Look, these people want to live in New York because it is a great city."

Werman: I mean, for the new mayor of a truly global city, Bill de Blasio's had some interesting international connections and experience. What really formed his world view that presumably will further shape this world city?

Cassidy: Yeah, it's a good question whether he has a really global view. I mean, he is very much a product of New York and Boston, where he grew up. But he has... what we know of him, is that in his younger days he was very progressive, he was a progressive activist, he was involved in trying to get affordable housing for poor people. He was a supporter for the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and actually went down there at one point, tried to raise money for them. So he certainly comes from the world of progressive activism. However, he has changed quite a lot over the years. He would probably say he evolved and matured, and he's been working within the city government, or the state, or the federal government, for 20 years now. So, we just have to see how he shapes up as mayor.

Werman: I mean, his wife, Chirlane McCray, also has this international connection to the Caribbean and roots that extend all the way back to Ghana.

Cassidy: On a personal basis, there's no doubt about it. I mean, if you do... I was at de Blasio's victory party last night, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and saw his family close up. And you know, they do it like a Benetton ad. You know, his son has got this fantastic afro. His wife is a very striking African-American woman. He sort of gives the image to New York, and to the world, as this sort of, you know, multi-racial family, a very cosmopolitan family. And that's been big strength to him during the campaign. In fact, mayor Bloomberg accused him of sort of exploiting his family for political reasons. I think that was going a bit too far, but he certainly hasn't been shy about putting them out there.

Werman: John Cassidy with 'The New Yorker' magazine. Thanks very much for your time.

Cassidy: Thank you.