Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

Maya Wiley’s radical mayoral bid threatens an already crisis-ridden NYC

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Now that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have both endorsed Maya Wiley’s mayoral bid, we should take a closer look at the panoply of awful ideas these progressive stars are happily embracing. 

We can hope that Wiley’s candidacy won’t succeed — but we must fear that it just might. A new poll puts her in second place, with 17 percent of the vote after rocketing up 8 points. Even if she loses, Wiley’s tsunami of bad proposals might engulf the mayoralty of even a nominally moderate candidate, much as Warren’s and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ ideas have infiltrated the Biden administration.

Reducing the size and budget of the NYPD amid a crime wave is only her most obviously wrongheaded idea. New Yorkers consistently tell pollsters that public safety is their No. 1 issue, and Wiley’s radical anti-anti-crime vision would leave an already-strapped police force overwhelmed by bad guys who are already bathing the city in blood.

But there are plenty of other bad Wiley ideas. Consider her proposal to “keep public housing public.” It’s an ideological response to a $40 billion backlog in capital repairs that leaves New York City Housing Authority residents shivering in winter and flooded in the summer.

She is pushing back against the most practical way to fix NYCHA that’s come along in years: CEO Greg Russ’ plan to establish public-private partnerships to renovate and manage 110,000 crumbling units. Private management doesn’t mean housing projects won’t remain public, but it might fix the leaks and take down all the sidewalk sheds that shield criminals.

In Wiley’s dreamland, NYCHA residents will set priorities and do repairs themselves, and she can find only $2 billion for NYCHA repairs. Get out your toolboxes, NYCHA residents!

Then there is her misconception that “housing affordability and homelessness are two sides of the same coin.” No, those sleeping on the street and troubled souls plagued by drugs and demons need care; most aren’t homeless only because they can’t pay the rent.

Dealing with the street-homeless problem requires addressing serious mental illness and aggressively using and expanding Kendra’s Law to provide involuntary care for those whose illnesses prevent them from caring for themselves. Expanding Kendra’s Law isn’t part of Wiley’s agenda.

And she mistakes the family shelter population as evidence of “an eviction crisis” — embracing the latest, COVID-inspired progressive idea to ban eviction altogether.  

Denying small-property owners the right to evict is to deny them income they need themselves — and to deny other tenants the safety that comes with slamming the door on those who commit “lease violations,” such as drug dealing and illegal gun possession.

Wiley, like Warren in her presidential campaign, has a plan for everything (New Yorkers apparently need a mayor who will plan their lives). That includes extending health insurance to the 600,000 New Yorkers she asserts lack it, presumably including many non-citizens.

Her ballyhooed “New New Deal” would target capital projects to low-income neighborhoods and reserve the construction jobs for neighborhood residents. Yet the idea that low-income neighborhoods will provide jobs for their residents misunderstands how the urban economy works.

Residents, whether of the city or suburbs, generally have to travel to where the jobs are. The key to reviving poor neighborhoods lies in improving the job skills of residents, along with reliable public transportation, so they can work construction wherever those jobs are or make their way to restaurants that are desperate for workers.

In assuming that poorer communities will be better off with self-contained economies sustained by the government, Wiley inherits the perspective of her late father, George Wiley, whom she often cites as an inspiration. Though she describes him as a civil-rights pioneer, the elder Wiley was also a skeptic of capitalism, leading the National Welfare Rights Organization and helping the city’s population on public assistance balloon to more than 1 million.

Memo to Wiley and the other progressive candidates: The city faces a tax revenue cliff as revised assessments on commercial properties inevitably reduce their bills. This is not the time for grand promises, but rather for City Hall to do the basic things right and, in that way, to provide the framework for renewed prosperity.

Howard Husock is an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. 

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