Even if you’re not from the greater New York City area, you’re probably familiar with its current mayor, Bill de Blasio, if only because of his hilariously failed presidential bid. (Or his penchant for murdering rodents on Groundhog’s Day.) You may not be quite as familiar, however, with the “co-mayor” of Gotham. That would be Bill’s wife, Chirlane McCray, the proud mother of their children. She’s referred to as the co-mayor because she somehow keeps winding up having “jobs” involved in the running of the city.
Despite the fact that she didn’t run for any office and not a single person cast a vote for her for anything, McCray was previously put in charge of a mental health initiative named ThriveNYC back in 2015. Several years later, the project was canceled without any clear indication that a single objective of the program had been achieved in any meaningful way. But not before she managed to make nearly a billion dollars in taxpayer funds disappear down the rabbit hole of that project.
Then, in 2018, the Mayor’s wife was put in charge of another project called She Built NYC. The purpose of this effort was to alleviate the disparity between the number of statues of men and of women in the Big Apple’s various parks and other public spaces. (The current tally stands at 142 statues of men compared to 8 statues of women.) This was another project that was going to soak up some taxpayer money, but polling indicated that a majority of people thought it was a nice idea, so off she went. Sadly, more than two years later, not only hasn’t there been a single statue of a woman erected, but the committee in charge of the project has only agreed on a single subject (Shirley Chisholm) with an artist signed on to create it, but work on the finished object isn’t even scheduled to begin yet. This is being described by some observers as either a “debacle” or a “monumental failure.” (Pun intended… New York Post)
First lady Chirlane McCray’s pet project to erect more city statues to women is a monumental failure, critics say.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife started the effort two years ago — yet has chosen only one artist for a single monument so far…
“There is no leadership, there is [no] follow-through. There’s no one at the helm,” City Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx), a member of the body’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, griped to The Post.
“The Shirley Chisholm monument is the only project for which an artist has been selected, and we anticipate that it will be installed next year,” the McCray rep said regarding She Built NYC.
The excuse being offered by McCray’s office (yes, she has an office with staffers on the city payroll) is that progress has been delayed because of the coronavirus. There are two problems with that, however. First of all, she had more than a year and a half to get moving on this effort before the pandemic blew into town. And second, the restrictions on construction projects below a certain size and maximum number of workers were lifted at the end of June. Except for the transportation of the raw materials and establishing a concrete base, this is pretty much a one-person job so it would be fine. She’s had plenty of time to get things back into gear. And yet nothing has happened.
Presumably based on her spectacular success with ThriveNYC and She Built NYC, Hizzoner tasked her with yet another project to supervise earlier this summer. McCray is in charge of a committee known as the Racial Justice Taskforce that will review statues of “problematic” historical figures associated with slavery such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to determine their fate. Given her remarkable ability to get things done on past assignments, I think George and Tom can probably rest easy for a while longer.
The problem is, the Mayor’s wife keeps ending up being put in charge of these projects despite having no official position with the municipal government. The excuse the Mayor’s office always invokes when this issue is brought up is that “the first lady is not paid for her work on either project and uses existing city employees for them.”
But that really doesn’t address the issue, does it? Sure, she may not be drawing a paycheck directly, but the people assigned under her are city employees who already had other jobs. They are paid by the taxpayers and they are not doing those other jobs when they are working on McCray’s pet projects. Also, these projects soak up significant amounts of funding that she is empowered to spend and, from the looks of things, there is very little oversight of the money and sufficient recordkeeping is not taking place. How is this allowable?
This is all too reminiscent of when Hillary Clinton somehow wound up involved in developing a new national healthcare scheme when she was the First Lady. Being married to a chief executive does not make you qualified or entitled to take on some sort of official role, particularly when actually taxpayer money is involved or legislation is being considered. If my sink is broken, I’ll call a plumber, not someone who is married to a plumber. And if we don’t like the “job” they are doing, there is no mechanism for the voters to remove a First Spouse from “office.”