Bill de Blasio may look like a standard-issue, white, patriarchal politician, but he is far from it. The former city councilman and public advocate was sworn in as the 109th Mayor of New York City a year ago this week, and in the short span of a year, he has shown himself to be a person of strength and determination who is not afraid to stand up to his city's entrenched institutions - particularly the police department and the police union.
De Blasio ran for mayor on a promise to end the indiscriminate "stop and frisk" tactic that was a staple of police procedure in his city, and one that was routinely used against individuals of color. The voters must have seen some merit to that issue, because de Blasio was elected with over seventy-four percent of the popular vote.
There were some elements in New York City who seemed to have a distrust of the new mayor from day one. While he is white and looks the part of an acceptable municipal daddy figure, the new mayor has a black wife and two mixed-race teens. His son, Dante, in fact, looks strikingly like a young Barack Obama.
All of that simmering distrust and resentment came to a head late last year after New York City police killed a couple of unarmed individuals and a child - all people of color. Both Mayor de Blasio and President Obama expressed concern at the situation, and the mayor spoke of "a deep distrust" that existed between the city's law enforcement and "communities of color." Mayor deBlasio also mentioned that he has cautioned his teenage son to take extra care in any encounters which he might have with the police.
The police were not happy with what many saw as a slap in the face from the mayor, and a few weeks later when a person with serious mental health issues executed a pair of policemen, New York City law enforcement turned its back on the mayor - figuratively and literally. The head of the police union complained that the mayor's criticism of police had led to the killings, and when the mayor attended services for the fallen patrolmen, the men in the blue uniforms turned their backs on him en masse.
One of the stated complaints from the police department is that they did not appreciate the advice that the mayor had given his son - advice that hundreds of thousands of black parents no doubt routinely share with their own children in an effort to keep them safe.
But Bill de Blasio has not backed down. In the face of massive police protests, he stands tall and continues to function as a formidable presence in the mayor's office. Police power requires constant monitoring - because without oversight, that power quite often morphs into uncontrolled aggression. Bill de Blasio is not afraid to stand tall and hold that angry blue line in place.
I honor and respect Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. He is, like our revolutionary patriots, standing tall in the face of tyranny - and we are all in his debt.
Good work, Mr. Mayor!