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De Blasio Calls on U.S. Mayors to Fight Income Inequality

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called on fellow U.S. city leaders to tackle a nationwide “inequality crisis” with policies such as paid sick days and universal pre-kindergarten.

Mayors need to bypass the “frustrating paralysis” of congressional politics, the 52-year-old Democrat said today at at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington. Such “progressive” moves, which he’s championing in New York, will create a new standard to achieve shared prosperity, de Blasio said. The speech was his first outside of the city since taking office 23 days ago, following a landslide victory.

“This town we’re in here has been gripped in a frustrating paralysis and so it turns, we turn as a nation, to all of us, to the mayors of this country, to address the root causes of inequality,” de Blasio said in a 17-minute speech. “We should have a consistent federal partner in that endeavor. We understand that that’s not today’s reality. So it’s up to us.”

De Blasio is positioning himself as a leader in a national movement for a “progressive urban agenda” that got him elected by 49 percentage points, the largest margin for a non-incumbent in city history. His speech today echoed remarks made last month after joining 15 other mayors and mayors-elect for a White House meeting with President Barack Obama, where he emerged as the group’s spokesman.

Washington Gridlock

Mayors need to work together to be heard in Congress, where gridlock has resulted in the shortchanging of cities, he said. That’s the way to ensure their needs are met for funding transportation, infrastructure and affordable housing, he said.

The audience’s applause contrasted with the reception de Blasio has received from New York’s other top leader and fellow Democrat, Governor Andrew Cuomo, on his signature campaign pledge to begin to tackle inequality by taxing the rich to provide universal pre-K.

In his speech, and later while talking to reporters, de Blasio continued to press his argument that Cuomo’s offer -- to fund early learning statewide through the general fund -- isn’t good enough.

“I want revenue that the people of New York City provide and control,” and won’t be subject to the vagaries of politics in Albany, the capital, he said.

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