New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced the first appointments to his administration today, naming Anthony Shorris as first deputy mayor, Dominic Williams as Shorris’ chief of staff and Emma Wolfe as director of intergovernmental affairs. While introducing Shorris, de Blasio highlighted his wealth of experience in government and his effective managerial skills.
“I don’t think I know anyone who has this range of experience and achievement and will be able to work with all levels of government seamlessly… and someone who fundamentally understands the need to streamline and make efficient government operations and balance the budget,” de Blasio said.
Shorris’ City Hall experience dates back to 1978, when he served as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under former Mayor Ed Koch. Shorris ran the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 1991 to 1995, and in 2001 joined the Bloomberg administration as deputy chancellor for operations at the Department of Education. Shorris currently serves as senior vice president, vice dean and chief of staff of the NYU Langone Medical Center.
Shorris made brief remarks at the press conference, emphasizing de Blasio’s “vision of progressive change” and outlining some of the policy and legislative priorities for the next four years, including the mayor-elect’s well-publicized universal preschool proposal, an expansion of the living wage and paid sick leave laws and the creation of more affordable housing. One of de Blasio’s campaign promises was to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, and he notably credited Shorris for playing a central role in developing Koch’s landmark housing plan, which created thousands of units of affordable housing throughout the city.
Shorris was also asked if he was worried that some of the city’s business elite and the “one percent” are concerned with de Blasio’s left-of-center views. Shorris said it was not a concern of his, and highlighted his own role as a bridge builder.
“I do think there are people who are worried about it, because they don’t know Bill as well as I did or have as much exposure to him as I have over the years,” Shorris said. “I think that will change almost immediately when we start engaging with the communities that you’re talking about. Once they understand that our agenda is about a better, fairer, stronger city, they’ll be signing on with this mayor as they have with mayors in years past.”
That de Blasio expressed his confidence in Shorris’ ability to increase efficiency in government is telling. De Blasio stressed having clear lines of communication throughout city government, as well as to the public, perhaps learning from the mistakes of one of his political mentors, former Mayor David Dinkins–whom de Blasio worked under early in his political career. A common criticism of the Dinkins administration is that there was confusion as to where the lines of power extended from; Dinkins’ first deputy mayor, Norman Steisel, and Bill Lynch, the deputy mayor for intergovernmental relations, were considered equals.
“We can safely say, the majority of city agencies will report directly to the first deputy mayor, and the other deputy mayors, although they will work very closely with me, will by definition turn to the first deputy mayor to coordinate and create the central approach to this government,” de Blasio said. “The default reality in our City Hall will be, when it’s unclear who is making the decision on all the day to day matters of government, this is who we will turn to.”
Wolfe and Williams are holdovers from de Blasio’s staff in the public advocate’s office, with the former serving as his chief of staff before handing over the position to Williams when she left to serve as political director for de Blasio’s mayoral campaign. Wolfe is widely considered a rising star in political circles and will be in charge of all relationships with the City Council, governor’s office, state Legislature, state agencies and federal government, as well as the city’s community assistance unit. Wolfe will undoubtedly play a key role in the coming months in Albany negotiating de Blasio’s tax increase proposal to pay for his universal preschool program. De Blasio said that Williams’ experience with the budget, pension and labor issues in the public advocate’s office will be central to the work of the first deputy.
De Blasio gave no indication when he would be making further announcements of administration appointees, but said that Shorris would now be part of the vetting process for the remaining positions, including police commissioner and schools chancellor.
Tags: bill lynch, David Dinkins, director for intergovernmental affairs, Dominic Williams, Ed Koch, emma-wolfe, first deputy mayor, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, Norman Steisel, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER, Port Authority of NY and NJ, Tony Shorris, universal preschool