“You can’t take the defensive lineman, hand him the ball and tell him to be the quarterback,” said New York City mayoral candidate Maya Wiley to the AmNews.
Wiley was referring to current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of testing and contact tracing during COVID-19. She was specifically referring to the mayor handing the task over to NYC Health + Hospitals after taking it from the city’s health department.
During her one-on-one with the AmNews, Wiley mapped out even more of her agenda while giving the five boroughs a peak into her bona fides.
With a focus on civil rights, Wiley told the AmNews that her desire to run City Hall is the culmination of a life devoted to serving the public.
Serving the people is in Wiley’s blood. Her father, George, a chemistry professor, made his name as an activist for the National Welfare Rights Organization and Movement for Economic Justice. George helped organize poor Black and white welfare recipients bringing about changes that gave the poor dignity in the process. She’s acquired a team that hopes to continue her father’s legacy of serving the public
Jon Paul Lupo, who served as the director of intergovernmental affairs for the de Blasio administration, joined the fold as Wiley’s campaign strategist and general consultant. Maya Rupert, who’s worked with the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro, will serve as her deputy campaign manager and Senior Campaign Advisor Alison Hirsh’s job is to make the case for Wiley to the city’s labor unions.
Wiley hopes to continue her father’s fight and more.
“My desire was to follow in Thurgood Marshall’s footsteps and work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund,” Wiley said. She got her wish on the latter with the LDF being one of the many steps to her current perch.
Wiley also a co-founded and was the president of the Center for Social Inclusion in 2002, an organization focused on combating racial inequality. She also served as an assistant attorney in the civil rights division of the District Court of the Southern District of New York. Wiley also served as a district director for Rep. Nydia Velázquez. Before announcing her run, you could find her on MSNBC as a prominent pundit discussing the issues of the day.
Wiley’s experience in organizing and in the legal system have trained her in making quick decisions on the fly. She told the AmNews that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s COVID-designed school plan wasn’t mapped out well enough for the public to understand.
“I think city hall needed to make better informed decisions quickly and transparent so people understood if schools were gonna be closed and understand why so they can organize their lives,” said Wiley. “The decisiveness that’s grounded in science is critical and I think the administration should’ve done a better job with that.
“The people of the city of New York are really strong, resilient people who can handle hard news it’s being given to them straight,” continued Wiley.
Wiley has some insight into the de Blasio administration after working as his counsel for more than two years. She said that before working with him, she’d never met de Blasio.
“I didn’t know him personally,” said Wiley. “After he won the election in 2013, there were folks who said he’d heard of me––we have mutual friends in common––and he invited me into the administration.”
Wiley’s work with de Blasio hasn’t stopped her from being critical of him publicly. She told the AmNews that he fumbled the handling of the COVID-19 crisis when Dr. Oxiris Barbot resigned as health commissioner over disagreements in how to address the coronavirus. She said it was nonsensical to hand over important health duties to New York Health + Hospitals.
“You don’t take testing and tracing from the flagship agency that’s renowned as the best in the country on doing testing and tracing,” said Wiley. “When that got moved over H+H, and I’m not criticizing Health + Hospitals for what they do, I’m saying it’s not what they do.”
COVID-19 problems clashed with anti-police brutality protests that took place all over the city in the aftermath of the George Floyd and Breona Taylor deaths. The protests brought commotion to the streets with new reports of someone getting injured at the hands of police, police vehicles almost running over demonstrators, people (that some claim weren’t aligned with the movement) looting stores in neighborhoods like midtown and SoHo. In May, De Blasio said, “We saw tremendous restraint, overall from the NYPD.”
For her money, Wiley said New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea would be out of a job if she were in office.
“I cannot speak for the police commissioner,” said Wiley. “I can only say that I have taken the position that he’s earned a pink slip. Because what we need in senior leadership in city government are leaders who understand what has to be transformed about how government works. It absolutely must be a democratic institution that serves the people and its civilians who provide the oversight. We have to put the public back in public safety.”
Wiley expounded on the law enforcement issue some more discussing relatively recent NYPD-related incidents and the mistakes cops have made in addressing them.
“Eric Garner shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place,” Wiley said referring to the Staten Island man who was killed via chokehold by former police officer Daniel Pantaleo. “At worst, he should’ve gotten a summons. Shop owners called the police on people like Garner because people who were poor were selling untaxed goods in front of their shops; taking customers.
“That’s not a police problem. That’s a poverty problem,” said Wiley.
Poverty’s affected the city in numerous ways via eviction moratoriums or homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wiley talked about the city having a “comprehensive “housing plan that simultaneously addresses homelessness, affordable housing and evictions. “One reason people were evicted from housing was because they can’t afford the rent,” said Wiley. “And then we have people who are homeless who are addicted to drugs. They need the proper services to get their lives together and address drug use.
“I listened to their stories and a lot of those (people) are supposed to be in housing or assisted housing,” continued Wiley. “They have a voucher from the city to pay for an apartment, but the rent is too high. The subsidy has to match whatever the apartment costs or else people will stay in the shelter.”
The issue of money and who has it is another result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the city needing to balance the budget, Wiley sees an open door in attacking the issue where de Blasio hasn’t.
“We are in a revenue crisis that has created an expense crisis. We should keep spending on places that generate revenue like the construction capital budget. You don’t cut that. You can’t cut (the construction) of affordable housing because it’s what helps people hold on. But you cut the fat. That requires cutting from every agency, including the police who shamelessly got a pass, in the city budget. You have to be transparent with what you’re spending the money on.”
Social and economic problems are the ways of the day in New York City and around the country. Wiley hopes her background will not only lead her to City Hall, but win over the people once she’s there.
“I love the ability to touch people’s lives daily,” Wiley said.