June 27, 2016, 10:50 am
By MARK TOOR
Embroiled in an escalating feud with Mayor de Blasio, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association purchased a full-page ad in the Indianapolis Star in advance of his appearance at a meeting of Mayors from around the country June 24 and 25.
The full-page ad, which appeared June 24, asked “Do you know where our Mayor is? NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio left behind a city that most New Yorkers say is heading in the wrong direction in order to talk up his accomplishments at the U.S. Conference of Mayors this weekend.”
Good Time for Road Trip
“With public safety slipping, police morale at rock bottom, and multiple Federal corruption investigations swirling through City Hall, no wonder he wanted to get out of town.”
It concluded, “NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: Taking Us Backward Since 2014.” That’s the year Mr. de Blasio assumed office.
In addition, the PBA said, it arranged for a billboard truck with the same message to circle the hotel at which the conference was being held “so attendees and de Blasio’s own colleagues can see what real New Yorkers think of their Mayor.”
“The Mayor can run,” said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, “but he cannot hide from the mounting problems here at home. New Yorkers want a Mayor who keeps our streets safe, clean, and is focused on honest leadership for all New Yorkers, not one who cares more about raising his own national image. Mayor de Blasio, come back to New York City and do the job you were elected to do.”
Mr. de Blasio has been criticized in the past for traveling to events outside the state in a bid to raise his stature as a leader of the national progressive movement.
Rocky Relations All Along
His relations with the PBA have never been good. They fell to new lows after his reaction to a Staten Island grand jury’s decision in December 2014 not to indict a police officer in the death of petty criminal Eric Garner. Mr. Garner had a fatal heart attack about an hour after a police officer subdued him, using what some observers called a chokehold, when he refused to be arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
Mr. de Blasio made remarks that were supportive of the Garner family, but on the subject of police he talked about their historical role in perpetuating racism and how he had warned his biracial son to be careful if stopped by them.
Mr. Lynch said Mr. de Blasio had “thrown cops under a bus.” Seventeen days later, a mentally-ill ex-convict from Baltimore sneaked up behind a patrol car and shot to death Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The gunman, who later killed himself, said on social media that he was taking revenge for the deaths of unarmed black men—including Mr. Garner—at the hands of police.
Police officers turned their backs on the Mayor at the hospital to which the two officers were taken and, later, outside their funerals. The funerals were followed by a two-to-three-week work slowdown, not sanctioned by the unions, at which officers cut back sharply on quality-of-life enforcement.
The dispute cooled, but flared again over the city’s reluctance to close a gap in benefits for cops injured in the line of duty who were hired after 2009, and an arbitrator’s decision not to award Police Officers pay raises above the uniform-union pattern of 1 percent for the first two years.
The city agreed with unions representing Firefighters, Correction Officers and Sanitation Workers to provide the line-of-duty benefit—three-quarters of final pay free of state and local taxes—in return for added employee contributions to the pension system that ranged from .9 percent for newer Correction Officers to 2 percent for Firefighters.
But Mr. Lynch rejected a city proposal to charge cops an additional 1.5 percent of salary for the restored benefits, instead proposing just a 0.4-percent contribution. So younger officers who suffer career-ending injuries or illnesses will remain stuck with a benefit that pays 50 percent of final salary, subject to taxes and with half of Social Security disability benefits also subtracted.
Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio, said, “Our door has always been—and continues to be—open to the PBA to negotiate a long-term contract, as we’ve done with nearly the entire city workforce to date.”
City officials said that if the PBA had accepted the 11-percent raise over seven years offered to other uniformed unions, a police officer with 5½ years of experience would be earning more than $100,000 a year not including overtime or benefits.