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Quinn: We Have to Respond to Loss of Hope Felt by Protesters
WNYC - "The Empire"
Colby Hamilton

October 18, 2011
View the Original Article

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn stopped by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to talk about, among other things, the city’s economy. She had addressed the Association for a Better New York before coming on the show on the issue.

But listening to it, Quinn also sounded a lot like a candidate trying to provide a vision for the city she hopes to run. The big vision discussion tied Quinn’s view of how the city should help support job growth to Occupy Wall Street.

“The larger, more important issue is a loss of hope,” Quinn said, explaining the core of what she believes is driving the protestors.

She went on to say that hope, which had been fueled by the belief in the American Dream, was in danger. “People are worried, really on all sides of the political spectrum, that that is slipping away.”

Her solution: “[T]o do what we can to create employment opportunities at all different levels of the education and economic spectrum.”

The current mayor couldn’t have said it better himself. Her focus on bolstering technology growth in the city, through new educational opportunities and in fields once thought the domain of Silicon Valley, sounds like the blueprint Mayor Bloomberg has been following for years. “We have to work hard to make New York City the tech capital of the world,” Quinn said, sounding remarkably Bloombergian.

Quinn is close with the mayor, and it makes sense for her to pick-up on this issue where he will eventually have to leave off. And why not? Bloomberg’s earned a lot of points for using the city’s resources to help develop new job sectors in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. It’s in a sense a ready-made program, with legitimate economic aims that should be—and has been—easy for Quinn to follow.

But there’s another side to this. Part of the underlying push for business incubators, new academic degree programs, and reimagined industrial space usage has grown out a five-year gutting of the city budget. Mayor Bloomberg, like his counterpart in the statehouse, refuses to entertain new revenue streams to combat huge shortfalls. He’s also been steadfastly against a living wage bill—something Quinn is not thought to support.

Pressure from her fellow council members, and their labor allies, have helped convince Quinn to hold a hearing on new proposed living wage legislation. “We want to bring people out of poverty, we want to bring wages up, but we don’t want to contract job growth. That’s a tough needle to thread,” she said. “Does this new draft thread that needle in the right way?”

The living wage legislation battle is, in some ways, a proxy for 2013, with Quinn hewing closer and closer to Bloomberg’s style of city management—and, Quinn surely hopes, deep pocketed campaign donors—and her counterparts in city government with strong labor ties who support a living wage vying for organized labor’s backing.