Mayor DiBlasio Promises to Tackle NYC's 'Inequality Crisis'

By Susan Jones | January 2, 2014 | 6:56 AM EST

Former President Bill Clinton, left, administers the oath of office to New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, right, on the steps of City Hall Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

( - President Bill Clinton administered the oath of office to Democrat Bill de Blasio on Wednesday, at the formal swearing-in ceremony for New York City's 109th mayor.

De Blasio thanked his own family, then promised "our larger New York family" that he would end what he called the city's "inequality crisis."

He said his mission reaches "deeper" than keeping neighborhoods safe and streets clean: "We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York."

Invoking New York's tradition of activist leadership, de Blasio mentioned reformers such as Al Smith, Jacob Riis and Eleanor Roosevelt "who challenged the status quo, who blazed a trail of progressive reform and political action, who took on the elite, who stood up to say that social and economic justice will start here and will start now.

"It's that tradition that inspires the work we now begin. A movement that sees the inequality crisis we face today, and resolves that it will not define our future. Now I know there are those who think that what I said during the campaign was just rhetoric, just political talk in the interest of getting elected. There are some who think now, as we turn to governing - well, things will continue pretty much like they always have.

"So let me be clear. When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City."

De Blasio said he will:

-- expand paid sick leave to an additional 300,000 New Yorkers;

-- require "big developers" to build more affordable housing;

-- reduce the number of hospital closures and expand community health centers into poor neighborhoods;

-- "reform" the city's stop-and-frisk policy;

-- impose a five-year tax hike on the "very wealthy" to fund full-day universal pre-k and after-school programs for every middle school student.

De Blasio said people earning between $500,000 and one million dollars a year would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. "[W]e do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success. We do it to create more success stories," he said.

The new mayor noted that New York has faced many crises, including fiscal collapse, crime, terror attacks and natural disasters: "But now, in our time, we face a different crisis - an inequality crisis. It's not often the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It's a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before."

He talked about rebuilding communities from the bottom-up and marching "toward a fairer, more just, more progressive place" to "keep the promise of New York alive for the next generation."

According to the Associated Press, former President Bill Clinton -- accompanied by his wife Hillary Clinton -- "received a raucous ovation and spoke highly of de Blasio's agenda, perhaps in an attempt to burnish the liberal credentials of himself and his wife as the Democratic Party seems to be shifting leftward."

In his remarks before administering the oath to de Blasio, Clinton said  he "strongly" endorses de Blasio's commitment to creating a city of "shared opportunities, shared prosperity, shared responsibilities."

"And this inequality problem bedevils the entire country, and I can tell you from my work, much of the world," Clinton said. He called inequality a moral outrage and a "horrible constraint on economic growth." He also said it undermines the effort to "tackle problems like climate change."

De Blasio took his oath by placing his hand on the Bible once used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

To quote the AP again: "De Blasio's tenure will be closely watched by liberals throughout the country who are eager to see how the nation's largest city may be reshaped."