How will Bill de Blasio create daylight now?
If Christine Quinn didn't just disarm Bill de Blasio, as he runs against her from the left in the Democratic mayoral primary, she has at least neutralized one of the most powerful weapons in his arsenal.
Yesterday evening, Quinn's camp announced that the Council speaker had brokered a compromise on "paid sick time" legislation, resulting in a bill that will require some New York City businesses to provide a small number of paid sick days to their employees.
That was de Blasio's issue.
From the beginning of this mayoral campaign, the public advocate has been using the issue of paid sick leave, and Quinn's increasingly awkward three-year-long-and-counting refusal to allow it to come up for a vote on the Council, as a means of distinguishing himself from her, and of highlighting her sometimes-awkward attempts to placate her party's liberal base without alienating Michael Bloomberg and the business establishment whose support she has courted for years.
At his campaign-kick off in January, he produced "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon, who told reporters that she was supporting de Blasio because "the group of people that don't have that paid sick leave is disproportionately women. And I feel like Bill supports that and Bill is fighting really hard for that."
De Blasio, who was elected to his current office with an extraordinary assist from organized labor, rallied for paid sick leave at a Grandparent Appreciation Ceremony at 1 Centre Street, at the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights and the Greater St. Stephen United Church of God in Bedford-Stuyvesant, at the Atlantic Antic and at the Calvary Baptist Church and Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, both in Jamaica.
It was perhaps the marquee issue in his bid for the outer-borough, minority, and brownstone Brooklyn liberals most likely to be resistant to supporting the ungratifyingly pragmatic, Manhattan-based Council speaker who facilitated Bloomberg's third term.
This morning, as Quinn formally announces her compromise version of paid sick leave at a press conference in City Hall's Red Room, liberal Councilwoman Gale Brewer will stand next to her, as will a panoply of the city's liberal interest groups: New York Communities for Change, Make the Road New York, SEIU 32BJ.
Quinn's paid sick leave bill is, of course, a watered-down version of the original bill. But the concerted pressure campaign against the speaker, which seemed to making her increasingly nervous as time went on, is over.
The new law will not apply to all businesses with five or more employees, as an earlier version would have. It will only apply, at least at first, to businesses with 20 or more.
The requirements on businesses will also go away if the economy tanks—a provision that will allow Quinn to say that the new version of the law satisfies her stated concern about the old one.
De Blasio will comment on the compromise at a press conference scheduled for noon.
At 7:57 a.m. this morning, Bill Hyers, de Blasio's campaign manager, sent out an email to supporters and the media in which he called Quinn's paid sick leave "incomplete."
"With your help, we'll send Bill de Blasio to City Hall, where he'll sign comprehensive Paid Sick Leave into law—and you'll be able to say you helped make it happen," Hyers wrote.
But of course let's hold out for the comprehensive version isn't the most galvanizing call to action, particularly if Quinn now has cover from many of the groups that were pushing hardest for a law requiring paid sick leave in the first place.
I asked Rebecca Katz, de Blasio's campaign spokeswoman, whether today's announcement from Quinn didn't rob the issue of its potential as a primary-decider.
"Um …The final outcome announced last night leaves out over 300,000 hardworking New Yorkers!!," she wrote, in an email. "They've been waiting three years while the Speaker blocked the bill and they are not protected."
There are of course other issues De Blasio might still use to separate himself from Quinn: education policy, progressive taxation, Ray Kelly.
Look for him to start talking about those issues more after today.