Bloomberg’s Successor and a Health Policy Legacy
What to expect from the next mayor of New York City
Michael Bloomberg has been called everything from a visionary to an autocrat for the sweeping health agenda he carried out as mayor of New York.
From bans to bike lanes to burger calorie counts, Bloomberg has left an indelible mark on the city, changing New Yorkers’ attitudes and behaviors, and possibly improving their health as well as starting national dialogues over hot button issues like soda serving sizes, guns, and smoking in public.
The 2×2 project asked New York City mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and Joe Lhota, a Republican, how they view Mayor Bloomberg’s public health legacy and which of his policies they would continue if elected.
De Blasio’s spokesperson Dan Levitan referred the 2x2project to a September 30 article in the Wall Street Journal, “Bloomberg’s Health Policy Acts as Wedge” which says that “Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio, who has been a fierce critic of the Bloomberg administration, said he mostly likes what he has seen. ‘Public health is one of the areas where the Bloomberg administration was quite effective,’ de Blasio said in an interview. ‘I would continue the vast majority of their initiatives.’”
Joe Lhota’s spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Here is how the candidates stack up on the issues:
Sugary drink ban
BACKGROUND Last year, Bloomberg proposed a ban on the sale of 16-ounce or larger sugary drinks at restaurants, theaters and other venues. The New York City Board of Health approved the ban, but it was struck down in New York State court. The Bloomberg administration has appealed that decision to the state’s highest court, but he will be out of office when the case is heard next year. This means that the decision to continue the appeal fight is up to his successor.
CANDIDATE POSITIONS De Blasio has said in the past that he would pursue the appeal, but his campaign recently walked back that pronouncement, saying they would need to review the litigation if de Blasio becomes mayor, according to the New York Times. Lhota has vowed to withdraw the city’s appeal.
Expand cigarette ban
BACKGROUND In 2003, the Bloomberg administration banned smoking in bars and restaurants and in 2011 extended the ban to public outdoor spaces including parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas. Unlike the bar and restaurant ban, the publish spaces ban has been difficult to enforce.
CANDIDATE POSITIONS De Blasio “strongly” supports the public spaces ban while Lhota is “of mixed mind,” according to the WSJ. In fact: “Mr. Lhota said he has enjoyed smoking cigars on the beach (though typically not a city beach), and he described the experience as ‘wonderful’ and ‘beautiful.’”
Proposal to set a minimum price for cigarettes and cigarillos
BACKGROUND Earlier this year, Bloomberg proposed a law that would set prices for cigarette and cigarillos at $10.50 per pack and not allow retailers to honor coupons or other promotions.
CANDIDATE POSITIONS De Blasio says he was not aware of the proposal, while Lhota is opposed to the policy, according to the WSJ.
BACKGROUND The Bloomberg administration has drafted language that would classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products–though they do not have tobacco in them–which would subject them to the city’s strict tobacco regulations.
CANDIDATE POSITIONS De Blasio’s “impulse” is to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products. Lhota supports classifying electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, according to the WSJ.
BACKGROUND In 2007, the Bloomberg administration began requiring chain restaurants to include calorie counts on their menus.
CANDIDATE POSITIONS Both de Blasio and Lhota support this policy, according to the WSJ.
BACKGROUND In 2010, New York City began a letter grading system for restaurants that is based on how they fare during food and sanitary inspections. The program has been criticized by restaurant owners for being inconsistent and unfair.
CANDIDATE POSITIONS Both De Blasio and Lhota would continue to require restaurants to post inspection letter grades in their windows, but both believe the city “must administer inspections more consistently and fairly,” according to the WSJ.
BACKGROUND Under Mayor Bloomberg, New York is one of the few cities to offer a program that uses city funds to pay for the Plan B “morning after pill” contraception for teens at city public schools.
CANDIDATE POSITIONS De Blasio supports the Bloomberg administration’s policy of providing emergency contraception, specifically the morning-after pill, to students, as young as 14. Lhota said he would review the policy.
Department of Health Commissioner
BACKGROUND Dr. Thomas Farley has been commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since 2009 and has supported and carried out many of Bloomberg’s public health policies. He has strongly defended the large soda ban.
CANDIDATE POSITIONS Neither de Blasio nor Lhota has said whether they would keep on Dr. Farley.
What can we expect from the future mayor
De Blasio has very publicly protested closures of local hospitals, making it a distinct part of the health platform of his campaign. Other priorities according to his campaign site include taking advantage of the affordable care act to expand coverage, expanding primary care health clinics, filling the nursing shortage, expanding affordable housing support for patients with high-cost health needs and banning the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution cases so that prostitutes are not disincentivized from using protection.
Lhota’s website does not have a section stating his health policy. Lhota’s campaign was contacted three times for comment.
The 2x2project asked a variety of New Yorkers–and a few out-of-towners–what public health legacy Bloomberg will leave behind and what public health issues the next mayor should prioritize when he takes office in January 2013. Read their responses.
Photo credit for featured image: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio