"It’s not an ad. You can say it all day long. It’s not an ad.”Hey, what's going on here?
That was Mayor Bill de Blasio testily answering incredulous reporters’ questions about the, y’know, ad produced by City Hall with two Broadway stars literally singing his praises: “No matter what will be, we’ve got Billy d B.” The video was pushed out on his City Hall Twitter account days ahead of the city Campaign Finance Board’s ban on elected officials appearing in any taxpayer-funded — you guessed it! — “advertisement or commercial” during an election year.
Well, as chronicled in multiple newspapers, Mayor Bill de Blasio's new communications team is getting the word out with videos that look ever so much like campaign ads, with Broadway stars volunteering on a new custom song hailing his successes.
Watchdogs are skeptical. But the mayor's office straightfacedly says they're not campaign-related.
In doing so, de Blasio is bypassing the press, a tactic used by various leaders and candidates--of both parties--who prefer producing their own media than letting someone else do so. So that leads to headlines like:
Slick City Hall videos touting Mayor de Blasio’s agenda strike some as taxpayer-funded campaign ads (Daily News)
Taxpayers foot bill for glitzy ad touting de Blasio (New York Post)
A Song for Bill de Blasio Sounds a Sour Note for Watchdogs (New York Times)
Bill’s song and dance (Daily News editorial)
|From the song: "Affordable housing, & more to come soon"|
The full message/song is in a tweet below, but, as shown in the screenshot at right, one line of the song is "Affordable housing, and more to come soon," with a graphic as backdrop stating "Most New and Preserved Affordable Apartments in Decades."
Well, that sounds like an achievement. And it may be enough as a campaign message, unless a challenger drills down to details (and offers an effective alternative).
But "affordable" merely means "below-market" (well, not always) and "income-linked," rather than, as many believe, "low-income housing for the needy."
Last week, a de Blasio spokesman, curiously enough, defended some not-so-affordable Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park housing--skewed toward higher incomes than in the plan long promised--by saying it improved on market-rate housing.
Interestingly, the Daily News article, 16 reasons why 2016 was a horrible year for Mayor de Blasio mentions things like homelessness, investigations, and the loss of key personnel, while citing "bright spots" like record low crime, a strong economy, and his universal pre-K initiative. Does affordable housing fall in between?
The Post noted that the video appeared just when de Blasio sent out a separate fund-raising letter:
They even trumpet a two-year rent freeze for rent-stabilized apartments — which the mayor’s office has insisted was done without City Hall interference by a board that’s supposed to be independent of political influence.On Twitter
Two of Broadway's best helped us wrap up 2016. Thanks @JennaUshkowitz & @jamesmiglehart for being #AlwaysNewYork pic.twitter.com/5AmZtMdjQe— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 27, 2016
@brigidbergin @jdavidgoodman @NYCCFB mayor breaking new ground communicating directly to NYers; like Trump & twitter; avoiding media filter— Dick Dadey (@DickDadeyCU) December 27, 2016