NYC Mayor Calls for Covid Probe, Pullback of Cuomo’s Powers
(Bloomberg) -- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called for an investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing-home deaths in the state and advocated for an early pullback in the emergency powers afforded to the governor during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We need the full truth,” de Blasio said in a wide-ranging conversation on Feb. 15 with former deputy mayor Howard Wolfson that was published by Bloomberg Opinion on Wednesday. “It’s time for the state of emergency powers to be curtailed and to restore control to localities.”
Wolfson worked under former mayor Mike Bloomberg and continues to serve as a political adviser to Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP. The interview was part of a series Wolfson is conducting for Bloomberg Opinion on the 2021 New York City mayoral race. De Blasio, 59, is not seeking re-election because of term limits.
Cuomo has tried for several weeks to deflect criticism that his policies led to an increase in Covid-19 deaths, which were recounted in a detailed investigation announced by Attorney General Letitia James on Jan. 28. Last week, leaked recordings of one of Cuomo’s top aides revealed an admission that his administration withheld nursing-home data from state lawmakers after President Donald Trump’s Justice Department requested similar information.
Tug of War
Emergency powers granted to Cuomo at the beginning of the pandemic by the legislature are set to expire at the end of April. Some lawmakers have called for an early pullback.
On Wednesday, Cuomo denied his administration did anything illegal or unethical. He said his administration takes responsibility for failing to better communicate with state lawmakers and the general public. “”My administration created the void, and that I feel bad about. Not illegal, not unethical, but just failed people in that moment,” he said in a virus briefing.
The governor and de Blasio, both Democrats, have been engaged in a political tug of war for years, culminating in multiple disagreements over the state and city’s handling of the pandemic. Starting with a dispute over whether to call for a “shelter-in-place” order last March, de Blasio and Cuomo have disagreed over who had authority for closing businesses and opening schools. De Blasio will leave office on Dec. 31. Cuomo has said he plans to run for a fourth term next year.
During de Blasio’s interview with Bloomberg Opinion, he advocated for an investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing-home deaths under the Moreland Act, a New York law that allows the governor to order an independent inquiry into the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission in the state.
“We don’t even know what it would’ve meant -- how many lives might have been saved if things had been done differently,” de Blasio said in the interview. “And it begs the larger point of whether there’s enough accountability when it comes to the state of New York and its actions in general.”
De Blasio also reaffirmed his pledge to get 5 million New Yorkers vaccinated by June. “If you’ve got 5 million fully vaccinated people out of 8 1/2 million --you’ve got a functional community immunity,” he said. “On top of all the people, bluntly, with antibodies who have some form of immunity anyway, there’s overlap there. But I think that’s a point where you’re really able to reopen a lot. And that gives me hope of a summer that the city really comes alive deeply with a whole host of activities.”
The mayor said he wouldn’t yet endorse any of the mayoral candidates, calling it “a crowded field.” He said it was “hard to hear the particular visions breaking through at this point.”
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