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Word Cloud Shows The Issues De Blasio Faces Most During His Weekly Brian Lehrer Appearances

Mayor Bill de Blasio at Good Morning America on May 16, 2019
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Mayor Bill de Blasio at Good Morning America on May 16, 2019 JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock


Mayor Bill de Blasio says his record of leading New York City makes him suitable to lead the United States and beat President Donald Trump in 2020. In his campaign rollout video, he promises that if elected president, he can fight for working class Americans, and cites his work with universal pre-K, paid sick leave, guaranteed health care, and the $15/hour minimum as proof. But what are the issues with which de Blasio is most often confronted?

Given how frequently de Blasio speaks to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, we asked data reporters Jake Gluck and Dave Sheingold to analyze just over 100 of Lehrer's "Ask the Mayor" segments. In turn, they created these quarterly word clouds from the segments—between fall 2015 and spring 2019 (note, the word clouds encompass the discussion from de Blasio, Lehrer, and callers to the show):



Notably, the biggest topics are affordable housing and transportation. As we wrote in "America's Guide To Bill De Blasio, Presidential Candidate":

De Blasio’s goal to build and preserve 300,000 total units of affordable housing by 2026 is an expansion of his previous pledge, and it is literally changing the landscape of the city... [T]he mayor’s ambitious housing plan largely relies on enticing developers to build affordable housing to accompany market-rate housing, with the belief that increasing supply across the board will have a trickle-down effect for renters of all incomes. Critics say this is a recipe for displacement, and the fact that the administration has continued to set the bar higher is also a sign of how moderate the goals were in the first place.

...While the mayor does not control the subway—that would be his nemesis, thrice-elected Governor Andrew Cuomo—he has faced plenty of blowback for his two signature transportation initiatives: a developer-funded street car proposal called the Brooklyn-Queens Connector that, barring a de Blasio presidency, is unlikely to break ground anytime soon; and NYC Ferry, a costly system of new boat routes seen by some as catering to tourists and the wealthy at the expense of less sexy, more efficient forms of mass transit.

In fairness, the mayor has recently taken an interest in resuscitating the city’s ailing bus system. But the fact that he is so clearly more invested in his personal ferry project, a system that carries less people in a year than even the least used bus routes, has been a never-ending source of frustration for transit advocates.

The city’s fast-growing cycling community also has mixed feelings about the mayor, whose tendency to side with fellow drivers in high-profile street battles can undermine his Vision Zero successes. In a city where less than half of households own cars, the mayor’s firmly-set windshield perspective can be alienating and confounding; but it might play in the real America.

Other interesting topics that frequently surfaced with Brian Lehrer:
- The NYPD and police are constant themes, as are Donald Trump (especially in 2016 and 2017), pre-K, climate change, mental health, and health care. Bike lanes, homelessness, rent control/rent freeze, and criminal justice also have a steady presence.
- Staten Island pops in the first quarter of 2017 because the Brian Lehrer Show was doing borough-specific segments. Then, in the second quarter, Staten Island continues to dominate, perhaps because Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis mounted a Republican mayoral campaign.
- Joe Lhota makes an appearance in the third quarter of 2017; Lhota was leading the MTA during the "Summer of Hell."
- Marijuana is a topic in the third quarter of 2018; the debate over legalization fueled the election cycle.
- Amazon was a huge topic in the last quarter of 2018 and first quarter of 2019 for their decision to build a campus in Long Island City and then their hasty decision not to build a campus in Long Island City.

Candidate de Blasio is in Iowa today, where he met with family farmers this morning. WNYC reporter Brigid Bergin is on the campaign trail with the mayor this weekend; follow along with her for updates.

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