Meet the (infrastructure) candidate: Bill de Blasio

He might not be a household name on the New York political scene, but Bill de Blasio (born Warren Wilhelm) is running for mayor in 2013. Though his likelihood of ousting Michael Bloomberg from Gracie Mansion is negligible, Brooklyn resident and long-time public servant de Blasio is nonetheless an interesting candidate.

For one, he’s a former pro-Sandinista [Nicaraguan socialist] academic. Then there’s his cool factor: the wildly popular television show The West Wing, a political drama set in the White House, referenced him.

But most importantly for the infrastructure industry, de Blasio, a Democrat and current New York City public advocate, is an outspoken proponent of infrastructure investing.  Recently de Blasio, a trustee for the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS), called on the $40 billion pension fund to draft an outline to invest in infrastructure by May. 

“This is a very real opportunity to do right by our bottom line as a pension fund and spur job creation at the same time,” de Blasio said in a statement.

With his entreaty, de Blasio is demonstrating politically astute timing: infrastructure and privatisation is gradually becoming part of the political dialogue in the Big Apple, not to mention the Empire State as a whole. New York governor Andrew Cuomo is examining enacting a law to enable private investment in public infrastructure, such as the $5 billion plan to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. In championing investment in infrastructure, the post-radical de Blasio is aligned with the fiscally progressive.

As for his West Wing mention, de Blasio can credit that to his stint as campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton in her successful run for US Senate in 2000.