De Blasio Bashed for Banning Horse-Carriage Industry
Bill De Blasio’s attempt to ban the horse-carriage industry in New York surprises no one. During his 2013 campaign, De Blasio loudly voiced his opinion of the industry by promising to ban horses on the street within his first week in office. For this promise, he gained the support of animal rights advocates, while angering the owners of 270 horses in the industry.
No Support from New Yorkers
New Yorkers do not approve of the move, either. According to George Miranda, “New Yorkers… made it clear that they stand behind the carriage drivers and want this iconic institution to stay.” Miranda holds the position of President of Teamsters, which is the union representing the workers of the horse carriage industry.
Strong Opposition from the Council
De Blasio also faces disapproval from fellow colleagues, which stirred up a good deal of bad press. The most notable opposition comes from Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal who stated that, “My top priority is making sure the industry stays strong… I wouldn’t support a deal that the people who operate the industry do not support.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich also opposes De Blasio’s ban. In an interview with POLITICO New York, the Republican from Queens stressed the importance of a deal which represents a fair compromise between De Blasio and the union. Ulrich stated that, “This is a collective bargaining issue… The administration needs to work with the union to make sure that all of the issues that the drivers have raised are addressed.”
A Bid for a Second Term?
In fact, many now speculate that De Blasio’s push for the ban represents a last ditch PR effort to gain the support of voters for another term. According to the NY Post, “Sixty percent of New Yorkers say they see more homeless people around. And 48 percent of New Yorkers don’t want De Blasio to have a second term. So what does the mayor do? He races back into the arms of the special interests who helped get him elected… re-embracing the nuts who want to ban the Central Park carriage horses.”
Is Mercury PR the Game Changer De Blasio Needs?
NYCLASS is the primary “nut” the NY post refers to. The group backed De Blasio during his 2013 campaign, and recently hired PR firm, Mercury Public Affairs, to assist with lobbying the City Council members.
Mercury takes a high-stakes approach to public relations. The PR firm is also no stranger to politics and carried out political and lobbying assignments before. In fact, the firm represents clients on both sides of the political fence – catering to both democrats and republicans when needed. The firm’s most notable clients in government include the Honorable Gordon H. Smith; and their most notable target for lobbying activities are the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. It seems fitting then that NYCLASS would hire the firm to lobby the Council in a bid to push De Blasio’s proposal. However, Mercury may need to work PR miracles in order to win against the counter-efforts of Teamster and its workers.
De Blasio’s Ties to Mercury PR
One primary issue the PR firm faces comes from its ties to De Blasio. Mercury currently employs a former member of De Blasio’s staff, named Rachel Noerdlinger. This inspires a great deal of speculation that De Blasio is directly involved with NYCLASS’ lobbying, and that the mayor only wants to maintain the activist group’s support. De Blasio denies the claim, despite the fact that NYCLASS filtered a lot of money into his 2013 campaigns and continues to back his initiatives. He told Good Day New York, “I can fairly step back in all situations… This is what I believe.”
The Carriage Drivers’ Counterattack
Not surprisingly, the carriage drivers also took a stance against De Blasio’s plans to ban the industry. Though the mayor’s most recent diplomatic offer included reducing the number of horses on the streets from 220 to about 70 instead, the new proposal still stirred up bad feelings amongst the workers, who must fight to protect their jobs. With the help of their union, the drivers continue to create effective attacks against the proposal. The workers even infiltrated De Blasio’s camp of allies by striking up partnerships with the Working Families Party and the Central Labor Council. These allies now flock to the workers’ side to help them fight the ban that would put their livelihoods at risk.
Teamsters and the workers aim to remind everyone that a ban, and even a reduction, would put hundreds of drivers out of work. Many of these workers belong to the immigrant community and invested their savings into creating their business to support their families. Through using this strategy, the Teamsters and the workers they represent prove their exceptional skills at diplomacy. Not only can they count on the support of the people of New York, but on the very people De Blasio needs to build his own campaigns. Together, they present a formidable opponent that even the likes of Mercury may struggle to beat.
Hope for a Diplomatic Solution
Still, some hope exists for De Blasio’s proposal, as even the workers appreciate one specific inclusion in his plans. This involves the building of stables inside Central Park to house the horses when they are off duty. Even so, the workers and their supporters still protest the old ban, along with the new bid to reduce horse numbers. De Blasio and the Council have still not reached a final deal, but the negotiations continue. And as the road ahead seems more and more unclear, carriage drivers continue to brace themselves for the final round of a three year battle to keep their industry alive.