A Tale of Two Mayors Offers a Startling Contrast in Big City Governance
Eric Johnson of Dallas and Eric Adams of New York ended up moving in different directions — and guess which mayor is soaring in the polls.
Both Mayor Adams and the mayor of Dallas, Eric Johnson, lead large cities, are African-American, and share the same first name. Today that’s where the similarities end. Mr. Johnson is switching parties, writing that when his “career in elected office ends in 2027,” he will “leave office as a Republican.”
Hizzoner acknowledges that his switch will likely come as a surprise. He served, after all, in the GOP-dominated Texas state legislature for a decade as a Democrat. He acceded to the mayoralty of the nation’s ninth-largest city under the Democratic Party’s banner, though the position is officially non-partisan.
Mr. Johnson says he sees our cities as desperately in need of leaders who champion law and order and who embrace fiscal conservatism, defining hallmarks, he says, of the GOP. “In other words, American cities need Republicans — and Republicans need American cities,” the mayor writes with the passion of the newly-converted.
How right he is. The Democratic mayor of New York, Mr. Adams, embraced some of those sentiments when he campaigned in 2021. He eschewed the anti-business, tax the rich, soft-on-crime policies of his predecessor, Bill DeBlasio. A former cop, Mr. Adams dared to laud law enforcement.
Hizzoner also had the gumption to suggest that financially-strapped New York needs high-income residents, a cohort that Mr. DeBlasio dismissed as “fair-weather friends” as they decamped en masse to Florida. After the death of George Floyd, Mr. Adams ran against the progressive campaigns to “defund the police.”
Upon his narrow primary win, Mr. Adams crowed that he represented “the new face of the Democratic Party.” Chatter of a possible presidential run blossomed. Unhappily for Mr. Adams, the cold reality of managing a city in a state dominated by far-left officials soon doused that ambition.
Crime continued to rise in Mr. Adam’s first year in office. The stats show some improvement this year. In any event, New Yorkers see a city out of control, with unchecked shoplifting — up 44 percent last year — and rising random violence as criminals are let loose by a broken law enforcement system.
Plus too, there is a tsunami of migrants overwhelming shelters, driving recklessly on unregistered electric scooters, and working off the books. Crime overall is 34 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels. New York City’s problems are not entirely Mr. Adams’s fault. The responsibility rests squarely with President Biden and his Democratic allies.
The inability of police to lock up criminals is the brainchild of District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Democratic legislators at Albany. Voters, though, comprehend that Mr. Adams can — and owes it to voters to — do more. In an August poll, only 29 percent of New York State registered voters were positive on the mayor.
More to the point, some 37 percent were negative on the mayor. Some 34 percent had no opinion. At New York City, Mr. Adams fared better, with 45 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving. By contrast, Mr. Johnson had a 77 percent job approval rating last spring, in a county that votes 65 percent Democrat.
While Mr. Adams talks about reducing crime, Mr. Johnson has done it, boasting that Dallas is the only top-ten American city in which every category of violent crime declined in 2021 and 2022. Meantime, the spiraling costs of its migrant influx has New York officials contemplating raising taxes.
At Dallas, though, Mr. Johnson has grown his city in part by reducing property taxes in each of the two years he has been in office. Dallas imposes zero local or state income taxes, while high-income New Yorkers pay the highest taxes in America. New York’s cost of living is the country’s highest. Dallas ranks number 30.
Is it any surprise that Dallas has added more people than any other American metropolitan district between 2021 and 2022, even as New York continues to bleed people and businesses? Yet in 1995, Mr. Adams, like Mr. Johnson, jumped ship and became a Republican.
He made the move because, he said, he was fed up with the Democratic agenda, especially how it was addressing Black voters. Mr. Adams remained in the GOP until 2002. Even now, New York liberals slam Mr. Adams as a closet Republican, citing his anti-crime stance, proposed budget cuts, and fury about the tsunami of migrants.
Maybe it’s time for Mr. Adams to join Mr. Johnson and switch parties again. Running as a pragmatic Republican who can get New York City back on track worked for Mike Bloomberg and for Rudy Giuliani; it worked for New Yorkers, too. There’s no reason it wouldn’t work for Mr. Adams.