Opinion

Opinion: The Republicans Eric Adams should have in his administration

Here are the power players the GOP-friendly Mayor-elect should consider to ensure he’s got political diversity at City Hall.

Frank Morano Eric Adams has got a few Republicans he shouldn’t pass over if he wants to add political diversity to his incoming administration.

Frank Morano Eric Adams has got a few Republicans he shouldn’t pass over if he wants to add political diversity to his incoming administration. Ron Adar/Shutterstock

   If ever a new Mayor-elect had a honeymoon, Eric Adams is certainly enjoying one right now. We’re a long way away from the bitter feelings of the Koch-Giuliani loyalists who were on the losing side in 1989, the bitter feelings of Dinkins supporters in 1993 and light years from the acrimony that existed among Democrats and some racial groups as Bloomberg prepared to take the helm in 2001. 

The sense one gets in talking with rank and file New Yorkers as well as the political cognoscenti is that there’s an incredible feeling of optimism marking the weeks leading up to Adams’ inauguration. Except among some elements of New York’s ultra-progressive wing, a great deal of hope is rising to the surface that the next administration will be marked by a degree of competence and effectiveness that’s been absent in recent years. Perhaps nowhere though is the optimism about Adams upcoming tenure more noticeable than in GOP circles. 

The rhetoric coming from the Mayor-elect during the campaign on everything from education to policing sounds like it comes straight out of an urban GOP playbook. Indeed, Adams himself (a former Republican, who was a member of that party far longer than his Republican opponent Curtis Sliwa was) seemed to go out of his way to call out the progressive elements of his party after winning the nomination. Several Republican leaders have remarked to me of late that they view Adams as New York City’s first Black Republican Mayor. 

It stands to reason that an administration, which seems guided by so many conservative principles, would have at least a few Republicans in leading roles. These are the Republicans that might be a good fit. 

    The Mayor-elect, according to Politico, is strongly considering appointing Staten Island Borough President, James Oddo as a Deputy Mayor. This would be an inspired move both politically and governmentally. For starters, with Staten Island being the only borough Adams lost, it would seem to make sense that he’d appoint someone who's never lost an election in that borough to such a leading role. Who better to understand the sensibilities of a community that saw seven out of ten residents reject Adams in November. Additionally, as someone who has watched Oddo’s tenure as borough president with great interest, there’s simply no one in city government who better understands how to navigate its bureaucracy (the so-called “shadow state”) than Oddo. This would really send the message to the public that Adams would be a mayor for all New Yorkers.

    Another obvious choice for the Adams administration would certainly be Queens Republican Council Member Eric Ulrich, who unapologetically crossed party lines to support Adams and whose knowledge of the inner workings of the City Council, would serve Adams well as a special advisor/liaison to the city’s legislative branch. When it comes to expertise though, there are few center-right policy wonks more wonkier than Nicole Gelinas, the Manhattan Institute scholar and City Journal contributing editor whose treatises on municipal finances have been inspiring policy makers interested in belt tightening for years. If Adams, who clearly has a mandate not dependent on municipal labor unions, is serious about making tough financial decisions, in a manner that doesn’t wreak havoc on the city’s transportation infrastructure, it’s hard to imagine a better choice than Gelinas as budget director.

    One aspect of the Adams record that good government advocates have frequently touted has been his seeming desire for political reform. In 2003 for instance, he was a vocal and outspoken supporter of changing to nonpartisan city elections and his appointee to the most recent Charter Revision Commission Sal Albanese was selected for his unorthodox stance on democracy vouchers and campaign finance reform. If reform of municipal government is to be a priority in an Adams administration, then he should appoint a new commission, which would sit for two years and do a comprehensive review of the city charter, finally putting fundamental reform questions on the ballot. If that’s to be the case, there’s simply no better choice to chair the commission than Stephen Fiala, the current Richmond county clerk and commissioner of jurors, who served on three previous commissions as well as having been the Republican minority whip of the City Council. His expertise in government has been sought after by elected officials in both parties and his work on the most recent commission resulted in laying the groundwork for a budgetary rainy day fund as well, the implementation of ranked choice voting and not having a Civilian Complaint Review Board empowered to handcuff police officers. It’s a (non-paying) job that Fiala was born to do.

   While these four choices might be the most obvious, there are a number of other areas where I could see other Republicans playing a role. These might include former Board of Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco as chair of the Community Services Board; former Kings County GOP chair Craig Eaton as commissioner of finance; former Consumer Affairs Commissioner Fred Cerullo as czar of public-private partnerships; former Congress Member Dan Donovan as chair of the Department of Correction; former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff as president of the School Construction Authority;  Peter King as director of Recovery and Resiliency and philanthropist/businessman Joe Pinion as commissioner of the Human Resources Administration.  

In any event, if the Adams administration is going to have a leadership team that looks like the city it governs, political diversity should be just as important a consideration as race, ethnicity or gender.

Frank Morano is a radio talk show host on 77 WABC.

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