- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Bill de Blasio, his recent surge of travel beyond the borders of New York City coming under scrutiny, is defending his forays outside the city as he moves to influence the national political conversation, which he believes will, in turn, help those he represents back home.

De Blasio, a first-term Democrat, will be in Washington on Tuesday to deliver a speech on income inequality and then, on the steps of U.S. Capitol, unveil a progressive agenda that he and other liberals hope will move national political candidates to the left. From there, it will be on to California to deliver two more speeches on fighting the equality gap, following those he has given on the subject in recent weeks in Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.

His flurry of travel - and interviews with publications like Rolling Stone magazine - has elicited some grumbling back home, and some political observers feel that de Blasio is opening himself up to charges that he is ignoring the needs of his constituents who elected him not even 18 months ago.

The mayor on Monday pushed back against that belief.

“I’ve got to use the tools we have here to address income inequality and a host of other issues,” he said after an unrelated news conference in Queens, “but I also have to participate in changing the national debate and changing the reality in Washington in a way that will support the people of New York City. We’ve got to do both at once.”

De Blasio - who has made as many trips to the Midwest in 2015 as he has made official visits to the city’s borough of Staten Island - has insisted that his trips out of New York are in an effort to change national politics to help those struggling at his city’s margins. Moreover, he stressed that some of his traveling - including a stop while in Washington to lobby for transportation funding - could lead to more federal money for New York.

The mayor, while making no secret of trying to become a loud national voice for liberal causes, stressed that he was not running for higher office. He also said it was commonplace to New York mayors to take up causes outside of their city.

“This is a bully pulpit to speak in many ways on the issues of urban America,” he said.

The centerpiece of this week’s travels is the unveiling of The Progressive Agenda, which de Blasio dubbed a liberal answer to Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America. It will call for the national adoption of some of de Blasio’s signature policies in New York, including paid sick leave and free universal pre-kindergarten.

The trip to Washington is being paid by City Hall, because the mayor will do city business while there, officials said. He is funding the California trip with money from his nonprofit fund known as Campaign for One New York and will do a fundraiser for that organization while on the West Coast.

He said Monday that, outside of a potential June gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, he did not have any other trips planned.


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