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De Blasio Under Fire For Not Discussing Homelessness, Other Issues In State Of The City Address

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio was fielding criticism Tuesday after avoiding hot-button topics such as the homeless crisis in his annual State of the City speech the night before.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the speech Monday night at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem was a prime time, taxpayer-funded production costing $35,000. It focused on job creation – notably a goal to provide 100,000 "good-paying" jobs in the next 10 years – and providing affordable housing.

The speech included a conscious decision by the mayor to avoid some of the big issues facing the city, including homelessness, fixing the child protection agency known as the Administration for Children's Services, and even street congestion.

"There are very serious topics that I'll tell you upfront, I'm going to speak to; my administration's going to speak to, in just the next weeks," de Blasio said.

CBS2 homeless consultant Robert Mascali, a former deputy commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services, was stunned. He noted that for months, Mayor de Blasio has been promising a new plan to fight homelessness.

"I was surprised, because in a recent survey, 96 percent of New Yorkers said that homelessness was a serious issue," Mascali said. "So how would you not address that in the State of the City speech?"

Mayor de Blasio aggressively defended the way he handled his speech.

Kramer: "I wonder if you think that's a lost opportunity; if it was because these are thorny issues for your administration to deal with."

De Blasio: "No, it's -- you know, I think I made very clear, the affordability crisis is a tough issue for this whole city. Those other issues need to be addressed and they will, but I got to thinking about it, Marcia, and I came to a conclusion that, you know, you can touch upon a whole lot of different issues, or you can really concentrate on one and provide a deeper explanation and strategy."

Baruch College professor Doug Muzzio pointed out that the speech, which included a video touting de Blasio's accomplishments, seemed like the unofficial start of de Blasio's reelection campaign. He said it seemed to be targeted at the communities that helped de Blasio become mayor in the first place.

"He doesn't talk about things that can be damaging to his reelection legacy," Muzzio said.

The mayor also opened himself up to attack from political opponents. Republican mayoral candidate Paul Massey claimed it was "hypocrisy" for the mayor to spend $35,000 of taxpayer dollars to give a speech about affordability.

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