It’s official: Mayor de Blasio has declared war on welfare reform. Last week, de Blasio announced that Legal Aid Society chief Steve Banks will be the city’s next welfare commissioner. The poverty-industrial complex erupted in elation.
No wonder: Banks is uniquely qualified to return New York to its former status as America’s dependency capital. For the last quarter-century, he has been suing the city over its welfare and homeless policies, inevitably seeking looser rules for eligibility, fewer requirements for work or lesser sanctions for noncompliance. As a result, he is deeply versed in the city’s internal protocols governing the distribution of assistance, and already understands where the regulatory levers are to open wide the aid spigot.
Banks is best known for a 25-year-long lawsuit that conferred on families claiming homelessness a court-enforceable right to housing at taxpayer expense — an entitlement that exists nowhere else in the country. But Banks and his Legal Aid Society have been equally diligent in fighting welfare reform.