Musings

Regime Change Needed

August 24, 2013

It’s long past time New York said goodbye to three-time mayor Billionaire Mike Bloomberg. He’s done some good things during his past decade in power. I’ve talked about some of them on the site before: the bike lanes were and are a good idea, despite the car drivers always complaining about the bikers and the bikers always complaining about the cars. Anything that reduces fossil fuel dependency has to be a good thing, and New York has a pretty small carbon footprint for a city its size. The banishment of smokers from bars, restaurants, and public parks was a great idea. Smokers may grouse about it, but frankly, I don’t give two shits about them. Smoking is obnoxious and second hand smoke is, without a doubt, harmful. As an asthmatic, it’s especially difficult for me to deal with, and then there’s the smell that clings stubbornly to your clothes if a smoker is walking ahead of you on the street and the wind is against you.

But in the past couple of years, Bloomberg has stepped over the line in a number of ways. I know the feisty little guy isn’t exactly high on sugary sodas, but declaring that bigger serving sizes than sixteen ounces should be outlawed simply doesn’t make any sense. It would only take a moment for someone who wanted a bigger serving to order another glass, or buy two bottles instead of one. I understand the importance of curbing the obesity epidemic, but the proposal was ludicrous. The courts blocked it, and I have no doubt that when Bloomberg is gone, the proposal will be dropped. Whoever replaces him is going to have more common sense, almost by default. Only a lame-brain like Bloomberg would have even attempted to implement the idea. There’s been other issues. How about when Mikey nominated Kathy Black for chancellor of New York’s public school system? Black was a buddy of the mayor, and she’d had absolutely no previous educational experience. This became painfully obvious after only 95 days, and she was ousted for the much more suitable Dennis Walcott.

But the worst thing Bloomberg has done during his time on the throne is to support Ray Kelly and the commissioner’s stop and frisk policy. This practice, which disproportionally targets blacks and Latinos in bad parts of the city, is blatantly and egregiously unconstitutional, violating the fourth amendment to the Constitution, which protects citizens against illegal search and seizure. No matter how much Kelly and Bloomberg talk about reduction in crime, which has been significant, I’ll admit, the illegality of this practice should have been obvious from the very beginning, and the way these two men have continued to push for its use despite the deep division it is creating in urban communities between the citizens and the police is really, really disturbing. It is the height of disrespect for Bloomberg to claim that getting stopped just because you’re a young person of color should be a reality of living in the city, like food cart vendors or rush hour traffic. It’s against everything that a wonderful, vibrant, culturally diverse city like New York is all about, the idea that a young black guy can be walking through his neighborhood minding his own business and at any moment he can be subjected to inhumane treatment by cops who are only trying to meet their quotas…which do exist, despite what the top brass will tell you. Adrian Schoolcraft established that conclusively with the tapes that he made while working as a cop from 2008-2009.

Crime is always going to be a problem that must be addressed. The cops must always come up with new and creative ways of fighting it, as well as sticking to the methods that have proven effective in the past. But when a new method violates a person’s Constitutional rights, not to mention causes him or her to grow increasingly afraid, humiliated, and distrustful of authority figures, that method must be discarded or amended. The court was right to see that something was wrong with stop and frisk. I believe that appointing an Inspector General to monitor the police department can only help. Someone outside of the department who won’t be intimidated by the top brass and who can call out the cops when their methods pass beyond the scope of the law is vital. It remains to be seen exactly how this Inspector General will work in concert with the department, but the appointment of such a person is an important first step toward healing the wounds this policy has created. Having a system in place so that citizens can strike back at the department when it is obvious they have been targeted for no other reason than their skin color is also critical, and it appears that system is going to be a reality in the near future as well. Bloomberg and Ray Kelly can fight back against the court rulings. It’s their prerogative, and we knew, based on what they’ve said and done over the past few years, that they weren’t going to take this decision lying down. Bloomberg feels that it’s a personal affront to him when everybody and everything in the world doesn’t go exactly as he says it should. And that’s why, ultimately, it’s long past time for him to go. I believe that the harm he has caused has grown, and continues to grow, to the point that it has overshadowed the limited good. Stop and frisk, and the mayor’s support of it, will be his legacy, I believe, more than anything else he’s done. And Bloomberg is on the wrong side. He may be unable or unwilling to see that, and because of that, if for no other reason, it’s time for the little guy to ride off into the sunset. Even if he tries yet again to change the term limits.

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