Monday, October 24, 2005

We Stoop To Conquer

We are hopeful that our efforts to expose the wrong-headedness of Intro 699 are taking hold in the approaching override battle at the City Council. Real credit, however, goes to the indefatigable Sung Soo Kim, who has been blitzing councilmembers with material that underscores the folly of the law. The message is starting to take hold.

There are a couple of interesting points about the law that need to be brought out. In the first place the entire methodology surrounding the measurement of "pedestrian traffic flow" should open the eyes of councilmembers who are having second thoughts about the utility of 699. In reading the description of the analytical method we were impressed by the complexity of the review process, one that relies on the Highway Capacity Manual (the same one that is used in the generation of data for the Environmental Impact Statements used for mega-store development).

The pedestrian analysis is also the same methodology used for evaluating newsstand locations. What's interesting about this is that, according to Rob Bookman (counsel to the newsstand dealers), the DOT will often take months to evaluate the traffic issues pursuant to the license application of a newsstand operator. And get this – there are generally no more than a handful of such applications each year.

What 699 is proposing is to use the same methodology to review the 2,126 fruit stand licensees, businesses that turn over with much greater frequency than newsstands. It portends, then, a regulatory nightmare with hundreds of additional inspectors brought on to examine the pedestrian flow issues for thousands of license applications.

Which brings us to the issue of fees. A critic of ours suggested that 699 would not lead to any increase in regulatory costs. Guess again. Someone is going to have to pay for the DOT's increased regulatory responsibilities and store owners are the usual suspects that the agency will round up to dutifully pay for the increased work load.

Oh and the Council, eager to demonstrate that the legislation was justified in the first place will not hesitate for a second in providing the DOT with the requisite resources. And the agency, however reluctantly it was dragged into all this in the first place, will undoubtedly warm to its regulatory task and do what city agencies always do: find violations, fine businesses and generally bust chops.

Intro 731A

As a result of all of Mr. Kim's efforts, there is now an awareness that 699 has certain critical defects. This awareness is threatening to prevent the Council from overriding the mayor's veto next Thursday. In response, John Liu has introduced Intro 731 as an antidote to 699's deficiencies. In essence, a flawed bill was introduced and passed in great haste and when the flaws were dramatized by the impacted retailers, Liu rushes another bill forward as a remedy.

What a scene! Doesn't it make more sense to send 699 back to the drawing board and remedy its defects rather than pass a companion bill which, on careful analysis, doesn't even provide the relief that its sponsor pretends it does. All of which brings to mind Karl Marx's comment about his rival, the French socialist Proudhon: "He seeks synthesis and all he achieves is composite error."