Saturday, February 10, 2007

Burdensome Regulations? Only for the Chosen Few

We have already commented on the mayoral double standards when it comes to the question of burdensome regulations. While the mayor flails away against the onerous regulatory restrictions that are crippling the NYC financial markets, he fails to notice how his own agency for consumer affairs is trying to expand its regulatory reach at the expense of the city's smallest retailers.

On Tuesday the City Council will be holding a hearing on Intro 201, a measure that would expand the current regulatory authority of the DCA. Here we go again! The Bloomberg administration has been attempting- unsuccessfully because of the Alliance's efforts- to increase the DCA's regulatory reach for the past six years. If it wasn't able to do so through law, than it tried to sneak the regulatory expansion through a Charter Revision referendum (overwhelmingly defeated).

As the NY Sun editorialized on these efforts two short years ago (this was the Bloombergistas third attempt), in an editorial appropriately titled, "Undue Process:" "In many ways some might suggest, Introductory Bill 390 can be seen as emblematic of the way that the Bloomberg administration has sought to relate to the city's small businesses: to act as judge, jury and executioner." Now we are once again faced with the recrudescence of the same regulatory impulse, this time in Intro 210.

When is the mayor's minions going to get the message? Neighborhood retailers need, just as do the city's financial markets, less regulation and a reduced tax burden in order to be more productive. When it comes to small business, however, the mayor simply has a tin ear.

Over the past five years his administration has raised the commercial real estate tax by 25%, effectively raising the rent of every neighborhood store by a similar percentage; it has allowed for the doubling and in some cases tripling of commercial garbage rates (while confounding the introduction of garbage disposals that would help to defray these costs); it has raise the cigarette tax a confiscatory 1800% (costing local stores over $250 million a year in lost revenue); and now the city's DOH has proposed a menu labeling rule that will cost local franchisees millions of dollars in compliance costs.

As we have consistently pointed out, the city's entire municipal code needs to be overhauled and the enforcement and adjudication process badly needs to be reformed. If we are truly to become, in the mayor's words, the "Opportunity Society," than enhancing the business climate for the smallest and most vulnerable neighborhood retailers should be the city's primary goal. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.