Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Look in the Dark, You See My Face

There was a hit song in the fifties that went: "Peek-a-boo, I'm watching you. Look in the dark, you see my face. Don't try to hide, I'm everyplace." The long-ago lyrics were brought to mind as we read the NY Post editorial this morning on the omnipresent Dr. Frieden.

There seems to be very little that escapes the good doctor's purview when it comes to public health. As the Post notes, however, the recent rat crisis has had one positive outcome: it has diverted the commissioner into doing, well, what the mandate of the Department says he should be doing, actually working to protect the public health in a way that doesn't intrude om the ability of individuals to make personal decisions on how they want to lead their lives.

There is also a downside in the doctor's diversion. That downside is the blindsiding of restaurant owners who are having their places shut down by inspectors who are eager to avenge their boss' embarrassment in the wake of the Taco Bell rat fiasco. As the Post notes there isn't a restaurant in the world that could survive a rule book inspection by someone looking to avenge his Superior's public humiliation.

And the fact is that these inspections, and the tens of thousands of other forms of municipal harassment, are little more than a way for the city to appear good to an unaware public, while raking in tens of millions of dollars from overburdened businesses. The reality is that there is no restaurant or supermarket that can do anything to avoid a notice of violation if the inspector is motivated to write one up. The rules and regulations are too complex and voluminous for any business to ever be in full compliance.

And what is the mayor doing about all of these burdensome regulations? As the NY Times reports this morning, he is uniting with key Republican lawmakers to fight the closing of tax loopholes for some of the city's largest financial companies. Not that they might not deserve the defense, but where is the mayor when the little guy is threatened? Generally, he's the one in the forefront of the threatening.