Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Doing Cartwheels

Mike Bloomberg simply doesn't give up when he becomes obsessed by an idea-and fruit and veggie peddlers all over NYC's streets is one such idée fixe. As the NY Post has reported: "Hey, getcha fresh air -- and fresh fruit and fresh veggies -- in Central Park. The city is expanding its eat-healthy Green Cart campaign by allowing food vendors to operate at three choice locations around the park, beginning next month, officials said. The carts will offer high-nutrition produce at competitive prices, such as three bananas for just a buck, half-pound boxes of strawberries for $2 and mangos for $1.50."

Now we have one good question. This green cart experiment was supposed to have some oversight-and its effectiveness analyzed as part of the enabling legislation that launched this green crusade. Has such oversight been done? Are the folks in "underserved neighborhoods" eating healthier because of carts on the street? Or, as we might imagine, has the experiment failed to bear fruit?

Shouldn't the city council be all over this-having oversight hearing that would evaluate whether or not the carts were a success? And, if that hasn't been done, why do we have this unilateral effort by the mayor to, what else, posture once again about how green he is? As one local resident e-mailed to us: "This is hard to believe. If the Mayor has not problem doing this to Fifth Avenue what is he going to do to the rest of the City?"

Or, as another correspondent pointed out to us: "We continue to see a pattern of the city --Mayor and his departments just doing what ever they want and not having any respect for process or for community involvement."

The streets are being totally overrun, and you'd think that the Bloombergistas would have learned from all of the incidents involving peddlers-incidents that exposed the lax city oversight-that have occurred over the past year. These kinds of incidents would have led to a public excoriation of the mayor in past administrations; but Bloomberg continues his charmed Teflon existence when it comes to the city's scandal probing tabloids.

Just think, the Daily News' Juan Gonzales has done a series of exposes on CityTime, a failed effort to monitor city employees. The failure cost us over $700,000,000! Yet this is the mild rebuke that Mort Zuckerman's paper comes up with: "Mayor Bloomberg has called CityTime, the 12-year-old money pit that is computerizing how city workers punch in and out, a disaster. He was being kind. The projected cost in 1998 was $86 million. We're now at $786 million - and counting - with the system in operation for less than one-third of the 165,000 proles who are mostly expected to use it by placing their palms on gizmos that will identify who they are and record instantly when and where people are on the job."

Boy, the mayor's ears must be blistering. No Knucklehead Award for Mike-but, oh yes, one for Joel Rivera for simply suggesting that the city zone out more fast food outlets. What's $700,000,000 worth of malfeasance when compared to a simple suggestion from a lone council member?

So, if the council is prepared to become a true oversight body, it should start with hearings on the much ballyhooed green cart experiment. Our view is that the effort will have fallen far short of its goal of getting low income New Yorkers to eat better-exactly putting the supply cart before the demand horse.

The mayor should stick to trying to make NYC a less expensive place to live and do business in-and leave the behavior modification to the psychotherapists. Between green carts, menu labeling and soda taxing, the mayor's plate is overflowing with policy non sequitors. But if Mike wasn't posturing and misdirecting, maybe the folks would catch on to what a mediocre job he has done over the past eight years-a governing pig that even hundreds of millions of campaign dollar lipstick can't make palatable.