Friday, May 21, 2010

Credit Where It's Due

The Alliance has been probably the biggest Bloomberg critic through his first two terms-but when the Bloomberg administration does something right, we need to congratulate it. As the Crain's Insider is reporting (subsc): "Mayor Bloomberg is trying to do for business what he's already done for individual New Yorkers: bring a spirit of customer service to government bureaucracy. But it's not as simple as setting up a 311-style hotline—which, in fact, they hope to make more responsive to businesses' needs. At least 20 agencies are already knee-deep in the process. A website, NYC Business Express, is one of the first offerings. It spells out the permits and licenses that entrepreneurs will need in order to open their businesses. A restaurateur who wants to serve alcohol and have a pool table, say, needs no fewer than 11 city permits and licenses."

Now one of our biggest gripes with the Bloombergistas has been onerous regulations-and an unfair adjudication system that goes with the regs. But apparently, some positive changes are in the works:-ones that go beyond those proposed by Speaker Quinn "City officials say merchants slapped with violations often complain, “I've never heard of that rule.” In part, that's because agencies issue hundreds of rules each year. Many are redundant or contradictory. Anthony Crowell, counselor to the mayor, says the administration is streamlining the city's rules to make it easier for businesses to comply with them. Part of the challenge is cultural. City lawyers are being asked to consider how the rules they write to implement municipal law may overburden small businesses. Agency inspectors who hand out fines may soon find themselves in training sessions that stress customer service. The administration hopes to allow businesses to be able to pay or adjudicate violations online within 18 months. But the day when business owners won't need expediters to deal with the city may not come until after the mayor has left office."

Make no mistake about this. If the mayor's people follow through-and we've been calling for the revamping of the municipal code for years-this will be a real boon for the city's struggling Mom and Pop retailers; and suggested streamlining of the licensing procedures is another potential benefit here as well: "The vision in the mayor's office is to eventually provide business owners with one-stop shopping for permits and licenses. Thirty-three licenses can now be applied for online, but that leaves more than 400 paper-based city licenses, permits and certifications, and exams."

Now, if we could only find a way to reduce the city's crippling tax burden, things would really be looking up. But even without the needed tax relief, this is a real positive change of direction, and we wish that the mayor had started this eight years ago. That being said, our hats are off-credit, where credit's due.