Friday, August 13, 2010

Living Wage, Dying Laughing

After much fanfare, and a considerable time for meditation, EDC has announced it has selected a consultant for its ballyhooed study of the living wage concept. As we said at the time:

"Crain's is reporting that EDC-EDC, of all people-is commissioning a study on the impact of living wage...And no one appears to be buying the EDC fig leaf: "Under the EDC proposal, an advisory committee made up of labor unions, business and real estate groups and think tanks would make recommendations to shape the terms of the study. Both Mr. Liu and the council members are instead calling for an academic advisory group made up of economists to review the study's scope, methodology and results." What has now become clear to an ever increasing cohort of policy analysts and elected officials, is that an independent EDC study is the equivalent of that most famous oxymoron: military intelligence. And in the process, everyone is beginning to understand why the philosopher Alasdair McIntyre has noted that, "bureaucratic expertise is one of the great moral fictions of our time."

But we do have to take our hats off to one aspect of this high farce. As the EDC press release states: "The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) today announced that Charles River Associates, a leading economic and management consulting firm, is beginning work on a comprehensive study about the effects of wage requirements. The firm was selected through a public, competitive process."

Who knew that EDC was actually capable of putting anything out to competitive bid? With AKRF monopolizing all of its environmental reviews, we kinda thought that the DBA for EDC was, "sole source." But what can we expect from this situation? In June we pointed out how the sandbagging city council speaker had colluded in killing a pilot program for food waste disposers-by farming out the whole idea for the disposer-hating DEP to study. The results were predictable-as we believe this one will be as well.

The Comptroller apparently agrees-as he opined in June: "Comptroller John Liu continued his recent attacks on the EDC, calling the study a “million-dollar sham” that “fails to ensure the delivery of an objective product.” And nine council members wrote to EDC President Seth Pinsky, expressing “concerns about the manner and spirit in which this study is conducted.”

But what if, on a outside chance, the consultant actually recommends that the essence of the city wide living wage legislation indeed has merit? Where would that leave Mayor Mike? Here's what the mayor said in the aftermath of the defeat of the Kingsbridge Armory: "It's a nice idea but is poorly thought out and will not work," he said. "The economics don't work if you have to pay more."

But before you just throw up your hands in hopelessness, please take heart. Bloomberg-kinda like Junior Gillibrand-has evolved. Commenting after a local West Side resident head butted a film crew production assistant, the mayor defended the industry: "Head-butting somebody just doesn't make a lot of sense," he said. "The real question is, do we want to have jobs for people so they can feed their family?"

Given the mayor's about face, do you think that the fix might be in, and that the study will mirror the mayor's changing view of the living wage issue? No, we don't think so either-and the Bloombergian contradiction is just another example of the theoretical confusion and inconsistency that has characterized this administration since its inception. But, we could be wrong.