Friday, January 14, 2011

Quinn's Emergency Break

As the WSJ is reporting, Council Speaker Chris Quinn is looking to put the brakes on the mayor's asinine idea to charge people for emergency calls: "City Council Speaker Christine Quinn plans to submit testimony on Friday opposing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to charge motorists involved in accidents that require emergency-response services, a move that could doom the initiative. According to a draft copy of the testimony, Ms. Quinn called the mayor's proposal "unworkable," "unfair" and "unsafe." The Fire Department is holding a public hearing on the plan at its Brooklyn headquarters Friday."

Not to mention just plain stupid. What the Bloomberg initiative means to us is that he has allowed the city government to grow to such an extent that he now feels compelled to charge New Yorkers for basic services-a slippery slope that the speaker rightly rejects: "Emergency response is a basic government function for which individuals...should not be billed," Ms. Quinn, the second most powerful official in city government, said in the draft testimony. "The Fire Department doesn't charge for its response to structural fires, and the Police Department doesn't charge for patrolling a block," she said. "Charging for responding to the scene of an accident is a slippery slope, and I don't want to see us begin to go down that road out of a desperate desire to find sources of revenue."

CM Vallone agrees-and is rapidly raising his stature in his principled opposition to mayoral policies and management: "While FDNY officials promised to consider the public's input at Friday's hearing, the policy change doesn't need City Council approval, FDNY officials said. But Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., chairman of the Public Safety Committee, is drafting a bill that would bar the administration from charging the fee."

Vallone should immediately get busy on this-and further earn the "Winner" designation that City Hall newspaper gave him this week: "The Council’s Public Safety chair, who can usually be counted on to big-up the mayor and his policing tactics, was uncharacteristically harsh of Bloomberg’s response to the blizzard clean-up. Digging into his bag of nautical metaphors, Vallone rapped the administration for being “a rudderless ship in a storm,” and took each of the commissioners and deputy mayors to task during the Council’s marathon blizzard hearing."

He really earned his accolade because, in spite of his vitriol during the hearing, he still copped  a post storm mayoral visit-which prompted City Hall to wonder whether that was a calculated move to get Vallone to back off on his proposal to bell the mayoral cat: "But unlike other red-faced Council members, Vallone’s tirade earned him a district pop-in and one-on-one at a Queens diner with the mayor himself. Was it an attempt to get Vallone to drop his bill that would essentially attach a tracking device to the mayor so citizens would know when he’s cooling his heels on the beach?"

Cooling heels on the beach? Sands not too hot this time of year in Bermuda, we guess. Quinn, for her part, seems to be moving cautiously away from the mayoral embrace-and we believe that this will serve her much better as the mayor's reputation, along with his jet, heads south.

Here's her sound policy analysis: "Ms. Quinn said she is most concerned about the unintended consequences of the proposal. "Drivers involved in accidents will be less likely to call for police to crash scenes if they fear they may face a multi-hundred dollar charge," she said. "Drunk or uninsured drivers, or those with suspended licenses, are less likely to be caught—and the dangers for everyone else on the roads will increase."

She's right, and good for her-all this hair brained scheme of the mayor's does-in analogous ways to his storm mismanagement-is to underscore how overrated Bloomberg's management acumen really is. There is one instructive thing that does come out of this controversy. The WSJ managed to find the one choochem in the city who actually thinks that this policy makes sense.

Who is that sensitive soul? None other than the anti-auto man from Transportation Alternatives: "Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a transit advocacy group, wrote that his group "supports holding drivers financially accountable for their actions, while easing the financial burden on the Fire Department."

This is the kind of ally the mayor has left in his retinue? Of course, White's group rejects a proposal offered by CM Ulrich, to register bikes in order to control the out of control cyclists-as the NY Post reports this morning: "You may soon need a sticker to ride. In a bid to rein in rogue cyclists, all adult pedal pushers in the city will be required to get an ID tag affixed to their bikes if a city councilman has his way, The Post has learned."

TA responds in its own legislate you but not me manner: "We're adamantly opposed to any legislation that would require licensing or registration of bicycles," said Kim Martineau, a spokeswoman for Transportation Alternatives. ". . .[T]he deterrent effect it would have on cycling would be enormous."

Heaven forfend! Pile up fees on the tax payers, but leave the cyclists alone-a clear indication of how out of touch these folks really are; a further indication of how reprehensible the city's bike lane and pedestrian malling policies really are. We are now making policy that aggrandizes a few rag tag cyclists at the expense of the city's motorists and businesses-while looking to sock it to the tax payers for services that are vital to us all.

So kudos to Quinn, and may this break with the mayor-as well as the one on Walmart-be the start of a trend. For way too long, Mike Bloomberg has been issuing diktats to the citizens-particularly on health policy. This latest end run of the legislature needs to be met with a strong legislative response. Maybe Mike will get the message-wherever he may be.