Friday, May 23, 2008

As giant cranes tumble on New York pedestrians, a smallfry politician offers a plan to protect you. With this.

Man, it’s getting tougher and tougher to live in New York and – sorry Mike – before I get to the smallfry, it’s time to start socking it a little harder to outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

For a long time Bloomberg appeared to be on a quest for – what was it again, the Presidency of the United States? Anyway, his quest led him to nanny the city into smoking bans in bars, calorie postings next to menu items in fast food restaurants, a failed try to tax citizens from the outer boroughs who dared to drive into Manhattan, and a whole lot of traveling away from the city – instead of staying where the Mayor’s ought to have been keeping an eye on things.

Meanwhile, certain basic services that have always been the city’s responsibility got, uh, shall we say neglected?

When the mayor’s away
the rats will play

For example, while the Mayor traveled around the United States last year, evidently in a failed attempt to seek a Presidential nomination, his health inspectors were giving passing grades to rat-infested restaurants.

Had the mayor but stayed home and walked around his city a bit more often, he might have seen what thousands of residents of Greenwich Village saw: a virtual rat menagerie attracting crowds as the cute little critters skittered around the restaurant.

Eventually that led to TV news coverage of the restaurant rat zoo and an ensuing scandal. The health inspector who for one reason or another – Do I detect the aroma of bribe money? – gave the rodent-infested eatery a passing grade was relieved from duty.

Of course – to deliberately and horribly mix a sackful of metaphors – that was closing the barn door after the rats were out of the bag. But hey, better late than never.

You’d think the mayor might be inspired by this ratty scandal to do a top-to-bottom review of what, whether and how the city’s myriad inspectors were doing their jobs, which were designed to protect the public’s health and safety. But no.

Look out…below-o-o-o-oh!

So then, surprise! Last March, a giant construction crane collapsed, flattening a townhouse and killing seven people below, after a building inspector gave a passing grade to the crane – which it turns out he hadn’t inspected.

Well, Bloomberg was busy fighting for his failed congestion pricing plan at the time. Had he but succeeded, future victims of collapsing cranes at least wouldn’t be inhaling the fumes from quite so many cars – Mayor Bloomberg’s limo excepted.

Little wonder, with not only his presidential ambitions thwarted, but also his mayoral record tarnished, the mayor has been appearing even crankier than The New York Crank. In fact, if you Google “Mayor Bloomberg getting testy,” you’ll find something like 27,000 entries.

When the bigwigs fail,
the lightweights rush in

Already, the local political vultures are pouncing on the carrion of Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral career. Recently, I received an e-mail that New York State Assemblyman Johnathan L. Bing sent to all of his constituents.

In yet another case of rats, barn doors and bags, Assemblyman Bing revealed his efforts to pass legislation that hereafter would penalize inspectors more severely after the cranes they don’t inspect collapse on people.

Here’s an idea worth bagging

But best of all, as part of the collapsing crane discussion in his e-mail, Assemblyman Bing announced this stunningly helpful initiative:

Assemblyman Bing will be hosting an event later this month with the American Red Cross to inform constituents about emergency preparedness and to give away free "Go Bags" containing supplies that New Yorkers should have in case of emergency.
"Go Bag?"

That’s the knapsack-sized bag up at the top of the page. So hey, I’m not worried any more. If a 10-ton crane falls on my head, I’ll simply unzip the knapsack that no doubt I’ll be carrying with me everywhere, whip out a bandage, and put it on my crushed skull. Why, there might even be a bottle of water for me to sip, assuming I’m still alive and not quite totally paralyzed.

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