STRIKE! - Not the baseball kind, but the union kind - It was blazing hot while I was away. And just in time for the really, really hot weather, the ConEd (gas/electric) workers went on strike or more accurately were locked out by management. They've been out for about three weeks now. As you can guess, it's not about the poor wages or benefits or anything that one would think would drive workers to the picket lines. It's about...well who knows. ConEd says it wants to eliminate the pension and wage structures for new hires, require workers to contribute more to their healthcare, more flexibility in hard times, and, the real sticking point, require 7 days notice before a strike. The 8500 workers say that "[t]hey want to cut medical, they want to cut our pension, they want to cut our wages,”.
Unlike our 2005 transit strike that shut down all public transport and the city for three days, the electricity is still flowing and, as long as the electricity works, no one can even tell there IS a strike. But, much like the transit strike, the ConEd workers are getting no sympathy or support from the citizens of NYC either.
CRIME IN THE CITY - While I was away, the murder/crime rate jumped dramatically - a whopping 10% over last year. On July 4th, nineteen people were shot and four were killed. Three of those four people were gunned down in a hail of 64 bullets fired from an AK-47 into a crowd and reportedly over a girl. The fact that only 3 were killed is kind of a miracle.
All of this comes on the heels of massive protests about NYC's aggressive "stop & frisk" policy. As I've explained before, our Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has come under fire (no pun intended) for his long standing aggressive policing practices of having beat cops stop people acting suspiciously and frisking them for guns and other stuff. The results have brought the crime rate down about 300% in the last 20 years and last year alone took over 700 guns away from criminals. Logically, they have targeted high crime areas which also happens to be high minority areas and now cries of racism have ensued. To his great credit, Kelly has not backed down AT ALL. This week he publicly rebuked community leaders for staging loud protests to voice their outrage against the police department, but continue to be deafeningly silent that their children are being gunned down daily in the streets...
"Ninety-six percent of our shooting victims are people of color, yet these community leaders are not speaking out about that,” he said. “I'd like to see some political outcry... I want them to be outraged that a 3-year-old child is shot on the streets."In response, Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams said he protests all the time and challenged Kelly to come walk the beat with him without any protection. Kelly responded, no thanks, he has been doing that for 40 years already. And, as you might imagine, Al Sharpton responded with...continued silence...which is kind of amazing, if you think about it. Oh, it shouldn't surprise you that Councilman Williams was arrested earlier this year protesting with the Occupy Wall Street bunch. So yes, he does protest a lot, but just not about children being slaughtered on their stoops.
CRIME NOT IN THE CITY - I can't leave the topic of crime and murder without saying something about Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He may be on to something with his brilliant way of handling the ever-rising murder rate in his tottlin' town. Rather than actually try and slow down the murder rate with aggressive policing tactics like NYC's Ray Kelly, Mayor Rahm has decided to take the kinder, gentler approach, This week he softly admonished (some would say, "begged") the would-be murderers to take to the alleyways -
We've got two gangbangers, one standing next to a kid. Get away from that kid. Take your stuff away to the alley. Don't touch the children of the city of Chicago. Don't get near them. And it is about values. As I said then, Scott, who raised you? How were you raised? And I don't buy this case where people say they don't have values. They do have values. They have the wrong values. Don't come near the kids -- don't touch them.Not your typical "Don't commit murder or we'll fry you" approach, but a gentler "take it inside, so we can't see it happening" approach. I am sure that will work out just fine, and if Ray Kelly weren't such a brutal, mean guy, he could have done it that way too.
And on a final note - As you may or may not remember, NY had its Congressional Primary on June 26th and at the time I reported that Charlie Rangel won his 4-way primary pretty handily by over 2000 votes. Well, three weeks later, and after major challenges and numerous recounts, it has finally been ruled that Ol' Charlie did win afterall, but by only 800 votes and not without accusations of voter suppression and the like. But that's not the real story here. It's really about the NYC Board of Elections and their credibility gap. Let me explain why.
Four years ago, our city switched from those old-fashioned manual lever-type voting booths (you know, the kind that my Grandmother voted in 50 years ago) to a new, expensive electronic computer voting system. The new system allows for more accurate votes and speeder tallies. However, even though these new electronic voting systems can download the votes directly onto a thumb drive that can be plugged directly into the main system to be counted, our BOE refuses to change with the times. Instead, they have decided to stick with the old system of manually counting all of the votes, recording the counts on little slips of of paper that are then transported by police squad car to a main voting station and re-entered manually at the main voting station. In a perfect example of oxymoronic government efficiency, what could take just hours, continues to take days and sometimes weeks. The rest of the state has moved on, but, citing some quirk in the city laws or something, the NYC BOE says they cannot change the way the counting/recording of votes is done because chaos would ensue and it would bring on the "End Times". Okay, I made that last part up, but after their June debacle, it is coming down to a real crisis with the looming national elections. They must embrace the new technology or the entire Board shouild be replaced. The Board has one more chance to get it right with our local Primary in September, or something will happen maybe. Where's Eric Holder and his voter suppression crusade when we need him?
Next week - The crime and lack of punishment for the lying cheaters at top tier Stuyvesant High School and other pressing issues...
Addendum: Happy Bastille Day!! Viva La France - Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!