New York City: Trading One Meddlesome Mayor for Another

Anyone really surprised to read this?

After his mayoral campaign sent vague signals yesterday about whether he would maintain Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s legal effort to restrict soda cup sizes at restaurants, Bill de Blasio vowed to do precisely that this afternoon.

“I think the mayor is right and I would continue the legal process. We have to, of course, look at the specifics with our own lawyers to handle the mechanics, but there’s no question I want to see this rule go through,” the front-running candidate told reporters at a rally with Chinese-American supporters.

Yesterday, Mr. de Blasio’s spokesman, Dan Levitan, told The New York Times the candidate would “review the status of the city’s litigation” if elected.

Mr. Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces was struck down by a lower court earlier this year, following an intense lobbying effort from the soda industry, small business owners and some elected officials. The Bloomberg administration, however, appealed the decision to the state’s highest court, which agreed to hear the appeal yesterday.

To be sure, there are people in New York who deserve to be the beneficiaries of exactly this kind of "leadership"; as Mencken famously said, "[d]emocracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." But there are also plenty of people in New York--and other places as well!--who deserve better than this. And they'd get better than this if the allegedly great and powerful ever learned to mind their own business and to devote their alleged greatness and power to solving actual problems of actual consequence that are within their wheelhouses instead of trying to mollycoddle the rest of the planet.

I trust the people of New York to look after their own waistlines. Bill de Blasio--who aspires to be their mayor--does not. I don't see how any New Yorker with any semblance of self-respect looks to the like of de Blasio and says "ah, yes; that's the person I want leading my city."

Quote of the Day

Spitzer brought many down and rattled innocent good citizens.  Everyone in New York City should worry that Spitzer will find ways, as he threatens, to radically expand the power of the comptroller to do equally dangerous things in the City.  That will include trampling on due process rights and instilling in people fear of out-of-control government officials such he aspires once again to be.

--Lawrence Cunningham on Eliot Spitzer and his campaign to be the next New York city comptroller.

The Nanny State Suffers a Setback

Very good news:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial plan to keep large sugary drinks out of restaurants and other eateries was rejected by a state appeals court on Tuesday, which said he had overstepped his authority in trying to impose the ban.

The law, which would have prohibited those businesses from selling sodas and other sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces (473 ml), "violated the state principle of separation of powers," the First Department of the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division said.

The decision, upholding a lower court ruling in March that struck down the law, dealt a blow to Bloomberg's attempt to advance the pioneering regulation as a way to combat obesity. Beverage makers and business groups, however, challenged it in court, arguing that the mayoral-appointed health board had gone too far when it approved the law.

A unanimous four-judge panel at the appeals court agreed, finding that the board had stepped beyond its power to regulate public health and usurped the policy-making role of the legislature.

In particular, the court focused on the law's loopholes, which exempted businesses not under the auspices of the city's health department and left certain drinks, such as milk-based beverages, unaffected.

As a result, grocery and convenience stores - such as 7 Eleven and its 64-ounce Big Gulp - were protected from the ban's reach, even as restaurants, sandwich shops and movie theaters were not. Meanwhile, milkshakes and high-calorie coffee drinks like Starbucks' Frappucinos would have remained unfettered.

"The exceptions did not ... reflect the agency's charge to protect public health but instead reflected the agency's own policy decisions regarding balancing the relative importance of protecting public health with ensuring the economic viability of certain industries," Justice Dianne Renwick wrote for the court.

Bloomberg will, of course, appeal this ruling. And I imagine that he will try to find other ways to officiously meddle in the lives of ordinary citizens. But it is always nice to see officious meddling slapped down. And we have seen it with the reaction of the New York state court system to the soda ban.

When Nobel Prize Winners Miss a Trick

A strange post by Paul Krugman. I know, I know; that's like saying "water is wet," but this is an especially fascinating case of Krugmanian shortsightedness.

Krugman is commenting on the habit of wealthy New Yorkers to purchase

. . . pied-a-terres in newly fashionable Lower Manhattan. You have to read a bit carefully to realize that these are, for the most part, people with apartments on the Upper East Side; their downtown bolt-holes are to avoid the need to trek uptown after a night out.

Krugman approves of this, because

. . . the truth is that of the various things the wealthy might spend on, this is one of the less offensive; it might even reduce externalities, if people walk back to their downtown hideaways instead of having a limo wait outside the restaurant for hours.

I get the reasoning here. I really do. Krugman believes that if people have second apartments, they will be able to rely less on limousines or other forms of motorized transportation, which means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which might help solve the global warming problem. But not a thought spared for the poor limo driver who might lose his/her job as a consequence of all of this (even as real estate agents get richer)? And no conception of the possibility that a limo doesn't have to have the engine running while it waits for someone?

You know, it's best to think things through before writing a blog post. Too bad that Krugman often doesn't.

Michael Bloomberg's Got Some 'Splainin' to Do

If the mayor of New York wants to carry on a crusade against guns, that's his business. But there is something rotten about the way that he's doing it

The name “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” is well known as Mike Bloomberg’s gun-control arm, which he spends his personal fortune through on ads. Yet the group’s website is registered to, and handled by, official city government servers and staffers.

Domain names for MAIG were registered in 2006 by the New York City Department of Information and Technology, and have remained on official city web servers ever since.

Yet the group’s “action fund,” through which he has piped at least $14 million of his own money in ads over gun control this year alone, is registered as a 501c4, a nonprofit “social welfare” group with the same tax status as, say, the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS or Organizing for Action, President Obama’s grassroots arm. And it raises questions about why a website associated with the group is being managed by City Hall.

In fact, the various pieces of the mayor’s efforts appear as a confusing muddle online, with sites that are ostensibly not part of the 501c4 nonetheless being visually dominated by entreaties to click through to the ones that are. There’s little indication that these are different entities with different oversight.

At minimum, the use of a city web server and city employees underscore what critics have long derided as a blurring of the lines between government resources and Bloomberg’s own multi-billion-dollar fortune, his company, and his pet interests in his three terms as mayor.

I seem to recall that maybe, possibly, just perhaps, there was a time when Bloomberg concentrated on addressing the problems and challenges affecting New York, instead of trying to be mayor of the entire planet and engaging in potential impropriety in the process. I'd like to think that I am not wrong in this recollection, but even if I am right, one is left to wonder what happened to the Michael Bloomberg who focused on being a mayor instead of being a crusader. 

Nice Work If You Can Get It

$156,000 a year for eating my fill and napping for two hours in the office before I go home? A $1,400/month food allowance? Where do I sign up?

Some labor supporters think that the decline of the labor movement is due to evil conservatives and their evil ways. But perhaps they should contemplate the possibility that labor's decline is due to the fact that the talent pool in the labor movement is not what it used to be.