The Anti-Politician Does It Again
July 25th, 2006

An editorial in the New York Post entitled No Thanks, Mr. Mayor criticizes Mayor Michael Bloomberg for thanking Con Ed head Kevin Burke for his efforts during the week-long blackout in Queens. This, the Post argues, fits a pattern of this mayor, who refuses to demand accountability from top officials, no matter how horrific their foul-ups citing as examples,
Administration for Childrens Services Commissioner John Mattingly after the death of Nixmary Browns death, Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall after the death of 11 passengers on the Staten Island ferry, and Rikers Island chaplain Umar Abdul-Jalil after his comments about terrorism at a conference last year.

By on July 25, 2006, 7:00 am
In category: Governing,Tech,Transportation | 3 Comments »

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3 Responses to “The Anti-Politician Does It Again”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    July 25th, 2006 at 7:27 am

    Who refuses to demand accountability from top officials, no matter how horrific their foul-ups.

    Maybe. But as a former public employee, I can tell you something about the motivation of public sector management. You can’t be blamed for what you don’t do, only for what you do, so the tendency is to do as little as possible.

    The press and the public focuses on incidents. You aren’t going to make anything better through knee-jerk reactiosn to the press. My guess is Bloomberg makes his own assessments.

    As for Con Edison, Bloomberg didn’t say the company was doing a great job maintaining the system, he said they were working hard to fix it. What caused the problem, and has maintenance been adequate? That remains to be seen. Are people willing to pay for better maintenance? Is the cost of maintenance too high? That remains to be seen too.

    The reality is the distribution system is getting older, and people are demanding more power. Every time the weather gets hot, the utilities end up asking people to turn down the air conditioning. That’s why we don’t have it — the only time we really need it, using it would contribute to a situation like this one.

    In the case of Nixmary Brown, the blame is widely shared, and not just with those who did the evil deed. More and more public funding is being used for seniors, the debts they left behind, public employee pensions, and their health and custodial care needs. Children are a lower priority, especially in NYC.

    No city agency was cut more than the Administration of Childrens services after 9/11. That was a choice. Mattingly was expected to go along with that choice, and do the best he could. Blaming him, rather than those who killed the girls and those who didn’t want to pay to protect her, is the easy way out for everyone.

  2. Larry Littlefield Says:
    July 25th, 2006 at 7:38 am

    And here is the first indication of what actually happened, from the Times. Several cables went down, and Con Edison faced a choice of shutting down power to a large area of Queens but saving the equipment, or gambling on a smaller but longer blackout. They took the latter route. Was that the right call? The key is:

    “In 1999, in Washington Heights and Inwood, Con Ed, faced with failing power, shut down the entire network serving those neighborhoods, causing a blackout for 200,000 but also saving equipment from further damage and allowing for a relatively smooth return to normal power.”

    Go back to the press coverage of that event. Were people crediting Con Edison for making the correct decision, or castigating the company? Find the quotes from the pols in Washington Heights. Find the editorials. Now imagine you are a manager sitting at a desk making that call.

    The longer term issue is the status of the equipment, it’s ability to handle the load, and our increasing use of power. But the longer term issue can only be addressed in the longer term. In the meantime, there are short term choices.

    As noted above, the manager decided to do nothing and hope the problem would go away. Perhaps the reaction in 1999 turned him into a de-facto civil servant. And the pols can only imagine what public sector managers, particularly those with a little bit of pride and concern for their work, think of them.

  3. zoe kins Says:
    July 25th, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    the staten island ferry debacle is just one of Weinshall’s epic foul-ups. i heard that the times is working on a story that includes a littany of her transportation transgressions.

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