By John O'Connell
Who’s to blame for New York’s increase in crime, its high taxes and the general feeling of dread many of us feel? It would be wrong to hold state Democratic Party elected officials solely responsible. But to the extent that government is accountable for public safety, setting tax rates and public spending priorities, and the overall order of civil society, you’d have to cast the evil eye at the left.
Democrats have controlled the governor’s office and the State Senate and Assembly since 2019. They’ve had the majority in the Assembly since 1975. There are now 105 Democrats in the Assembly and only 43 Republicans. The Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, is a Democrat. In the Senate, there are 42 Democrats and 20 Republicans, and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a Democrat. Democrats serve as governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller. Both U.S. senators are Democrats, as are 19 of 27 members of New York’s delegation in the House of Representatives.
Given those stats, who else could be responsible for failing to effectively deal with such quality-of-life issues as shootouts on city streets and incidents like the fight at the Roosevelt Field Mall on May 1, which reporters described as a “large disturbance” and a Twitter user called a “terrifying event.” It’s indisputable that the people in charge have not done nearly enough to help citizens feel secure in their homes, on their streets or at their kitchen tables at tax-preparation and household-budgeting time.
Happily, violent- and property-crime rates in Nassau County are extremely low, especially the further east you go from the Queens border.
But that isn’t the case in New York City. CNN reported that major crimes in New York City "spiked nearly 60 percent in February compared to the same month in 2021. The city recorded a 41 percent increase in overall major crime through the first months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, including a nearly 54 percent increase in robberies, a 56 percent increase in grand larceny incidents, and a 22 percent increase in rape reports.”
The state budget is $216.5 billion. New York City’s budget is $98.5 billion. Next to funding pensions, health plans and civil service compensation packages, New Yorkers want safe streets; clean, violence-free and timely public transportation; only enough taxation to meet voters’ priorities; pure water and properly inspected food establishments; non-ideological public-school curriculums taught by competent, background-checked educators; good parks and infrastructure in good repair.
But it is unfair, wrong and too easy to simply blame Democrats. There used to be a saying about the State Legislature — which applied to Republicans and Democrats — that it was more likely for Albany’s elected officials to leave office by indictment, arrest or resignation under legal pressure than by losing re-election.
The problem isn’t in the parties, but in the system — systemic greed for money, power, celebrity or ego satisfaction. Instead of blaming Democrats, I think it’s the corrupt system of elections and governance that most interferes with effectively addressing our public policy problems.
Cynically redrawing election-district borders to favor one party, making it therefore more likely that the majority party remains in power — gerrymandering — is one sign of that systemic corruption, one that the controlling party has no interest in fixing.
The system that permits district attorneys, such as Manhattan’s Alvin Bragg, to decide which felonies and violent misdemeanors are prosecuted is destructive of good community order. The system that releases even violent offenders without bail — euphemistically called “bail reform” by liberal politicians — encourages recurring criminal behavior and makes law-abiding citizens more vulnerable. The illegal system of trading campaign contributions for contract awards is another bastardization of political power.
No matter what systemic corruptions exist, citizens still have the power to make changes, if only they vote. Far too many elections are decided by far too few voters as a percentage of those eligible to register and cast ballots.
Democracy isn’t about the submission of the minority to the majority. Democracy works when the rate of participation exceeds citizens’ penchant for passivity.
In spite of the prevalence of a left-leaning press and social media censorship, in spite of largely party-dominated candidate selections and other obstacles to fair elections, we citizens can rise up — and vote.
John O’Connell is a former executive editor of the Herald Community Newspapers. Comments? OConnell11001@yahoo.com.