Imagine a more responsive and responsible city


Queens Chronical

Last week this page touted the good and the bad in Mayor de Blasio’s first-term record, with the continuing drop in violent crime and the failure to reduce homelessness while opening new shelters all over the city as the top items on each side of the ledger.

This week the Chronicle offers some ideas on reform of city government that we think would make officials more accountable to the people they serve. Some may seem pie in the sky, but hey, throw an idea out there and 98 years later you have the first two miles of the Second Avenue Subway (yes, it was first proposed in 1919). You just never know.

Last week this page touted the good and the bad in Mayor de Blasio’s first-term record, with the continuing drop in violent crime and the failure to reduce homelessness while opening new shelters all over the city as the top items on each side of the ledger.

This week the Chronicle offers some ideas on reform of city government that we think would make officials more accountable to the people they serve. Some may seem pie in the sky, but hey, throw an idea out there and 98 years later you have the first two miles of the Second Avenue Subway (yes, it was first proposed in 1919). You just never know.

Firstly, growth in government must be slowed, if only because the economy cannot keep expanding the way it has been forever. The city expense budget for fiscal year 2014 was $69.9 billion. For fiscal 2018, it’s $85.2 billion. That’s bigger than all but five states, and a 21.8 percent increase over four years. Has your salary gone up more than 5 percent a year the past four years? Didn’t think so. Neither has gross domestic product, not even close. And no one expects it to, other than maybe a few of the new Republican tax law’s biggest cheerleaders, like economist Larry Kudlow.

Our mayor and City Council, always talking about sustainability vis-a-vis the environment, should think more about it when it comes to spending. Some fiscal restraint, as even Albany has, is in order. Imagine a law saying spending may not rise by more than the GDP did in the previous fiscal year outside of emergencies on the scale of 9/11 or Hurricane Sandy — and then only after hearings in each borough.

Speaking of meetings in every borough, how about forcing certain agency commissioners to hold town halls on a regular basis so they’re more accountable and hear from the public directly rather than through appointees or civil servants? The Departments of Transportation, Homeless Services, Parks and Buildings are regular sources of consternation and seem likely candidates. Maybe each commissioner could hold events in each borough twice yearly.

Just one more: How about revising the City Charter? So we might not have to wait those 98 years to fix some things.

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