There oughta not be a law!
Last week’s snowstorm must have caused New York City Council members to have extra time on their hands because they just introduced a flurry of legislation that is even more ludicrous than usual — even by their standards.
Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal’s “Right to Disconnect” bill would make it a crime for employers to expect their employees to respond to e-mail and other electronic communication after hours. So much for the city that never sleeps! As a manager with almost 50 employees in a customer-driven industry that does not end at 5 pm, it is necessary to consistently communicate. This is the way it is for most businesses today. We used to joke about “banking hours,” but even this does not apply anymore as most of them are now open evenings and weekends. Unfortunately, many career politicians have little experience in the real world, which explains why they don’t understand how silly it is to expect employers and employees not to communicate after certain times.
Once again demonstrating their belief that they are above us mere residents, the Council only applies this law to the private sector. Businesses would be fined at least $250 for each instance of violating the law by the Department of Consumer Affairs. Can you imagine a Council member about to speak at a local community board meeting at 7:30 pm who e-mails a staffer for immediate information and there is no response? Of course not; this is why they exempted themselves and city employers from this law. How’s that for hypocrisy?
Not to be outdone, Queens Councilman Peter Koo wants to fine New Yorkers $50 if they are smoking while walking on any sidewalk. According to the bill, smoking while just standing on the sidewalkwould not be a crime, but once you take that first step, watch out! Where does rocking and bending fall into this? According to Councilman Koo’s office, enforcement would be “up to the discretion of police officers.” Our NYPD should be a bit more focused on things like terrorism, robbery, and murder.
Our city already has some of the most stringent anti-tobacco laws in the nation and this proposal is the “nanny state” mentality on steroids. What’s next, making it illegal to drink a soda on the street?
Finally, at the behest of Brooklyn Borough President Adams, Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera introduced legislation that would push the city Department of Education to stop serving bologna and other meats in their cafeterias. I enjoyed the chicken nuggets and sloppy joes at my local Brooklyn schools as a student, and still do, which explains my extra pounds. However, students and parents should be able to choose their own diets. If we want schools to have more fruit and vegetable options, that’s great; but, we should not ban certain foods. After all, students will just have the same meals anyway when they get home.
The far-left insanity of the Council is not new, but having these three extreme bills introduced within days, highlighting this fact to the nation is noteworthy. This is why New Yorkers are done a disservice when one party controls 48 of the 51 Council seats and can push its agenda without serious opposition. We need to have more checks and balances within this body and between the mayor and Council. One way to bring more divergent views to New York City government is through implementing non-partisan elections. This would increase the chances of others, not just Democrats, getting elected.
Currently, the mayor and Council are putting together New York City Charter Revision Commissions. Putting the issue of non-partisan elections on the agenda would be a great start to bringing real dialogue to our local government.
While the Council focuses on these pieces of legislation to satisfy their base, we have far more serious problems that should be addressed. Our public housing is falling apart and the New York City Housing Authority seems helpless to fix it; the homeless crisis continues; our subways are a mess; and our public hospital system is bleeding billions of dollars.
Rather than using our taxpayer dollars to solve these issues affecting everyday New Yorkers, the Council just voted to increase its own budget by a whopping 27 percent to $81.3 million. This includes funding for 125 new Council employees.
Of course, these employees will be required to respond to their bosses’ e-mails after 5 pm.
Bob Capano has been an adjunct political science professor at the City University of New York who has worked for Republican and Democratic elected officials in Brooklyn.