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OPINION: Why does Bloomberg stress the soda ban above evertying else?

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Eagle file photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

New York City certainly seems to have its share of problems.

Take homelessness. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, in February 2013, there were an all-time record 50,100 homeless people, including 12,000 families with children. And that’s only the number of people who were sleeping in the city’s homeless-shelter system, as opposed to the many “street homeless” whom we see every day.

We also have unemployment. Nationwide, the percentage of people who are unemployed is a little over 7 percent. In New York, it’s a little over 9 percent. While the financial industries are booming, for years, the Bronx and Brooklyn were the counties with the highest unemployment rates in New York State. Brooklyn has now gotten better, but the Bronx is still suffering.

Now, we get to crime. Street crime, happily, has been decreasing for 20 years, and we are nowhere near the bad old days of the 1980s and ’90s. But now, some crimes are beginning to increase again. According to the Wall Street Journal, what’s behind these figures is a wave of cell-phone thefts.

Mass transit is another problem. After 40 years in which the Lexington Avenue Subway on the East Side of Manhattan was severely overcrowded, the MTA, about 10 years ago, finally started to build the Second Avenue Subway—or at least one segment of it. But its “completed” date keeps being pushed into the future—now, it’s 2016. By contrast, it took four years between the time ground was broken for the original IRT subway in 1900 and its opening in 1904.

Then, we have the problem of continuing police-community unrest. As we can see in today’s issue of this paper, more than 40 people were arrested in Flatbush on Wednesday night when protests over a police shooting of a 16-year-old boy got ugly. The shooting of Kimani Gray follows other well-publicized incidents of the past, such as the Abner Louima incident and the shooting of Amadou Diallo.

And let’s not forget education. The percentage of public-school students who graduate high school in four years is now about 60 percent. While I personally don’t think it’s a terrible thing if someone graduates high school in five years, 60 percent is a little low, despite the fact that these numbers have risen steadily. Also, class size is increasing. You don’t hear talk about 20 or 25 student per class anymore—in some schools, that number is back up to 40.

With all of these problems, what does Mayor Bloomberg choose to focus on? He chooses to focus on soda (or “sugary drinks”). And he’s so obsessive about his large-size soda ban that he intends to appeal it all the way to the higher courts.

With all these problems in the city, how can Mayor Bloomberg give center-stage priority to banning large-size sugary drinks? True, it’s unhealthy to drink a 20-ounce bottle of soda. And no one disagrees that too much sugar leads to diabetes and other problems.

But the fact that Bloomberg spends so much effort on issues like the large-size soda ban, more and more bike lanes, banning smoking in public parks and the like seems to indicate that to him, the city’s image is what counts. And the city’s image for whom?

I suspect that what really matters for Bloomberg is the city’s image for wealthy tourists. That’s just a thought—but it seems to make sense.

March 14, 2013 - 12:30pm


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