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New York Post


The Giveaway Gang

June 13, 2012

By Nicole Gelinas

Wannabes pander on quotas

Yesterday, the Democratic mayoral candidates debuted at the first "roundtable" ahead of election 2013. The gang didn’t so much debate as present an hour-long lesson in how not to run for mayor.

It’s never a good day when city Comptroller John Liu sounds like the moderate.

The topic was how to get more minorities and women winning city contracts, especially in construction. That’s laudable: The industry isn’t quite a fair field: It’s hampered by Mafia influence and the dominance of small firms who partner with (and hire) who they know or who they’re related to.

But the mayoral wannabes didn’t rise to this challenge. Instead, several gratuitously attacked Mayor Bloomberg for his failure to achieve racial justice in general.

The leftist long-shots piled on the most. Public Advocate Bill deBlasio said that "we don’t see an administration that looks like New York." He lamented that the next mayor would have to undo "20 years’ worth of neglect" on "real job creation." Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer claimed that "we’re going backward" after the "collapsing of the Dinkins administrations’ goals."

Rather than adding a dose of reason, the "responsible" candidates jumped in. Ex-Comptroller Bill Thompson said Bloomberg’s administration was even less diverse than Rudy Giuliani’s, something he "didn’t think was even possible." Council Speaker Christine Quinn hammered home the need for a "chief diversity officer."

Liu was the only one who didn’t join the chief-diversity-officer bandwagon, noting that it’s always natural to want to add a new person as window dressing (although he gave Bloomberg an "F" for minority contracting).

They should all be ashamed for implying that the mayor doesn’t care about racial justice (or sitting silent while the others did).

Bloomberg has more than doubled the education budget, and giving kids a good start in life before they grow up is far more relevant to justice. He has also further brought the murder rate down, saving hundreds of minority lives yearly. You can’t get a job if you’re dead.

Plus, the mayor has women and minorities in top positions, like transportation commissioner and schools chancellor — not in token positions like "chief diversity officer."

But the candidates don’t want to help young black kids through better education and lower crime. Instead, they want to return to the old-fashioned "fix": quotas and favoritism.

Quinn said "$2 billion should be the yearly pot" on minority contracting. She also wants the city to "use our budget power" to give firms owned by women and minorities an unfair advantage: They should be able to submit a bid 10 percent higher than the "lowest responsible bid" for a contract and win.

The city’s capital budget is nearly $7.9 billion, so that’s potentially $800m a year that Quinn would send not toward better schools and transit — which would help minorities — but on a gift to people who know how to work the system.

Because that’s often what quotas work out to: They give the same edge to, say, President Obama’s daughter as to the child of a single mother from Brownsville.

Indeed, yesterday, one representative of a minority-owned business said that she got involved because her father, a union man, had started the business four decades earlier. She’s hardly "disadvantaged."

There’s also a problem with safety when you choose on skin color, not qualification. The candidates are right that minorities and women offer talent. So let everyone compete on the merits — not to fill a quota that may be hard to meet on a specific technical job. Indeed, the MTA recently missed a diversity goal on a complex signaling project for this reason.

If the future mayor threatens to fire a contractor who can’t meet a quota, as Thompson said he’d do, it sends a signal: Meeting diversity number trumps everything else.

Yesterday’s debate showed what will reign over the next year: pandering to loud "advocates," not just on minority contracting, but on everything from public-employee benefits to allowing charter-school competition.

The city needs someone — even if that someone loses — to point out the obvious: New Yorkers care about crime, transportation, noise and taxes —not special-interest squawking.

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