Op-Ed: Things Don’t Just Happen

The borough of Queens. Credit: Dquai, Wikimedia Commons

It’s become a chant we’re hearing again and again, repeated as many times as it takes to conjure up any appearance of truth. You’ve probably heard it spoken in the same condescending tone of voice used to convince a child with a banged up knee that they’re not that hurt. It goes something like this:

Jobs will return. Schools will fully reopen. Tourists will come back. Hotels will fill up again. Streets will get cleaned up. Crime will go down. The homeless situation is under control.

It’s a tempting vision, a shimmering mirage of normality always just around the corner and always just out of reach. Certainly nobody is against jobs, classrooms, or economic activity. And lord knows the Sergeants Benevolent Association – the diverse union I have the honor of leading, supports less crime and safe streets. But there is a dangerous disconnect between the saying and doing, a widening chasm that is swallowing up New York City.

How will things get better? What concrete steps are being taken now?

Who is making decisions? On what basis are those being made?

Who is paying for what? When? How?

Is there a commitment to being honest about the immediate causes of problems?

Things don’t just happen.

New York City will get better when specific people make specific decisions. New York City will get better When the Mayor, Council Speaker, and District Attorneys make decisions – guided by common sense – about schools, restaurants, jobs, policing, and courts. New York City will get better when Councilmembers stop grandstanding to position themselves for jobs and life out of office. New York City will get better when public officials and their offices tackle the now – not the past.

We are suffering from a perfect storm of weakness. The Mayor is term limited out and thwarted in his many attempts at greater relevance. All other elected officials with citywide influence – The Council Speaker, Comptroller, and Public Advocate – are either running for Mayor or figuring out if they should. An overwhelming majority of the City Council is being forced from office. Albany has been captured by the professional activist class – a group more interested in saying what they’re against than able to say what they are concretely for or how to pay for it. District Attorneys have abandoned their jobs as prosecutors in favor of being social justice warriors afraid of primary challenges from the radical left. So New York City suffers.

Anti-gun units of the NYPD were disbanded, so deadly gun violence is spiking. Routine police interactions are becoming ammunition for social media firestorms and potential criminal liability for the officers involved, so crimes are on the rise everywhere. Protests are targeting cops and cops are being vilified, so cops are retiring. The Mayor dismisses and attacks any news about what’s really happening on the streets, so that news is taken to other places where it may do some good. Police are being manipulated by politicians and candidates, so they have fewer tools to responsibly do their job.

Things don’t just happen, they have causes and effects. Turns for the worse happen because of bad decisions, and improvements happen with good decisions. Ideally, better decisions outweigh worse decisions, but these days we have only bad decisions and indecision.

Inactivity is truly the death of cities. The city will get better when it exercises authority unapologetically. Make decisions and move forward. Correct course if need be. Be resolute. Don’t complain. Don’t make it somebody else’s problem. Do your job. Push for change, but make change in the context of things getting done. Stop preaching to the choir. Govern for the entirety of New York City. Listen to people who have been through city crisis and calamity before and take their advice – these older urban professionals are speaking with each other regularly but their calls, I am told, aren’t being taken at City Hall.

We’ve been hearing another saying, also often: crisis doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Bill de Blasio has been wholly himself during this public health emergency – the same ineffectual, indecisive, disinterested local politician he’s been since day one of his mayoralty. He mistakes unnecessary micromanaging for leadership. His arrogance is out of all proportion to his abilities. His intolerance for opposing views proves his liberalism is a convenient lie.

Things don’t just happen. Decisions make things happen. New York City has been dangerously short on decision making these days, and we’re all suffering because of that.

Ed Mullins is president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the NYPD.

Editor’s Note: It is KCP’s policy to post all op-eds with very few exceptions.

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