I got the opportunity to cover a city council hearing today and shockingly, I left unimpressed. And by shockingly, I mean I figured elected officials weren't the sharpest tools in the shed, but I thought they might show some sign of competency.
I was there reporting on this Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise bill that was enacted two years ago in order to help get government contracts for minority and women owned businesses. Two years in, the bill has largely failed despite being trumpeted by Mayor Bloomberg as a hallmark legislation.
So I'm sitting in this hearing as a bunch of city council members describe in various terms their outrage with the ineffectiveness of this bill. And they were saying it to the director of city procurement, Marla Simpson, who had a lawyer background. I came into the meeting late, so presumably I shouldn't have been as well versed as any of these people on the matter.
But after about 10 minutes of reading through all the documents and listening to Simpson's testimony, it became readily clear the bill had failed because the legislators who wrote it (the city council members from two years ago) were morons. They created this bill to enhance opportunities while failing to acknowledge a state law that basically muted much of its effectiveness.
But instead of taking 10 minutes to read through the documents, city council members, many of whom would walk in for just 10 minutes to give their speech, would just express outrage at the bill being ineffective. And each time, Simpson would give the same answer about how the mayor's office was doing everything that was legally possible to get this thing to be effective.
It was frustrating to me because the hearing dragged on for about 2 and a half hours with pretty much the same thing happening over and over again. Poor Mrs. Simpson probably repeated herself 75-100 times over the course of this hearing. You'd really think these council members were the least bit smart, but today proved intelligence is not a prerequisite for public office.
I will say this about Bloomberg: he gets a lot of credit in this city for being so ambitious with his plans for the city. But many of his ideas, the city just isn't ready for and they end up getting caught in the wind and never materializing. This piece of legislation is a perfect example of that. It would be nice to have more minority contracts handed out, but in the end, a government has to award contracts to the lowest bidder, not anything based on race or gender.
And of course, when I came back to the office, my editor wanted a story on how outraged the city council was even though I explained they were all idiots. His response, "Of course they're idiots, but they're outraged so we report it." I'm not sure how this is going to work, but I'm going to try and discreetly show that these people are idiots without actually saying it. I should have an update if the story is in tomorrow's paper.