BIKELASH! Bay Ridge CB Rejects DOT Cycle Network — Will City Push Back or Cave?

Cyclists have met the enemy and it is Bay Ridge Community Board 10. Photo: Dan Hetteix
Cyclists have met the enemy and it is Bay Ridge Community Board 10. Photo: Dan Hetteix

A Community Board 10 panel rejected a limited plan for bike lanes that removed zero parking, removed zero traffic lanes, and had zero miles of protected bike lanes after a bitter public meeting featuring residents who objected to the city plan because it supposedly removed parking, removed traffic lanes, and had too many protected lanes in it.

The DOT had offered Bay Ridge only a “starter pack” of unsafe painted bike lanes on a few roadways, but a group of 18 vocal Bay Ridge residents persuaded the CB10 traffic and transportation committee to demand that the city do even less.

Last Thursday’s meeting was truly a low point in civic dialogue. It was held as the culmination of a year and a half of intensive public outreach involving over 80 comments on an interactive web portal, hours of public meetings, and an over-capacity public workshop session held in January.

The previous five meetings were cordial and constructive, but Thursday’s mood was sour. Angry residents interrupted the DOT presentation before it was halfway complete. CB10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann asked for the attendees to listen to the proposal first before responding. Many didn’t. Here’s a taste:

    • Jeff, a resident of 84th Street, was against Citi Bike racks taking up parking spots. Citi Bike is not part of the proposal.
    • Evelyn, also of 84th Street, deemed a proposed lane on her block a “bike lane to nowhere” upon reaching Colonial Road. Colonial Road is an existing class 2 lane that serves the entirety of the north-western part of the neighborhood.
    • Another resident, Michael, was angered by the possibility of bike lanes on Third and Fifth avenues — except that Fifth Avenue isn’t part of the proposal.
    • DOT officials said three times that no parking would be removed, one-third of the residents were angry that the bike lanes would make parking more difficult.
    • Maureen, also a resident of 84th Street, said she objected to bike lanes because they will make it harder to double-park: “Double parking is a way of life in Bay Ridge.” She did not explain why a double-parking driver, who is already breaking the law and subject to a $115 ticket, would change his or her behavior because of the presence of a painted bike lane, which carries the exact same $115 fine.
    • Another resident objected to the protected bike lanes that aren’t in the plan anyway — but seemingly unknowingly made an argument in favor of them by saying the presence of painted bike lanes made opening her car door too difficult. “You just open the door, and you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” she said. “I just don’t wanna deal with the bikes.”

Peter, a resident of 69th Street, summed it up by stating flatly, “I don’t trust DOT not to take some parking spots,” he said, earning applause from the anti-cyclists in the crowd.

Many cyclists were in attendance, but were ignored.

“If you gotta go to a store, take a bus. Or walk. There’s no need to take a bicycle to go shopping, I mean that’s ridiculous,” said Frank, who said he commonly drives in Dyker Heights. Linda, another lifelong resident, briefly confused DOT officials by railing against a protected bike lane on 23rd Street in Manhattan where she visits her son. “We don’t need to get around with bikes. You do that when you’re children!” she said.

Other residents were, yes,  even more blunt.

“I don’t see a reason for bicycles.” said Dee, a resident of 73rd Street. “Nobody rides in the bike lane unless it’s a delivery guy.” She demanded to know if there are any “studies” on the number of cyclists injured or dead in the neighborhood. (Point of information: Multiple city websites offer that information. In the 17 months between January 2018 and the end of May, 2019, there have been 3,870 crashes in Community Board 10 alone, causing injuries to 60 cyclists, 218 pedestrians and 655 motorists. That’s roughly eight crashes per day in just Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

Claudette Workman, DOT Deputy Brooklyn Borough Commissioner, tried to calm the crowd down, emphasizing that the agency’s plan — painted lanes on the southbound side of Bay Ridge Boulevard and 11th Avenue, on the northbound side of Third and 10th avenues, on the eastbound 64th and 85th streets, on the westbound 65th and 84th streets and painted bike lane on each side of Bay Ridge Parkway — would make the roads safe for “every single road user.” She was booed upon mentioning the word “every.”

(Here’s a point of information about how bullying city officials can work to the detriment of all: The DOT’s own studies show that painted lanes are less safe for all road users than protected bike lanes, but the city offered Bay Ridge what it called a “starter pack” because it feared a backlash during this yearlong process from drivers who would object to the removal of parking. But the agency’s appeasement of drivers had the very opposite effect: It emboldened them to storm the final meeting in a long process and reject even basic markings.)

Cycling advocates tried to calm down the crowd. “This meeting strikes me, as someone who has come to all the other meetings, as unusual because the last meeting it was more 50-50 pro and con. This meeting really seems overly aggressive against bicycles.” said Rona Merrill, one of the seven pro-cyclists to speak. Another cyclist attempted to calm the angry murmurs in the room by ending his comment with, “I hope we can still be friends.”

Traffic & Transportation Committee member Dean Rasinya claimed that the public session was a sincere effort to hear from the community and later added, “There is a legitimate concern that we don’t have enough bike lanes in Bay Ridge.”

But then he added, “Personally, I don’t want to see any bike lanes” and initiated each motion to disapprove each bike lane. Without a quorum of committee members present, he only needed two other members to kill each bike lane as it was brought up in a line-item vote.

Committee members did not mention any statistics or studies relating to either car, pedestrian, or cyclist safety in their deliberations. Nor did they request clarification from the DOT representatives, who sat 30 feet away awaiting the results of the vote. The total length of deliberations was 15 minutes. All the lanes were rejected with one exception: a route running north along Ridge Boulevard, which was intended as a companion to the Third avenue route, which ran south. Without its parallel companion, which was rejected unanimously, it is functionally incomplete.

Painted lanes in Dyker Heights lanes — along 64th and 66th streets and 10th and 11th avenues — were approved unanimously. But public comments from residents of Dyker Heights were oddly lacking. Instead, a disproportionate number of anti-bike-lane protestors came from a three block section along 84th and 85th streets.

Bike South Brooklyn! founder Brian Hedden figured out why: the Community Board “sent notices to [residents of] 85th and 84th streets, so they got people saying not to put bike lanes on 85th and 84th street,” he said. “If they canvassed 74th and 75th streets, they’d have people saying not to put lanes there, too.” Community Board 10 primarily relies on expensive direct mailers, and lacks a social media presence for publicizing events beyond a narrow geographic range often a few blocks in size.

“They were definitely informed to come and speak against it, but I don’t think they understand it,” agreed cyclist Ed Yoo.

And another cyclist, Patrick, who traveled from Gravesend to participate in the meeting, told Streetsblog that it was bizarre that some Bay Ridge residents claimed they didn’t know about the yearlong planning process.

“I’ve known about it for so long now,” he said. “It’s been one of the only things on my mind. I thought this was going to be as civil as the last meeting.”

The committee’s recommendations now head to a final full board vote on June 17. The Department of Transportation can, of course, ignore the community board’s vote, which is only advisory. The agency has done that in many neighborhoods, but also has chosen to delay bike lane plans in other neighborhoods.

Daniel Hetteix is the host and producer of Radio Free Bay Ridge, a hyper-local neighborhood podcast. You can listen to the meeting above in its entirety at Radio Free Bay Ridge’s community archive.

After publication of this story, Community Board 10 Chairwoman Doris Cruz wrote the following letter to Streetsblog:

I write to correct some factual errors in Streetsblog NYC concerning CB10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee’s vote on the DOT bike route proposal for the district.

  1. The headline of the blog states “Bay Ridge CB Rejects DOT Cycle Network…” That claim is false for two reasons.

First, the Board did not vote on this yet. Only the Traffic and Transportation Committee (T&T) did.

Second, T&T did not “reject” the network.

When DOT initially advised CB10 that it was planning to expand the bicycle lane network in the district, CB10 requested that all proposed bike lanes be presented at the same time, rather than individually, over time. This enabled T&T to evaluate the effect of each proposed route on each of the other proposed routes and on existing bike, car and pedestrian patterns, as well as the district-wide efficacy of the overall proposal.

Rejecting some of the proposed routes or suggesting changes in others in order to improve the network proposal is not a “rejection” of the entire proposed network. To the contrary, that is exactly as the process was intended to work, to make the overall project better for all.

In fact, only two of the 10 proposed routes were rejected outright by T&T. The committee’s votes on two other routes were held in abeyance pending further review for safety reasons. One other was tentatively approved pending further study by DOT on the directions of travel. Five routes were approved without limitation.

  1. Streetsblog NYC claims “18 vocal Bay Ridge residents persuaded the CB10 Traffic and Transportation Committee to demand the City do even less” [than unsafe painted bike lanes].

That assertion is misleading.

In total, 33 people spoke at the recent hearing, not just “18 vocal Bay Ridge Residents” in opposition.  With varying degrees of ardor and reason the speakers opposed or supported either the entire network or specific components of the plan. The job of the board is to understand the proposal, consider the opinions and rationale of the DOT, consider the testimony given at all the public hearings, consider any comments submitted in writing, consider alternatives to the proposal, separate fact from fiction and reason from emotion, and then make recommendations. Through this process the Board balances public and private interests in making its decisions.

As it must, the T&T Committee considered the testimony of all 33 residents who spoke at the recent hearing, not just the “18 vocal Bay Ridge residents” who spoke in opposition. And, as it must, T&T considered the testimony of the many who testified at the preceding five hearings, both in favor and in opposition. Ultimately, the T&T Committee will give a report and recommendations to the entire Board.

The board will then deliberate and make its recommendation to DOT.

  1. Streetsblog NYC claims: “Many cyclists were in attendance but were ignored.” That claim is false.

This was a public hearing by a governmental body where all have a right to speak. Every person who asked for speaking time was granted the same amount of speaking time as every other speaker. Nobody, pro or con, resident or cyclist, was ignored or denied the right to speak.

  1. Streetsblog NYC claims T&T Member Dean Rasinya “…initiated each motion to disapprove each bike lane.”

That is false. Mr. Rasinya did not move to disapprove “each bike lane.” Only two of the 10 motions were to disapprove a route. The balance of the motions were to approve the proposed bike lane or to await more information before voting on the proposed bike lane.

  1. Streetsblog NYC implies that CB10 “informed” the residents of 84th and 85th Streets “to come out and speak against [the proposed bike lane network].”

It claims “Community Board 10 primarily relies on expensive direct mailers, and lacks a social media presence for publishing events beyond a narrow geographic range, often a few blocks in size.”

That’s misleading.

In preparation for the hearing, the board’s public outreach was substantial. Consistent with board practice and legal obligations, the notifications were sent to those residents expected to be most significantly impacted by the proposed bike lanes. Notifications of the meeting were mailed to residents of 72nd Street to 77th Street from Seventh to 14th Avenues; 73rd to 78th Street from Narrows Avenue to Sixth Avenue; 81st Street and 82nd Street, Colonial Road to Ridge Blvd.; 83rd Street to 84th Street, Ridge Blvd. to Fourth Avenue and 85th St to 91st Street, Ridge Blvd. to Fifth Avenue.

Additionally, CB10 coordinated  student “lit drops” advising of the hearing to the residents of 66th Street, Seventh Avenue; Bay Ridge Parkway [from] Third to Fourth Avenues; 84th and 85th Streets, Colonial Road to Seventh Avenue.

The board maintains an easily accessible website on which all board and Committee meetings and their agendas are published well in advance. [Streetsblog note: This is itself misleading. But we will allow the readers to determine if this is a good government website by 21st-century standards.]

The proposed routes were included in Community Board 10’s newsletter and the board sent several email blasts with the information. The board maintains an extensive email distribution list of anyone who attends a meeting and signs in with their contact information.

Though the notification efforts were proper and substantial, and far more widespread than “a few blocks,” as suggested in your blog, it is never surprising that those who come to speak, as in this case, are those most directly impacted by the proposal at hand.

Frankly, the tone of the published article portrayed an inaccurate picture of the meeting. The T&T Committee Chair allowed all who wanted to speak equal time and maintained order. Through this all the T&T Committee adopted a recommendation which they will present to the full board in support of the bulk of this proposal and will work toward a continued collaboration with cyclists, residents and other stakeholders on expanding the bicycle network in Community District 10.  

Very truly yours,

Doris N. Cruz

Here is Streetsblog’s response: We stand by our story, which reveals yet again the broken engagement process between DOT and community boards in pro-car neighborhoods.

  • Larry Littlefield

    For the DeBlasio Administration to over-rule this vote, it would have to admit that the “public review” process the Mayor was always so in favor of as a pandering candidate is unrepresentative, unfair, and unjust, and therefore so were many of his criticisms of former Mayor Bloomberg.

    If he were to admit it, and indicate that he has thought about why that is, I’d be fine with it. But as it is there is a failure to understand why public review is a failure. It is a failure in part because it presumes that in any situation where resources are scarce, existing privileges must be protected off the top, regardless of anyone else’s rights or needs. Once anything has been taken, by means fair or foul, that is the unquestioned status quo. Only change is questioned.

    We see it now on the street. We saw in 2008 in the economy, when the whole federal goal was to re-inflate financial asset prices back to what they were (with no economic rationale under those asset prices) even as wages and life expectancy fell. And we’ll see it in the city budget when the gusher of tax revenues slows and reverses but those in on the inside still have a “right” to everything they have promised themselves.

    In that context, if there is one thing I can’t stand it’s New York Democrats objecting to the high cost and poor quality of public services provided by their campaign contributors.

  • resident

    There were multiple meetings on this over the course of a year. If DOT throws this all away because of one meeting where there wasn’t even a quorum, that would be a huge slap in the face to community members who showed up over and over again to make their neighborhood better. Insulting really. What DOT would be saying is that there’s no point to doing all this work because they only listen to the loudest people at the very tail end of the process. Why should anyone bother supporting them in the future? Why would anyone trust that showing up to one meeting, let alone three or four, is worth the time if a bunch of morons can show up at the end and cause DOT to run scared?

    The commissioner needs to fix this and move ahead with this project based on the hard work of so many people who devoted night after night to showing up.

  • Vooch
  • William Lawson

    How much longer do we have to pretend that these brain dead single digit IQ mouth breathing NIMBY’s are legitimate voices on any level? We don’t let the deranged loon on the corner dictate public policy, regardless of how loud he is. How are these idiots any different? Give them a platform, sure, but when they spew such factually incorrect, misinformed garbage that is easily identifiable as such, then the city should be under no obligation to concede a single inch to the .

  • Rick Man

    This is hilarious. I am so glad I moved away from NYC last month to Minneapolis.

    This is a great example of the CB system being a fully busted civic process. (Just as it took a decade to get the Prospect Park bike lane).

    If this is NYC’s standard of civic progress then it’s not surprising that very few aspects of city governance function effectively. (i.e. most expensive mile of track on earth). Sorry NYC, but it sucks to suck.

  • Reggie

    Amplifying one point: If the committee didn’t have quorum, how did it vote on anything. That is the whole point of quorum, to ensure that sufficient members are present for a vote to be representative of the body.

  • r

    “How much longer do we have to pretend that these brain dead single digit IQ mouth breathing NIMBY’s are legitimate voices on any level?”

    How much longer will de Blasio and Trottenberg be around? That’s your answer.

  • resident

    I believe without a quorum can offer a recommendation, but not a resolution. A resolution is meant to have more teeth in that the full board is supposed to abide by it in a way they don’t have to do with a recommendation.

    Either way, the whole thing is crazy.

  • Ishamgirl

    If residents don’t want bike lanes, then don’t add bike lanes. Seems pretty clear.

    My Bronx hood is fighting against this bike lane/road died nonsense too. We don’t want it and currently we have a stop order. We’re not a bike riding community and the 1 way side streets work fine for anyone who must ride a bike.

    This city needs to listen to the NEEDS of its RESIDENTS and not outsiders who keep shoving this down our throats.

  • RESIDENT

    Nativism! It’s not just for Trump voters anymore.

  • running_bond

    Isham St is in Manhattan. Did you move to the Bronx? I guess you won’t be blocking much-needed bike lanes in Inwood anymore then.

  • William Lawson

    There’s nothing you can do to stop these bike lanes in the long run – you’ve lost the fight. Honestly I have no idea why you backward dinoasaurs are so determined to be on the wrong side of history.

  • CallMeIshmael

    DOT studies prove that adding painted bike lanes calms traffic and reduces crashes and injuries significantly, especially at intersections. If residents of a neighborhood don’t want safer streets and calming measures then they shouldn’t be listened to and DOT, listening as a courtesy, should implement their plan anyway.
    Car owners are the minority of people in most neighborhoods. Parking is extremely difficult, no doubt, but as long as it’s free and the streets are owned by the city, the city can and should implement plans that make the neighborhood safer for everyone.
    It’s going to be a hard push for many, but we need to move away from this car culture we’ve built. Cars kill and injure people daily, cause pollution and climate change, and create added stress in an already stressful city.

  • Towanda

    Bay Ridge is changing and these folks are clinging to their way of life. Younger residents priced out of Northern Brooklyn are already starting to move here. Several of their reps – federal, state, and city – have recently flipped from Republican to Democratic. These residents – who tend to be older and more conservative – may win an occasional battle but they will lose the war.

  • maxmaxed

    I am a Republican and I have nothing to do with these car obsessed idiots.

  • Community Board 10 needs to change its name to Car Community Board 10 because that is who they represent. They do not represent the entire community. The typical anti-bike lane comment started with “I lived in Bay Ridge for 40 or 50 years”, then complained about traffic and/or parking and other driver related problems and stated they didn’t want bike lanes. It hasn’t dawned on these people that if your policies are 100% pro car you will get more cars and more car problems. The only way to alleviate car related issues is to remove cars from the road. The only way to accomplish this is to provide alternative means of transportation. In turn, that means waiting for the improved bus or subway service, good luck with that, or putting in bike lanes that can be installed this summer.

  • Joe R.

    Same here. I generally used to vote Republican until the party went off the deep end and sold out to the religious right. Now I don’t bother voting at all since I can’t stomach voting for the typical big government, nanny state Democrats who run in New York.

    If anything, I would think a person on a bike getting around under their own power is the Republican’s very personification of independence.

  • Joe R.

    “Parking Protection Board” seems like a good name for most Community Boards in this city.

  • I prefer “Klown Kolleges”.

  • Squealgies
  • qrt145

    Is that publication for real, or is it satire like the Colbert Report? I mean, who else but a brilliant comedian could come up with these gems:

    * “Why the ‘e’ in e-car actually stands for evil”
    * “Singing the praises of coal — the virtuous stone that liberated humanity”

    Poe’s law at work.

  • Joe R.

    Sad to say but I think the author is serious.

  • Simon Phearson

    So… you voted Republican forty years ago?

    Give your fondness for massive cycling infrastructure projects and sensitivity to even relatively minimal levels of pollution, I find it surprising that you would take any issue with “nanny state Democrats.” You would seem to have more in common with them than certainly any Republican since the Reagan era, and not just because that’s when the Republicans aligned solidly with religious conservatives.

  • Joe R.

    Back when I started voting Republican in the 1980s cycling infrastructure wasn’t even on anyone’s map. My main reasons for preferring Republicans over Democrats were lower taxes and fewer laws. Keep in mind at the time of the Reagan revolution Democrat spending on (often worthless) social programs was out of control, as were tax rates on the middle class. When I first started working I made a pretty lousy salary, and yet over 25% was taken out in taxes. People I knew who made halfway decent money were paying something like half in taxes. Moreover, many people at the time, me included, felt that money was largely going to waste, especially with welfare roles in NYC exceeding 1 million. That’s largely why Reagan got in, complete with his voodoo, trickle-down economics. The trick the GOP played on us was that yes, they cut taxes on the middle class, but the rich got far larger and unneeded tax cuts which resulted in ongoing massive budget deficits. Had the GOP stuck to just middle class tax cuts, fewer nonsense laws, and done things which benefitted the working classes we might not even have a Democratic party now.

    By “nanny-state Democrats” I’m not talking about all-important environmental laws but nonsense laws which the police use to harass otherwise law-abiding citizens and/or protect people from themselves. Good examples are laws against being in parks after dark, open container laws, child cyclist helmet laws, proposed taxes on soda, locking up spray paint, sidewalk cycling bans, etc. While the GOP occasionally likes to stick its two cents into people’s private affairs (i.e. the abortion bans), these types of laws are the bread and butter of progressive Democrats. Then you have the absolute stupidity of those who espouse open borders, complete with giving government benefits to illegal aliens. So yes, while I may be on the side of Democrats when it comes to environmentalism, I can’t stomach the rest of the baggage that comes with that. And I can no longer bring myself to vote GOP given how far that party has come from its roots.

    Then again, government has long been sold out to special interests. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter how you vote.

  • Zach Katz

    Are these filmed?

  • Simon Phearson

    Back when I started voting Republican in the 1980s…

    I’m sorry, I thought you said you stopped voting for them when they aligned with the religious right.

    Keep in mind at the time of the Reagan revolution Democrat spending on (often worthless) social programs was out of control,…

    No, I won’t “keep this in mind,” because as it happens I’m not sure it’s actually true. What social programs were “worthless,” whose spending was “out of control”?

    Moreover, many people at the time, me included, felt that money was largely going to waste, especially with welfare roles in NYC exceeding 1 million.

    It’s a familiar Republican refrain: Welfare helps so many people that we have to cut it!

    By “nanny-state Democrats” I’m not talking about all-important environmental laws…

    Right, you’re just drawing a distinction between centralized, top-down planning that you like and planning that you don’t like. And then most of the “horribles” you list are just as much the product of conservative law-making as “nanny-state Democrats.” You think Democrats are the ones pushing for quality-of-life laws? You think Republicans aren’t keen on using the law to engineer social outcomes? The modern welfare system is thoroughly infused nowadays by Republican ideology on how people should behave. Abortion bans (to say nothing of regulating access to birth control, emergency contraception, pornography, sex work, sex education, reproductive healthcare, etc., etc., etc.) are certainly not the extent of Republican nanny-statism.

    Then you have the absolute stupidity of those who espouse open borders, complete with giving government benefits to illegal aliens.

    Setting aside that this is just an insipid strawman, I’m surprised you don’t see the inherent inconsistency between railing against nanny-statism while apparently espousing the belief that the government has some legitimate interest in micromanaging migrant flow and drawing an arbitrary distinction between “problems caused by impoverished and underemployed citizens” and “problems caused by impoverished and underemployed ‘illegal aliens’.” Or, for that matter, that you embrace as unproblematic the current restrictionist mood on immigration when birth rates are falling and our workforce needs employees. I’d expected you to be much more technocratic and pragmatic than that.

    The Democratic Party can in no sense be said to be in favor of “open borders.” That said, they should be, because permitting the free flow of labor matches our trade policy, boosts our economy, and is ultimately more just. The current approach, which purports to restrict immigration and benefits but does little or nothing to address the fundamental economic or social factors that drive immigration, is resulting just in the creation of a group of second-class residents in this country. They live here, they work here, they raise children here, but we keep them suspended in constant fear of deportation, deny them the protection of our laws, and deny them benefits that would promote the overall health and welfare of our communities.

    Then again, government has long been sold out to special interests. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter how you vote.

    Those living and voting now would seem to have voters like you to thank for that, based on the way you were so easily duped in the 80s. Your generation is the one that handed over the keys. Stop trying to convince those of us who will outlive you that it’s futile to change.

  • BronxEE2000

    As a fellow Bronx resident who, like you, doesn’t want these bike lanes and road diets, thank you for this.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The Republicans certainly went off the rails some time in the 1980s.
    The problem is, the NY Democrats have always been awful. We’re talking 170 years. So the fact that Republicans are no longer an alternative means, we’re screwed.

  • Joe R.

    The problem is, the NY Democrats have always been awful. We’re talking 170 years.

    And that’s the reason I’ve tended to vote Republican in local races, especially. And the fact the Republicans no longer represent a viable alternative is why I stopped voting.

  • Joe R.

    First off, my generation isn’t the one that started it. In the 1980s we barely reached voting age. A lot of us didn’t bother to vote. You have the Baby Boom generation to thank for getting people in office who screwed us over. Look at each time major legislation was passed and who benefited the most. Almost always, it was the generation born between 1946 and the late 1950s. Tax cuts on the rich in the 1980s? Guess who started making lots of money then? Cuts in Social Security mostly affecting those born after 1960? Or the latest round of tax breaks for the rich which just happen to sunset when the last of those born before about 1960 end their careers. That’s not even getting into the environmental stuff. Who started the SUV craze? Not my generation. Which cohort has most consistently opposed safer streets projects? We were already screwed before my generation reached voting age. If my generation is guilty of anything, it might be for being naive enough to think things could be fixed if we get the right people in power. It took me 20 years to realize there will be no savoir riding in on a white horse.

    I’m sorry, I thought you said you stopped voting for them when they aligned with the religious right.

    The religious right didn’t start having major influence until at least Bush II. They were always in the GOP simply because they really had nowhere else to go. The GOP didn’t really need to court them. It’s not like they would have switched parties if they didn’t.

    What social programs were “worthless,” whose spending was “out of control”?

    Programs which kept 3 or 4 generations in a row on welfare for a start. I’m not against social programs which actually help people. To some extent the economy is a lottery and people will fall on hard times. That’s why you need social programs. The problem is when those programs have a combination of rules and benefit levels designed to keep people on them, even when there are jobs available which they can do. This was a big problem with welfare from the 1960s through the early 1990s. You weren’t around to see it. I was. A lot of Democrats of that era didn’t even see this as a problem. Some also called criminals victims of society. It’s against this backdrop that Republicans came into power.

    It’s a familiar Republican refrain: Welfare helps so many people that we have to cut it!

    See above. Obviously welfare roles will fluctuate, getting higher in bad times and lower in good times. The problem is when it ceases to be a helping hand and becomes a way of life.

    Right, you’re just drawing a distinction between centralized, top-down planning that you like and planning that you don’t like.

    I’m drawing a distinction between laws which prevent people from harming others through their actions, versus those that micromanage them to prevent them from harming themselves. Sure, at this point both parties are equally guilty of fostering the nanny-state, but on many levels the laws passed by Democrats are worse because they hit a much broader base. The soda tax was a perfect example of this. Like many other laws of this type, it would have affected everyone while failing to accomplish its ostensible goal of reducing obesity. The country didn’t get fat just because it drank soda. In fact, sedentary lifestyles rather than diet is the primary culprit.

    Or let’s look at smoking laws. I’m not a smoker, so I have no skin in the game. Yes, laws limiting second hand smoke make sense, and not just because this is something which affects me personally. Studies show serious health effects from second hand smoke, so the law meets my criteria of preventing people from harming others through their actions. However, the line should have been drawn there. Instead, we levied high taxes on cigarettes, effectively creating a black market for them, on the theory this would keep people from harming themselves by smoking. While this might be a laudable goal, history is rife with failed examples of laws which prevent people from harming themselves. Moreover, more often than not these laws penalize people who can do something safely because a minority cannot. While both parties are guilty of passing these types of laws, the Democrats have made a cottage industry out of it, especially in this city. Every time something bad happens, the usual clarion call is “let’s make a law against this”.

    Setting aside that this is just an insipid strawman, I’m surprised you don’t see the inherent inconsistency between railing against nanny-statism while apparently espousing the belief that the government has some legitimate interest in micromanaging migrant flow and drawing an arbitrary distinction between “problems caused by impoverished and underemployed citizens” and “problems caused by impoverished and underemployed ‘illegal aliens’.” Or, for that matter, that you embrace as unproblematic the current restrictionist mood on immigration when birth rates are falling and our workforce needs employees. I’d expected you to be much more technocratic and pragmatic than that.

    I could go into a long-winded answer of many paragraphs on this, but to a large extent automation is poised to replace a lot of the low-skilled jobs illegal immigrants currently do. When it does, those here will become a net drain on the economy. Immigration itself isn’t a problem if we’re selective about who comes in. With the poor job American schools are doing we need more highly educated and skilled immigrants just to fill job openings. However, the key is we need to pick and choose who comes in, not allow all comers. If we really want to help, the best course of action is to do things which might improve the economies of the countries these illegal immigrants are coming from so they have less incentive to flee.

    The Democratic Party can in no sense be said to be in favor of “open borders.” That said, they should be, because permitting the free flow of labor matches our trade policy, boosts our economy, and is ultimately more just.

    The problems with that are twofold. One, when the demand for the labor from these illegal immigrants is no longer there the flow isn’t back to their home country. By definition free flow should mean in both directions. In reality they come here and stay. When there are no jobs for them they use social services.

    Two, if we had completely open borders them numbers coming here would easily be in the hundred of millions. Can the country absorb that many people? Arguably we haven’t even kept pace with our own population increase given the housing shortages and lack of new infrastructure building. The end result of mass, uncontrolled immigration would be a huge reduction in living standards for all but the wealthy who can afford to live in gated communities.

    At this point if there’s going to a be a savior it’s not coming in the voting booth. It’ll be in the form of new technology. As an example, if we commercialized fusion it would solve a lot of our other problems.

  • Larry Littlefield

    You could become a Socialist like Bernie Sanders.

    Why did he refuse to join the Democratic Party until he wanted to run for President? Because he’s from Brooklyn!

    Really, we’re screwed.

  • Joe R.

    Socialism though is a double-edged sword. We need whatever socialism can be supported by steep taxes on the wealthy. However, we have to draw the line when further benefits will heavily tax the working classes. Arguably, the best thing to help the working classes is to not tax their wages at all until those wages start to reach the level of upper middle class or beyond. And even then, you phase in the taxes slowly so people still have an incentive to earn more. The failure of socialist economies is mostly due to high taxes on the working class which creates a disincentive to work harder and earn more. As a result, production remains low.

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