The NY Times reported: De Blasio Outlines Steps to Eliminate Traffic Deaths. Steps range from lowering speed limit to 1mph to disguising sites that are distracting, like Empire State Building and all Gehry structures. Problem: Which Are Liberal?
The de Blasio Administration, committed to reducing traffic deaths, is more committed to staking out clearly liberal territory. The mayor, his wife, and two children, as well as 30 city councilmen, all wear wristbands bearing the legend “IIL” standing for, Is It Liberal? If the answer isn’t undoubtedly yes, then they go on until they find a solution that satisfies IIL.
The traffic death problem seems to be one that doesn’t satisfy IIL all that easily. Marquel interviewed the vice mayor, Vinnie Cohen Chan, to see how the traffic program was going.
“Well first,” said vice mayor Chan, “we approached it analytically. Pedestrians are not killing drivers. Pedestrians will often punch a passing car that tries to run them down but the car is uninjured and the driver is completely unscathed. Never had a driver killed by a pedestrian. However every year a couple hundred pedestrians are killed by cars. So the solution seemed to get rid of the cars. Nothing but pedestrians. We really have no pedestrians killed by other pedestrians, you know.”
“So, Mr. Vice mayor…”
“Call me Vinnie.” He said.
“Vinnie, banning cars would certainly solve the problem,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s not liberal. We had a lot of resistance from upper west siders, even east siders, so that was that. Not liberal.,” said Cohen Chan.
“What made you conclude that it wasn’t liberal?” I asked.
“Well it’s really just simple demographics,” he said, “we ran as the liberal candidate and areas that voted for us are thus liberal. We can’t just chuck the liberal principles we ran on.”
“Let me get this straight,” I stated, “whether it’s liberal or not depends on whether it’s supported by groups that supported you?”
“Yup, I’d say that’s saying it simply but accurately,” answered Cohen Chan. “Anyway, cars stay. But we can slow them down. We discussed everything from 10mph down to one. But different people, all our supporters, so by definition liberal, objected to any slower speeds. Some even wanted faster speeds.”
I asked, “who in the world would want faster speeds?”
“Oh there were more than just a few. There were several motorcycle clubs in Brooklyn and Queens and even the Hell’s Angels in Manhattan who said they like to speed. Plus almost everybody from Soho and Tribeca wanted higher speeds, at least on Fridays, to get to the Hamptons faster.”
“You didn’t raise speeds did you, Vinnie?” I asked.
“Oh no.The average speed on Friday afternoons is just above one mph anyway so it’s really a moot point, ” he answered. “So we had to look elsewhere. The mayor’s wife suggested banning pedestrians. Everybody in buses, taxis, or even bikes. But no damned pedestrians! It has a certain appeal. Without pedestrians there are zero pedestrians killed. And you don’t have to ban even one car or fiddle with speed limits!”
“That suggestion went nowhere I assume, Vinnie.” I ventured.
“Au contraire, Marquel. It’s one of the remaining projects to be considered.”
I asked, “how could that be? Banning pedestrians?”
“It turns out it’s really liberal. The taxi union supports it one hundred percent. The police union too. All the unions Marquel, don’t you see? This one really passed the IIL.” Stressed Cohen Chan.
“Okay what else?” I asked.
“This came as a surprise to us but there are a lot of distractions in this city, chiefly tall or interesting buildings. It was suggested that we lop off the top half of most of them…Empire State, Chrysler, UN, and those weird Frank Gehry buildings.” He observed.”
“But,” I objected, “those buildings are iconic and important to tourism.”
“Tourists aren’t liberal,” retorted the vice mayor.
“How can you say that?” I asked. “How can you know that?”
“They don’t vote. So they can’t be liberal.” Insisted Vinnie, “and even if they are they don’t count. IIL, remember. Plus we’re printing up cards to be given to tourists that show the buildings in their original state. Tourist love free stuff…And they’ll know what the buildings all looked like. Definitely IIL”
“Hold on,” I interjected, “I’m no expert but most of the Gehry structures aren’t all that high. Except for the scrunchy looking one on Spruce Street.”
“We’re not idiots. We’re just liberals. We know that. So except for the scrunchy one,” said Cohen Chan, “we’re just going to cover them not lop off the tops.”
“And I suppose picture cards again?” I inquired.
“Not at all. Nobody really is dying to see them. Tourists come to see the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Then, and only then, do they see a Gehry and say something affected, ‘how dynamic!’, so they’ll never miss it if they don’t see it.”
“Vinnie, I don’t think that’s gonna fly with the building owners.” I said.
“IIL. Building owners don’t vote liberal. You don’t understand liberalism.”
“You’re right. I thought I did. But clearly I don’t.” I asserted. “Let’s go on. What about automatic cameras, taxi recorders, increased police enforcement?”
“Old school,” said Vinnie, “old school, old school. Cameras people resent and definitely not liberal. Taxi recorders would prevent them from going faster. Show me one liberal who wants a slow taxi. Imagine two taxis, one that says ‘slow’ on it and another that says ‘so fast it’ll scare you,’ then find a liberal and put him in front of them. Which one will he take ten times out of ten?”
I caved. “You’re right.” But what about the cops? Why not more cops patrolling for violators?”
“You know,” said Vinnie, “we actually thought that would work. But when we applied IIL it failed on two counts. Liberals hate, I mean hate, tickets. And the cops were adamant.”
What were the cops adamant about? That it wasn’t liberal?” I asked.
“Ha! Good one Marquel. My reaction too. They refused to be in the highway patrol because it’s embarrassing. They want to be able to harass pedestrians, you know stop and frisk and all.” Noted the vice mayor.
“Hold on,” I said, “what about the pedestrian ban?”
“Marquel, bro, you’re good. That’s what put the kibosh on everything. It’s not liberal to embarrass the cops, we found out. IIL. And the cops will strike if they have no pedestrians to abuse. It’s a union issue and you know what unions mean.” Said Vinnie.
“IIL” I suggested. He nodded. I asked, “I don’t see where this is going. As far as I can remember, that leaves just bikes.”
“Not really,” said Vinnie. “It turns out bikes are neither cars nor pedestrians. It’s completely outside the project. Plus we’ve got Citibike with which to contend.”
Great sentence structure, I thought, But I asked, “what’s the deal with Citibike? Surely Citibank isn’t liberal.”
“I guess not but we brought it up to the mayor and he insisted that although they’re not liberal they pay for all the rest of us to be liberal. He said they’re essential and ‘untouchable.’ “
“And so the 200 deaths a year?” I asked.
“Truthfully we lose more to food poisoning so we’re going to inspect the restaurants more vigorously. We’re introducing pluses and minuses, A+, B-, you know, like in college.”
Added I, “I never got an A+ in college.”
Vinnie said, “Me neither.”
Asked I, “IIL?”
“IIL. You got it.”
You may follow Marquel on Twitter @MarquelatTPV