Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why do pols lie even when they don't have to? Take Mayor Mike -- please! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself)


A survey taken at the initiative of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn found that 66 percent of restaurateurs who aced the city's new "sanitary grading system" rated it "poor."

"I think the fact is that that there are some people that complain because they don't want to keep their restaurants clean. They think it's OK to have mice and roaches and dirt and not have people wash their hands before they come back from the bathroom, and that's just simply unacceptable."
-- NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, commenting on
about the city's restaurant grading system

by Ken

Okay, Mayor Mike. As our beloved former commander in chief George "Chimpy" Bush once said in a different -- but similarly dishonest -- context: Bring it on! Just for the record, why don't you produce even one restaurateur who doesn't want to keep his/her restaurant clean and thinks it's OK to have mice and roaches and dirt and not have people wash their hands before they come back from the bathroom.

Just one.

I'm pretty sure you can't, because I'm pretty sure no such person exists. This is even wackier than Ronald Reagan's legendarily mythical Cadillac-riding welfare queens. On that one, you could at least pause and say, "Well, it doesn't sound likely, but I suppose it could be. I mean, the president of the United States wouldn't say it if his people didn't have at least one actual case." Except that it turned out they didn't. It was just made up, because the Great Communicator understood the power of lies. He knew that what people wanted to hear more than anything else was what they wanted to hear. Facts didn't come into it.

In this case, though, does anyone believe Mayor Mike can produce anyone in the restaurant business who thinks it's OK to have mice and roaches and dirt and not have peoople wash their hands before they come back from the bathroom?

The thing is, because Mayor Mike truly isn't a conventional pol, he has actually taken some initiatives that positively impact New Yorkers' quality of life -- the tightened restrictions on smoking, for example, or the massive tree-planting effort that could noticeably transform part of the face of the city. The crackdown on restaurant sanitary conditions could be one of those initiatives, and if we can trust the mayor's data on reduction in salmonella incidence, it may indeed be showing results.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to trust the mayor's data, partly because his smug rich guy's assumptions that he knows what's best for the little people are often wildly wrong, as with his heavy-handed abuse of the school system, but also because he has no compunction about lying his smarmy guts out, as he did with this truly repulsive, utterly dishonest attack on the character of critics of the restaurant grading program.

Here, for example, his his healthy guy (from Jill Colvin's report, "Restaurant Owners Skewer Health Department Grading System":
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley largely defended the system, arguing during the hearing that the city's regulations have improved the safety of restaurants, driving down cases of salmonella and other food-borne illnesses.

"The overall system I believe is working," he said, arguing that the city has no intention of lowering its standards to make it easier for restaurants to comply.

"The steps restaurants have to take to prepare food safely are not difficult to understand," he continued, adding that inspectors are already highly trained and that owners have multiple opportunities to prove themselves.

Straw-man time again. Can the commissioner show us one person who's arguing in favor of "lowering standards"? No, of course he too is lying his putrid guts out.

What people are complaining about is an implementation of the program that, the critics say, has aimed primarily at terrorizing restaurant personnel in ways that have little or nothing to do with improving safety conditions. Here, again from Jill Colvin's report, is Scott Rosenberg, owner of Sushi Yasuda in Murray Hill, who --
Scott Rosenberg, the owner of high-end Sushi Yasuda in Murray Hill, said he’d received three different answers from three different inspectors about rules overseeing sushi rice and how long it can be left out.

"The process by and large has been inconsistent and arbitrary, and has even been adversarial," he said at a press conference Wednesday, describing one incident last year in which he claimed an inspector threw $10,000 worth of fresh sushi-grade tuna into the trash and doused it with bleach because chefs were preparing it in the traditional way without gloves -- a no-no, according to the rules.

”Any sushi chef worth his or her soy sauce will use bare hands for making sushi,” said Rosenberg, who urged the department to change its rules to allow bare-hands preparation at restaurants like his.

“It’s creating a form on mayhem," he said of the current rules.

Here's Herb Wetanson, "a 50-year industry veteran who owns 10 'A'-graded restaurants in the city, including several Dallas BBQ and Tony's DiNapoli locations. He claimed he’d spent at least $250,000 on fines, lawyers and consultants since the grades were introduced," and says that part of the problem is the attitude of inspectors.
“These people come into our premises as enemies,” he said, accusing inspectors of trying to catch owners “with their pants down.”

Instead, inspectors should be working as partners with restaurants to help them improve, he said.

What precipitated all the complaining was the release of --
a survey of 1,300 fellow restaurant owners released by the City Council Wednesday ahead of a packed hearing on the matter. The report found significant dissatisfaction with the system, which forces restaurants to post letter grades in their windows corresponding to how many health violation points they receive.

A majority — 66 percent — of "A"-graded restaurant owners who responded to the survey rated the letter-grading system as “poor.” Just 1.6 percent of respondents rated it as “excellent,” and only 3 percent rated it as “very good.”

Some complained their names were being tarnished for inconsequential violations, such as having the door open when receiving shipments, letting staff drink water or coffee during shifts, or failing to store utensils the right way, Council staffers said.

Most owners also said the fines — and the cost of hiring lawyers and consultants to avoid them — have increased their operating costs, with 68 percent saying they had increased costs “significantly.”

To be fair, it should be noted Council Speaker Quinn has been positioning herself for years for a run to succeed Mayor Mike when he finally goes, and it should be noted that he acknowledges her survey was far from scientific. But then we hear responses from city officials like this:
Health Department officials, meanwhile, slammed the survey as nothing but an "online complaint box," because it was administered on the web and did not force participants to enter their names, allowing anyone to enter, including owners especially angry about their fines.

Are they grasping the survey's claim, in reporter Colvin's words, that "66 percent percent of 'A'-graded restaurant owners who responded to the survey rated the letter-grading system as 'poor.' ” Are we getting that? These are the people who aced the test. Does this really say nothing to those unnamed officials? Not to mention Mayor Mike and Commissioner Tom? Further, "Just 1.6 percent of respondents rated it as 'excellent,' and only 3 percent rated it as 'very good.' "

Speaker Quinn, for her part, says, "I don’t want to get rid of the grades. We want to make them better." The speaker --
launched the survey in early January to address what she described as "mounting and persistent concerns" among owners, said the complaints made it clear that changes are needed. "The grade in the window has to be meaningful in order for the system to work," she said, adding that many restaurant owners have been made to "'feel like criminals."

But to Mayor Mike, at his most galumphingly odious, Speaker Quinn must just be abetting those people who don't want to keep their restaurants clean. And Commissioner Tom, loyal stooge, simply tells us that "the steps restaurants have to take to prepare food safely are not difficult to understand," despite the abundant indications that they're not only difficult but often impossible to understand, in part because they're so unevenly, even erratically, applied -- with, too often, intent to harm the restaurant owner rather than help the customer.

But then, who am I to challenge the infallible Mayor Mike and his stooges?

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At 6:10 PM, Anonymous juan adams said...

well, two-caddy ann has been enjoying quite the government subsidized lifestyle..


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