This Wednesday is the final debate between the
major party candidates. They are Bill de Blasio
for the Democrats and Joseph Lhota for the Republicans.
Recent debates have been lively since the public is
beginning to focus on the candidates for the final
time before voting commences.
The principal areas of contention are the closing of
hospitals throughout the city, the stop and frisk
program and pre-K programs to mention a few. The closing
or phasing out of hospital operations like St.Vincent's
has had a negative impact on the involved communities.
Hospitals are under increasing pressure due to higher
labor costs, the indefinite delay of capital programs and
uncompensated care. The answers are not easy. Hospital
mergers have been a possible route; however, this option
involves inevitable layoffs of staff.
The Hill Burton Program was a popular option because the
federal government forgave hospital mortgage loans in exchange
for free or significantly reduced medical care delivery to the
poor and the middle class workers up to $98 thousand incomes.
Hill Burton hasn't been expanded since the late '90s and
this was a mistake. The Hill Burton Program provided hospitals
and medical schools with badly needed funds to provide
uncompensated care in exchange for mortgage forgiveness. The
Hill Burton Program has worked well since 1946 and still is funded
in over 100 facilities throughout the United States.
The idea that hospitals are a profit center is essentially
misleading. Hospitals are non-profits in theory and in actual practice
in many places. The practical consequence of large numbers of
uncompensated care patients has created huge stresses on the system.
Perhaps, the migration of more medicaid money to the States would mean
relief to close the accumulated budget deficits. Another unexplored
option is to tax junk food so that funds could pay off the tremendous
deficits some hospitals have accumulated over time.
The "Stop and Frisk Program" has had some success in reducing crime;
however, there are issues of racial profiling which boil to the
surface on occasion. Proponents argue that crime will rise if the
program is terminated while opponents point to alternatives like
a working model(s) in other cities.
London has resolved this issue to some extent with more street
cameras. Mayor Dinkins strengthened community policing by placing
more local people in key neighborhoods which required additional
monitoring. Community policing has had more than a modicum of
success in practice throughout NYC. Increasing police force
strength has been another option popularized during the Clinton
Bolstering pre-K programs could be an important step in
readying children for the early grades. Pre-K should cover
things like instilling good study habits early, setting
boundaries, the dynamics of small group behavior, good
citizenship and health/wellness. The early grades need to do
a better job in instilling good habits that carry through
the 17 years of a formal education from grammar school up
thru the college graduation. Initially, pre-K could
begin as a half year program with a view toward expanding
the experience to a full year.
Currently, Mayor Bloomberg has provided a good foundation
for the next mayor. Ground Zero has been rebuilt substantially
and the downtown area has been expanded. Crime is down although
some work needs to be done to manage "Stop and Frisk" issues.
ELA and Math standards have been raised and the schools
throughout the city are making adjustments to the new standards.
Graduation rates have risen.
The subway system has added new facilities including upgraded
platforms, elevators and LED notifications of the time and train schedules.
Air quality has improved. Cigarette smoking is on the decline. Lastly,
more jobs are coming back to the financial district. More work has to be done
in employing blue collar workers in higher paying jobs or the skilled trades
like solar energy and infrastructure upgrades.
The coming years should prove to be an exciting and challenging
time for all New Yorkers. Hopefully, the next mayor will build
upon the success areas and address problem areas in ways
that will be effective and unobtrusive.