Saturday, 1 June 2013

Our miserable crop of mayoral candidates

The race to replace Mayor Bloomberg was looking interesting for a while, but the longer it goes on, the more all the candidates are beginning to look like wart colonies on legs. Christine Quinn, the front-runner, is the darling of the usual suspects among the construction, developer, real estate and finance lords, so anyone who can rattle her cage is welcome by default. But the alternatives range from icky to cynical to, at best, disappointing.

We were starting to like John Liu, who picked up the endorsement of the city’s largest municipal employees union this week, the one whose members are the custodians, leaf-rakers and toilet cleaners of New York and who have been without a contract for several years. Liu promised them some back wages, which is fair enough although it could be taken as opportunistic. But his performance with the powerful orthodox Jewish communities was shameful—not that anyone else did much better.

Some of these communities, whose internal discipline means the head rabbis often control huge blocs of votes, are upset about the health department’s insistence that their practice of ritual circumcision known as metzitzah b’peh, include warnings to parents. It seems the official circumciser is required to suck the blood off the recently cut infant penis, which if you or I tried to do, would get us 30 years and a Level III sex offender handle for life. But okay, it’s part of their religion, fine.

The problem is that the health department has traced the probable cause of 12 cases of herpes simplex in babies to the procedure and now requires orthodox parents to sign a consent form acknowledging the risks. Despite this toothless and eminently reasonable request, the orthodox leaders have taken great umbrage and sued to reverse it. Even more amazing, many of the mayoral candidates went to Brooklyn to a forum this week to denounce the largely symbolic measure and pander to the orthodox voters.

Liu said the DoH procedure was a heavy-handed interference by the ‘billionaire mayor [who] decided he knows better than anyone else’. Rev. Erick Salgado, an evangelical pastor, called it interference from City Hall in religious matters. Bill de Blasio, another liberal favorite, echoed that it was about Bloomberg ‘imposing his will’ instead of working with religious leaders respectfully. William Thompson, /bloomberg's last opponent, also endorsed revisiting the issue in new ‘conversations’.

The problem with this plausible sounding demand for new talks is that the orthodox leadership doesn’t want the consent process and has no interest in compromise. So sadly only Quinn looked like an adult and defended public health and, not incidentally, the orthodox newborns themselves, who just might like to start life without a herpes infection. She said the consent process already reflected a balanced approach and should be maintained.

As for the other candidate in the race for mayor, Anthony Weiner, the less he has to say about penises, the better.

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