Editorials

Bloomberg and Quinn
Kick Out the Lobbyists

You don’t have to be a regular newspaper reader (although more power to you if you are) to understand the ailments that afflict American politics. It comes down to two issues: money and access. Corporations and causes pay huge bucks for the services of professional lobbyists, whose stock in trade is their accessibility to political decision-makers. The lobbyists, in turn, contribute money to the very men and women whose favors they seek.

What more do you need to know?

The nation’s capital is preparing for more shoes to fall in an influence-peddling scandal involving super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his good friends on Capitol Hill. Here in New York, however, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and newly installed Council Speaker Christine Quinn have come together to put an end to sleazy practices in and around City Hall.

The Mayor and the Speaker are supporting legislation that would severely restrict lobbyists’ access to city lawmakers and would bar politicians from accepting gifts from lobbyists. What’s more, money donated to candidates from lobbyists would not be eligible for matching funds from the city’s public campaign-finance system.

This is a welcome development on several fronts. First, it’s clear that City Hall needs to take firm action against the army of lobbyists that infests the corridors of municipal government. As it stands now, lobbyists are a regular presence in City Hall, especially in the offices of City Council members. The relationships between lobbyists and Council members are notoriously cozy—lobbyists hang around the offices of Council members, treated not as outsiders with an agenda, but as colleagues and partners in the business of legislating.

The Bloomberg/Quinn plan would put an end to this practice, barring lobbyists from the Council’s inner sanctum. That is how it should be. The scandal here is that such a law doesn’t already exist.

The move against gift-giving is equally praiseworthy, as are the restrictions on donations from lobbyists. The Mayor and the Speaker have a clear view of what ails politics. The difference between them and the Republican Congressional leaders in Washington is that Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Quinn are serious about cleaning up the process.

What’s also good about the Bloomberg/Quinn initiative is the evidence of cooperation between the Mayor and the Council Speaker. In recent years, the Mayor and the Speaker’s office have been at odds, often over silly matters. Former Speaker Gifford Miller wanted to make a name for himself as a voice of opposition to the Mayor. That was his prerogative, but Ms. Quinn seems determined to have a more productive relationship with Mr. Bloomberg. The two officials will surely disagree in the future. But it seems they will not allow disagreements to get in the way of better government. That’s good for all of us.

Nurse-Family Partnership:
Saving Kids’ Lives

New Yorkers have been distressed and angry over the surge in child-abuse deaths this winter. Five children were killed in four months, an indictment not only of their parents but also of the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. Mayor Bloomberg has taken steps to reform A.C.S., but there is another program—the Nurse-Family Partnership, funded by the city, the federal government and the Robin Hood Foundation—that holds remarkable promise for the city’s most vulnerable citizens.

Founded in upstate New York 30 years ago, the Nurse-Family Partnership relies not on bureaucracy or idealism but on profound common sense. The program assigns experienced nurses to economically disadvantaged first-time mothers when they are pregnant. The nurse counsels the expectant mother on health and diet, and then remains with her through childbirth and the first two crucial years of the child’s life. The mother is taught the key aspects of childrearing, such as how to encourage bonding and mental development. The nurse may also help her to find work and a suitable apartment. The program is active in 20 states, and the results have been groundbreaking. Mothers in the partnership end up on welfare less often than their peers, and their kids show fewer incidents of abuse, higher IQ’s and better grades in school. And the program is economical: The $5,500 annual cost per family is made up in saved costs in public assistance, medical care and foster care.

The N.F.P. was brought to the city in 2003 by Deborah Kaplan, an assistant commissioner in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Currently, there are offices in Brooklyn, Queens and Harlem, with another planned for the Bronx this spring. Each is staffed with eight nurses, who take a caseload of 25 clients each. Showing his usual, and refreshing, commitment to programs that actually work, Mayor Bloomberg more than doubled the city’s contribution to the N.F.P. this year, from $1 million to $2.5 million. But more funding is needed, both to attract more nurses and to keep the ones they’ve got. This worthy program—which literally saves children’s lives and strengthens the social and economic fabric of the city—calls out for support from our elected officials on the City Council and in Washington. Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton should use their reach and visibility to make sure that the N.F.P. receives the federal funds it needs to further its unique and uplifting mission.

Do Your Kids Depress You?

Parenthood is one of life’s greatest joys, is it not? Sure, it’s hard work and there are stressful moments, but overall, those blessed with children must be a happier bunch than those without children, yes? Especially in New York, where becoming pregnant and raising a child has become a competitive sport that consumes couples, imperils marriages and enriches fertility specialists—surely all of the effort and angst that goes into reproducing must result in a lifetime of blissful parenthood?

Well, not exactly. According to a new study conducted by Florida State and Vanderbilt universities and published in the American Sociological Association’s Journal of Health and Social Behavior, people with children show higher levels of depression than those without children. This fact held true whether the kids were toddlers or had long been out of the home, living as adults on their own. While the researchers did find that parents with small kids—those under 18—were less depressed than parents of older, adult children, they were still more depressed than their barren peers. And there was no gender gap: Both men and women appear to be equally afflicted. Interestingly, the research showed that stepparents tend to be spared the higher rates of depression and, as such, have more in common with the childless sample of the study.

Try as they might, the researchers could find no instance where being a parent provided any sort of ongoing emotional lift. Even when the nest is empty and the parents have newfound peace and quiet, it seems their children continue to provide them with enough tsuris to sour a mood.

Editorials