Editorials

Pataki’s Legacy: Chaos and Disarray

New York’s Republican Party will gather on Long Island on May 31 for a state nominating convention. For the first time since 1990, George Elmer Pataki will not be the party’s nominee for Governor. After a dozen years, Mr. Pataki is bowing out—and none too soon. He and his administration ran out of energy and ideas about 11 years ago.

The lethargy of the Pataki era will be evident when the Republicans present their 2006 slate of statewide candidates. For Governor, the party is split between former State Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, an upstate conservative, and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, a social liberal who was thrust forward as the party’s unlikely savior several months ago. A primary will decide this contest. Meanwhile, the party is prepared to nominate Jeanine Pirro, who put the laughs in “laughingstock,” for State Attorney General. Generic sacrificial lambs will be tabbed to face State Comptroller Alan Hevesi and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton.

A genuine leader would not have allowed his party, and indeed his state, to sink to such depths. But Mr. Pataki has never demonstrated genuine leadership, whether the issue was the redevelopment of Ground Zero or genuine political reform in Albany. He seemed to enjoy his reputation as a hands-off, good-natured, slightly goofy C.E.O. The results speak for themselves.

While New York City is doing well, upstate remains what it was when Mr. Pataki took over—an economic basket case. Indeed, things actually have gotten worse in places like Syracuse and Buffalo. Under Mr. Pataki’s “leadership,” reliably Republican areas like Nassau and Westchester counties have turned Democratic. Such a turn of events would have been unthinkable a dozen years ago.

If the Republican Party is wiped out in November, as looks likely, Mr. Pataki will bear the blame. He could have prevented this disaster in the making—first, by being a better Governor, and second, by being a more effective party leader.

Clean Taxis, Clean Air

The city will sell 308 new taxi medallions next month in an auction that ought to serve as a model for all such future transactions. Save for 54 medallions reserved for handicapped-accessible vehicles, all of the new taxis must use alternative fuels or hybrid technology.

Credit Mayor Michael Bloomberg with this farsighted policy, designed not only to reduce harmful emissions but help, in its own little way, rid the nation of its dependence on foreign oil.

Because of their size and the stop-and-go nature of traffic in Manhattan, standard taxis burn lots of gasoline. Rising fuel prices cut into the drivers’ daily take and eventually are passed on to passengers. So the industry is ripe for conversion to other energy sources.

The city originally planned to set aside only 62 medallions for vehicles using alternative fuel sources. And the chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission publicly opposed a City Council proposal to require half of all medallions to go to alternative-fuel cabs or hybrids.

Mr. Bloomberg settled the issue by setting aside most of the medallions for cleaner-running vehicles.

Smart public policy and the public good don’t always intersect. In this case, they have. City Hall is using the power of the marketplace—those medallions are highly coveted and will go for hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece—to implement policy and, at the same time, make the air we breathe a little cleaner.

What’s more, every vehicle that uses hybrid technology—a mixture of battery-generated electricity and gasoline—or alternative fuels like ethanol reduces U.S. dependence on some of the world’s worst regimes.

Mr. Bloomberg’s demand that fleet owners step up their commitment to alternative fuels is hardly onerous. In fact, it’s in the best interests of the medallion owners, the drivers, the passengers and all New Yorkers.

Better Pay for Cops

A succession of Mayors and police commissioners has received enormous public credit for the city’s astonishing drop in crime over the last decade. That’s understandable—people like Rudy Giuliani, Mike Bloomberg, William Bratton and Ray Kelly have implemented ingenious strategies that have rolled back crime to historic lows.

The unheralded heroes of the war on crime are the men and women of the New York Police Department. They are the front-line troops in the war on crime, and their successes have allowed their bosses to bask in the adulation of a grateful public.

The least we could do is to pay these heroes a living wage.

City Hall has proposed raising the starting pay of police officers by about $11,000—from a miserly $25,000 to a more reasonable $36,000. If that new figure also seems too low, bear in mind that after five and a half years of service, officers see dramatic increases in their pay. Under a proposed new contract with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the main police union, City Hall has proposed annual salaries of about $63,000 for officers with five-plus years on the job.

To keep winning the war on crime, New York needs good, smart cops. It’s hard to attract the finest, however, if the pay is anything but. Earlier this year, the city said there was a 30 percent decrease in the number of applicants to the Police Academy. The low starting salary surely had something to do with that.

If the city hires 2,000 new cops a year, the additional cost will be $20 million—a worthwhile investment. But City Hall is shrewdly asking for something in exchange from the P.B.A. The administration wants to cut the number of vacation days for new cops from a too-generous 20 to a far more reasonable 10, and the number of paid holidays from 11 to five.

There’s no question that rookie cops deserve a better salary to go along with their excellent health and pension benefits. The P.B.A. ought to jump on this deal.

Editorials