The fight over speed enforcement cameras is getting nastier. Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg personally called out State Senators Marty Golden, Simcha Felder and Dean Skelos for having blood on their hands in refusing to include funding for speed enforcement cameras in the state budget. In response, Senate Democrats are trying to reinvigorate the effort to get the cameras approved. However, in their recap of the week’s events, the New York Times included this interesting tidbit of closed door negotiations between Governor Andrew Cuomo, Bloomberg, Felder and Golden.
Senator Felder, too, has no use for cameras. He represents a district dominated by Orthodox Jewish voters, and his priority this session was to persuade the city and state to foot the bill to bus any child past 4 p.m., which in effect means mostly children who attend yeshivas. Mr. Felder and Mr. Golden succeeded in pushing through this legislation, which will cost the city $5.6 million this year.
As the state senators are not unreasonable men, they even offered to bargain: they might allow speed cameras if Mr. Bloomberg agreed to foot the bill for this busing program.
The mayor said no. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said no. But when his state budget emerged from behind closed doors in Albany it included this new and costly busing program.
The Orthodox, who are adroit at pulling the levers of power, and their political allies claim all children could benefit. But that argument is evidence-starved. The state paid for a pilot program this year, and city school buses have picked up 1,000 children — from 29 yeshivas and one charter school.
Senator Golden, who has charted the growth of the Orthodox population in his district, shrugs off criticism. It is, he said, “the new normal.”
So Golden and Felder would have been happy to approve the funding for speed enforcement cameras as long as yeshiva students who attend private Orthodox schools got free busing? Huh…so, using Golden and Felder’s logic, I guess this means that the safety of responsible motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians is less important than free transportation for private schools provided on the taxpayers’ dime.
It’s the “new normal” after all.