With President Obama's plans for improving the lives of each one of us stalled by a recalcitrant, mean-spirited Republican congress, liberals and progressives are concentrating on using the tools available on the local level to enrich our lives. None more determined than Mayor Bill de Blasio, who told an interviewer, "What I'm going to do with the progressive agenda goes far beyond the boundaries of the Democratic party."
So no surprise that New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito sponsored, Mayor de Blasio strongly supported, and the council passed a bill downgrading public urination from a misdemeanor to a violation, subject at the very most to one day in jail. Even such a slap on the, er, wrist is unlikely since in anticipation of the "reform" cops had already been ordered not to make arrests for public urination. Ms. Viverito, a Clinton supporter who refused to place her hand on her heart for the pledge of allegiance during a September 11 memorial service at the World Trade Center, says this key reform of the criminal justice system will "change trajectories for countless New Yorkers." No doubt.
The state's pols, many of whom are accompanied by security officers to prevent contact with the people who elected them, have made it illegal to mail pepper spray to any city or county within the state, although it is legal to carry defense sprays, but only of the lowest potency unless you happen to be camping where you are likely to confront a bear. Since it is legal for residents of other states to order pepper spray by mail, presumably the hedge fund types with homes in Connecticut can have theirs mailed so that they and their wives can stroll the streets of New York City properly armed—no guns, of course, except for those guarding public officials. If you are not a multiple home-owner, you can buy pepper spray in New York state from a licensed gun dealer or pharmacy, after registering. Should you use the spray in self-defense, you must prove that you have a copy of the instructions with you, although you are not required to show them to the assailant before incapacitating him or her.
Having made the streets safer for public urination, and less dangerous for assailants who might be inconvenienced by pepper spray, the de Blasio progressive agenda picked up where his nanny-mayor predecessor left off and began enforcing a law requiring chain restaurants with more than fifteen outlets nationwide to use icons to warn patrons of salty foods (more than 2,300 mg of sodium).
Failure to do so can result in fines of $600 on those restaurateurs who cannot negotiate a separate peace with the city's inspectors in charge of salt shake-downs. Unless the de Blasio team of progressives uses the new regs to expand the city work force beyond its current level of 250,000, it will add salt checks to the burdens of the inspectors who now grade New York's restaurants A, B or C, depending on how they meet certain health standards. Those results are posted where they can be seen by passers-by who, alas, will have to wait until entering the establishment of their informed choice to discover how many dishes are prepared with life-threatening amounts of salt.
Finally, the ever-active City Council decided that as of last Friday your struggle to find a taxi on a rainy Friday evening will be only the smallest part of the problem you will face getting to a dinner party. No longer will New York cab drivers be required to take an English proficiency exam. This follows last year's removal of a geography test. The latter change is understandable in this era of GPS, and the end of the English-language requirement understandable in a city that historically welcomed immigrants into entry level jobs, of which driving a cab is certainly one. Indeed, only 4 percent of drivers were born here, down from 62 percent in 1980. Ignore the fact that many drivers interviewed said they thought removing the test was a mistake: Incumbents always favor barriers to the entry of newcomers. But consider the frustration of a passenger who cannot communicate his destination to the non-English-speaking driver, or the effect that this additional reduction in the incentive to learn English and integrate more fully into society will certainly have. That might convert what has been the first step on the ladder to higher-paying work into a dead-end job. Giving progressives more ammunition for their complaint about declining mobility.