New City Council Bills
by Katie Redmon
May 04, 2006
As a regular feature, Searchlight on City Hall looks at some of the new bills in the New York City Council. At the most recent meeting on April 26, 2006, council members introduced 57 new bills, many of which will never be passed into a law. Still individual council members hope their bills will at least generate public discussion - and result in some action - on the issues that concern them.
With gasoline prices well over $3 a gallon, lawmakers at every level of government are looking for ways to help ease the pain on automobile owners. Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and John Liu are particularly concerned that gas stations are raising their prices many times throughout the day even when it is not needed.
To try to prevent price gouging, the council members have introduced a bill (Intro 296) that would require gas stations to keep their prices the same for a 24-hour period before they can change them again.
The Department of Consumer Affairs that sends investigators out to monitor prices across the city would enforce the bill.
The New York City Fire Department continues to come under scrutiny for its lack of diversity; more than 91 percent of the FDNY workface is white, and there are only 28 women in the ranks of 8,700 firefighters. Recently, the justice department launched an investigation into fire department hiring practices.
In an effort to encourage the department to hire employees that are more representative of the city's population as a whole, City Councilmember Yvette Clarke has introduced several new bills.
Intro 283 would re-establish the Fire Cadet program, which takes 300 students from the City University of New York and places them in 6-month paid internships with the FDNY. In the past, the program has been successful in recruiting more diverse applicants. Of the 73 former cadets who are now firefighters, three are women, and 45 are people of color. However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg cancelled the Cadet Corp program in 2004 to save money.
"For too long, this city has ignored the problem of having the most segregated fire department in the country," said Clark. "If the conservative administration and the Department of Justice feel compelled to investigate the FDNY's segregation, then we must also make this a priority."
Councilmember Clark also introduced a bill (Intro 282) would make all city firehouses install bathrooms and showers for both sexes by January 2007.
Since firefighters eat and sleep at their firehouses, each firehouse is equipped with a large shower where everyone can shower together; most stations do not have separate bathroom and shower facilities for women.
Currently, female firefighters have had to make due by locking the only bathroom and shower facility for privacy. Some women report that this has created resentment by their male colleagues and can make the work environment feel unwelcoming.
Councilmember Gale Brewer introduced Intro 271 that would require the New York Police Department to trace all firearms in its possession and share the results with law enforcement agencies nationwide.
The council argues that the police department does not do enough in this area. For example, if the police department finds a discarded gun, it may store the weapon for weeks or months while other evidence that may tie the gun to a crime is collected.
The council bill would require the police department to create a "timely test all eligible weapons" and to "reach out to other law enforcement agencies and develop a mechanism for sharing data with them." It would also require the NYPD to issue an annual report on the firearms that it recovers and tests, indicating "by whom they were manufactured and sold, by whom they were used and in what criminal capacity."
OPEN WINDOWS AND AIR CONDITIONING
In an effort to conserve electricity this summer, Councilmember Gale Brewer has introduced a bill (Intro 264) that would make it illegal for a commercial building owner to leave a door or window open while the air conditioning is on. Violators could be fined up to $200 per open door or window.
VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
A parent or adult guardian must accompany children under 17 if they want to see a rated "R" movie. Councilmember Gale Brewer wants to extend similar regulations to violent video or computer games. Intro 270 would make it illegal to sell video games with a "Mature" or "Adults Only" rating to minors. Selling a video game that "depict actual or virtual death or serious injury resulting from rape, mayhem, aggravated assault, dismemberment, or decapitation of human beings" could result in a fine of $500.
NOISY MOTORCYCLE TAIL PIPES
Some motorcycle exhaust pipes are designed especially for making noise. "Straight pipes," as they are often called, have no internal mechanism for reducing sound and are often put on large motorcycles to draw attention to the bike and rider.
Councilmembers Alan Gerson and Bill deBlasio say these motorcycles are a public nuisance that wake people at night, set off car alarms, and create unnecessary noise. They have introduced Intro 291 that would prohibit the sale, installation, and use of motorcycle straight pipes.
WHOLE MILK, SKIM MILK, OR CHOCOLATE MILK?
In February, the Department of Education ordered public schools to stop offering students whole milk at lunch, arguing that it is too fatty. Schools are now allowed to serve skim milk, 1 percent milk, and, if students are lucky, chocolate skim milk.
Councilmember Bill deBlasio would like to change that. While he says he understands the need to address childhood obesity, deBlasio believes this program will only hurt the cause of nutrition.
"We need to make sure that in the name of doing something good, we're not making kids less healthy," deBlasio said. "The worst of all worlds would be if kids start to not drink any milk, and drink sugar based drinks instead."
DeBlasio has introduced a resolution (Res 267) calling on the Department of Education to reassess the policy.
For a full list of recently introduced bills, see the legislation section of the City Council's Web site.
Discuss this Article
Other Related Articles:
Stated Meeting: Council Approves Agency Merger (2010-11-18)
Stated Meeting: Council Unveils Domestic Violence Stats (2010-10-28)
Stated Meeting: Council Tries to Plug Some leaks (2010-10-14)
Stated Meeting: Green Light! (2010-09-30)
Stated Meeting: Council Moves to Increase Recycling (2010-07-30)
Stated Meeting: Fines for Unlicensed Plumbing (2010-05-26)
Council Targets Gang Initiations (2010-02-12)
Stated Meeting: Council Creates Path to Citizenship (2010-02-04)