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What took so long with de Blasio’s marijuana stance?
Nearby political leaders are likely watching Mayor Bill de Blasio’s evolution on marijuana enforcement with fear and interest. Although he’s not supporting legal pot, the mayor is directing the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking in public and would create a task force to prep for legalization of the drug in New York, the Daily News reported. Last week, he announced a 30-day review of enforcement policy.
The jurisdictions surrounding NYC face similar external pressures: a widening national acceptance of pot, and recent reports on deep racial disparities among those arrested for marijuana use. The larger question with de Blasio’s action might be what took him so long to move toward what has become progressive orthodoxy on marijuana.
He has often been cautious on law enforcement issues ever since NYPD officers turned their backs on him after the murder of two officers in Brooklyn. Despite not having to face a city electorate again, he may still be worried about a perceived softness on crime.
As a parent, de Blasio experienced the struggles of his daughter, Chiara, who faced substance abuse issues with marijuana and alcohol. He has spoken before about the effect of illegal and legal substances on children. Last week on WNYC, discussing the legalization of sports gambling, de Blasio said he was worried about our “addiction focused society” and also of large corporations that might attempt to “addict more people or hook more people.”
On a political level, de Blasio is not someone who’s “necessarily going to go along with the flow,” says Hunter College professor Joseph Viteritti, who wrote “The Pragmatist,” a book about de Blasio.
And at times, de Blasio has shown a relative lack of interest in progressive policies that he didn’t originate, such as congestion pricing or closing Rikers Island.
Whatever the reason, at this point, the mayor may have found a graceful way to shift on marijuana. Fellow elected officials, searching themselves and their poll numbers, take note.
MTA, Amtrak can’t get together on Penn Station
After trading bold, conflicting public statements about the future development of Penn Station, it doesn’t seem Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Empire State Development are any closer to a team effort at Penn.
The MTA and ESD critiqued Amtrak for choosing to “unilaterally entrust the future of Penn Station to a private developer rather than engage in a thoughtful, collaborative planning process.” And Amtrak’s response confirmed that the railroad is “advancing improvements in our portion of the station,” even while saying it was “confused” by the state’s concerns and emphasizing efforts to “seek their collaboration.”
Sources told The Point that Amtrak quietly began solo conversations with real estate developers regarding the potential renovation of its portion of Penn Station, including remaking the retail. Amtrak, which is preparing for its eventual move to the under-construction Moynihan Train Hall, is hurting financially — and new revenue would be welcome.
But such a move by Amtrak would damage any chance New York State has at a broader, more comprehensive redevelopment of Penn Station as a whole — an effort that would address safety and security, along with the needs of the station’s various commuting groups, including Long Island Rail Road riders. In this year’s state budget, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo committed funding for such development, though the specifics of his plans remain unclear.
By going forward with its plans for its corner of the station now, Amtrak is “putting the cart before the iron horse,” one involved participant told The Point.
And even while MTA and ESD officials seemed to have few details on what Amtrak is planning, they decided to say something immediately.
“They started those meetings late [last week],” one source said. “We didn’t think we could sit on our hands.”
Randi F. Marshall
How things work
- President Donald Trump talked to South Korean President Moon Jae-in about White House concerns that North Korea is not serious about denuclearization. About concerns, in other words, that North Korea hasn’t changed a whit in 30 years.
- Why all the agita over the possibility that a bunch of moderate Republicans will combine with Democrats in the House of Representatives to force a vote on a DACA bill? Isn’t that the way democracy is supposed to work, majority rules and all?
- The Saudi Arabian government has promised to lift its ban on women driving next month, but has jailed at least five activists pushing for an end to the ban. That’s reform, Saudi-style.
- Controversy is raging about whether President Donald Trump’s plan to force pharmaceutical companies to include the price of drugs in ads would be legal and how it would be done. Hey, if Michael Bloomberg can get fast-food restaurants to post calories on their menus . . .
- The best thing about Starbucks now allowing anyone to sit in their cafes even if they haven’t bought anything? Starbucks employees don’t have to make judgments about anybody.
- President Donald Trump has endorsed prison reform, including better rehabilitation services for prisoners to improve their chances of not reoffending once they’re released. So Trump’s platform has evolved from putting Hillary Clinton in prison to keeping parolees out of it.
- Venezuelan president and dictator Nicolas Maduro, who is presiding over the country’s economic collapse, easily won re-election amid charges of voting irregularities. You didn’t seriously think anything else would happen — on both counts — did you?