Monday, February 25, 2008

Grow a Conscience, Jessica Lappin

I really wanted to like City Council Member Jessica Lappin. What a savvy move to host a mini "Upper Green Side" sustainability conference on February 25. Yep, that's the Upper East Side, soon to become a methane-producing landfill and veritable asthma factory. The panelists were only a bit self-promotional and had some good information (we have to do much better with our paper recycling, and that includes the roll at the center of your paper towels!)

Q&A: This is where the deer got caught in the headlights. After the panelists had given their individual spiels, the stammering and stuttering began. What to do if you break a mercury-filled compact fluorescent light bulb? DON'T VACUUM IT! Open a window and run for the hills! Then come back, throw a wet cloth over the mess, gather it up, put it into a sealable plastic bag, and throw it in the freezer for the next 20 years until we figure it out! Oh, and maybe sue Al Gore. Chuckles all around. No one had much sensible information in the Q&A. This is where it came off the tracks.

The unflappable Ms. Lappin got a bit flustered herself when asked about Intro. 658, Tony Avella's bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. "Um...I think the horses ...uh...should be treated better...ahh...but I absolutely ...ummm...don't support a ban. Horse-drawn carriages are such a...ummm...big part of the city." Or some such. She also misled the audience by saying that she had replied to everyone who had contacted her in support of Intro. 658. Now, I would not question the truthfulness of a council member, but maybe her recollection is not clear. A few in the crowd piped up and asked WHY she doesn't support a ban, and said that the conditions can't be made safe for the horses. Right on cue, she neatly ended the line of questioning and moved on to the more pressing matter of how best to recycle an oily pizza box.

The facts are incontrovertible: The horse-drawn carriage trade in New York City is inherently inhumane, which is why the proposed ban (Intro. 658) is supported by numerous organizations of every bent: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Society of the United States, Friends of Animals, and so many others. I might point that the ASPCA and HSUS did not always support a full ban, until the evidence could no longer be ignored, in 2007.

Despite what I saw at the sustainability summit, I do hold out hope for Jessica Lappin. I once thought the same way she did about horse-drawn carriages. In fact, it's a very popular sentiment--the most common one that I encounter when I do my outreach work. The cure for sitting on the fence is information--and it is readily available. It is wrong to make an uniformed decision, and the information costs you nothing.

My impression of Ms. Lappin is that she is very young--perhaps not fully formed as a human being yet. (Yes, you read correctly). When she grows up, I hope she has the courage of her convictions and can distinguish herself and differentiate herself from those in power, the ones who control the budget lines. In politics, you can't please everyone. Those who earn my respect have integrity and courage to do the right thing--even in the face of opposition.

I spoke a few weeks ago with her legislative director. I was told that Ms. Lappin definitely favors "more accountability, not less" in the carriage trade. That being the case, and if Ms. Lappin reviews the facts, there is no way she can support anything less than an outright ban. The worst thing would be to support the complete lack of accountability that the trade is lobbying for in the form of "independent oversight." At a huge cost to the taxpayers, no less.


anwar said...

Great job Mary Alice. Your question was fantastic--you covered all bases. Thanks for putting Lappin the spot. She obviously is repeating the lingo the lobbyists gave her; e.g., HDC's are part of the fabric of New York... So are plastic bags!

Mary Alice said...

Thanks, Anwar. I should clarify that I am not the young lady who commented to Ms. Lappin at the forum, but I certainly applauded the effort and enjoyed watching the brief spectacle!