Friday, March 18, 2011

We are fiddling while our city burns.

Crunching Numbers

By Marilyn Penn

Aside from the monumental crush of people tragically killed or missing in Japan, there were some other off-putting numbers to consider in this week’s news. Let’s start with the man who killed a NYC cop while he was being apprehended in a domestic violence episode. George Villanueva has a record of 30 prior arrests, has been reported 20 times for domestic violence, has been imprisoned 3 times for burglary. What more is necessary to keep a man with this profile out of circulation?

Let’s move on to Ophadell Williams, the bus driver allegedly responsible for killing 15 people, seriously injuring 14 others - 6 in critical condition. Williams had also served time in prison for beating and stabbing a man to death during a fight; incredibly, he served only 2 years for this murder, later serving twice as long for stealing money from the Police Athletic league. Does this add up?

In Brooklyn, a high school student threw hydrochloric acid on another girl’s head in chemistry class, intending, by her admission, to burn out her eyes. The teacher’s quick actions and the dilution of the acid averted that nightmarish conclusion but the attacker was released on bail set at $7,500, a sum that should strike all of us as dangerously low for the nature of this crime. Had she been more successful, would bail have been rounded up to $10,000 - 5,000/per eye?

Moving from the violently criminal to the antiseptically criminal, we saw the salaries of hospital chiefs revealed in an article in the Times. In 2007, the chief executive of New York-Presbyterian earned 9.8 million dollars, of Bronx Lebanon 4.8 million, and a year later, the chief of Mt. Sinai earned 2.7 million while the head of North Shore-Long Island Jewish had to make do with a measly 2.4 million. If you’ve been a patient or visited one recently at any New York hospital, you know that the quality of care is not commensurate with these inflated compensations as most hospitals are both under-staffed and incompetently staffed. Preventable infections are rampant, bureaucracy is frustrating and user-unfriendly and all too often, getting discharged prematurely is the patient’s best hope for recovery. Adding insult to injury, these hospitals receive huge payments from taxpayer funded Medicaid but the administrators’ salaries are governed strictly by the hospital boards.

Finally, in the field of education, we learned that 1/3 of students who had been in programs for English As A Second Language from 1rst to 7th grades flunked the standard proficienty test administered by NY state. Astonishinly, 70% of the students in this program are born in the U.S.A. 70% of the students do not achieve proficienty in English at the end of 3 years, which is the recommended duration for this program of instruction. The annual cost for this exercise in futility is 250 million dollars for approximately 153,000 students. Do the math! What do the Dept of Education, the UFT and our billionaire mayor have to say about this disservice to our students and consummate waste of taxpayer’s money?

The one thing that all these numbers highlight is that you don’t have to be an accountant to recognize the abdication of accountability across the board in our city and state. By allowing these outrages to continue, we condone and effectuate the reward of ineptitude, lassitude and dereliction of duty. We are fiddling while our city burns.


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