Think it's easy to open a supermarket in New York City? Fourteen years ago, a city housing corporation found that the Pathmark chain was willing to provide 24-hour service and hire 200 local people—if it received a permit for 200 customer parking spaces. Nine years ago, the city's housing agency approved the plan. Four years ago, the Planning Commission approved the store while studies of the parking problem continued. Last year, the Environmental Quality Review Committee approved the parking, and the supermarket finally opened. Now the Planning Commission is worried about the reaction of other food stores to the new competition, and has delayed action on the parking spaces. The delay has already cost more than 90 jobs.
If hunters, fishers, plumbers, and doctors are required to be licensed by the state, why not bird watchers? That's the theory of Maryland Assemblyman Anthony DiPietro, who sponsored a bill requiring bird watchers to buy a $5 license. Some say the proposal will never get off the ground. "Do you charge $5 to watch cows?" asked Glenda Weber of the Chesapeake Audubon Society.
It really is 1984. A Memphis city-and county-workers' union made the usual demands for money, sick pay, vacations, etc., at contract renewal time—with one new twist. The union asked for a 35-cents-per-hour "punctuality pay." That's right—if the dedicated civil servants show up on time (a rarity), they'll get some extra loot. Next to come, of course, will be a demand for "performance pay"—bonuses for doing a job correctly. (To their credit, Memphis officials refused to give in on the punctuality pay issue.)
Police in San Jose, California, are running an escort service for downtown prostitutes. In a campaign to scare off the hookers' customers, uniformed officers stroll down the avenue with the streetwalkers seven days a week, 20 hours a day. "It's really hard for them to make a date while we're standing there listening," says a police official. Initially, the streetwalkers tolerated their uniformed chaperons. Then bizarre games of follow-the-leader sprang up, with hookers jogging, taking cab rides around the block, and climbing over fences in attempts to wear out the cops. Doesn't it make you feel safe, citizens of San Jose?
Genevieve Banks has a system to beat Atlantic City's casinos. First, she borrows a few thousand dollars from the gambling house, loses it all, and then sues the casino for turning her into a compulsive gambler. The New Jersey grandmother is among a number of losers who demand that casinos refund to them what they lost when gambling on credit. You see, their gambling addiction is a form of mental illness that makes the credit agreement invalid. The casinos argue that it's not their responsibility to second-guess the judgment of patrons. "You have people gambling for years and their pattern of credit is steady," says one casino attorney. "All of a sudden, they say they have this gambling problem." But with today's judicial system, Genevieve has better than even odds of turning the tables on the casinos.
Government subsidies to the arts took a ridiculous turn when a New York City judge ruled that the new owners of a building must allow artist Robert Newmann to finish the mural he's sandblasting on the wall of the Palladium Theater. The new owners had other plans for their wall, but the judge ruled that by telling Newmann to beat it, the owners were violating a law designed to protect works of art. Artistic license 1, property rights 0.
A Youngstown, Ohio, nursing home is suing a union because it decided not to strike. When contract talks broke down, the union gave the required 10-day notice for a strike. The nursing home immediately recruited and trained 47 people to fill the slots—at a cost of about $15,000. On the day the strike was to begin, the new employees showed up for work—along with the "striking" workers. The home had to pay two staffs for about a week. So far, no contract has been approved and the union people say another strike threat is possible. But do they really mean it?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn't see the humor in a new home video game called Hard Hat Mack. Mack is a blip described as a bona-fide working class hero. He strives to erect a high-rise building while another blip—an OSHA representative—chases after Mack. If the OSHA blip, which sports a crew-cut, a clipboard, and no sense of humor, catches Mack, Mack dies. OSHA has protested, but the president of Electronic Arts, the manufacturer, says the game "simply satirizes what can happen when you're building a building."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".
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