Around these parts, the local newspaper (it purports to be one, anyway) is the Staten Island Advance. It's not much of a newspaper, being mostly devoted to events that happen on and around Staten Island, so you don't get a whole lot of National or International news from it. The Advance covers the"Big Stories" peculiar to New York City, but reserves almost all of it's pages to What's Happening In Our Neighborhoods.
It's usually rubbish. Birth and Wedding announcements, obituaries, local sports (high schools and the local colleges, Little League sports, and such), with most of it's space taken up by advertisements for yet-another-Italian restaurant, "Full-service" salons, and Jiffy-Lube, or such. The "coverage" of most everything is scattershot and amateurish, and you get the idea that the "journalists" who work for the Advance are merely those punching a ticket in the salt mines before they can move on to a "major" daily in places like Salt Lake City, Des Moines, or perhaps (dare they dream?) even Topeka. Very few of the writers have the polish or talent (like I should talk?) to write for the Daily News or Post, and I would hazard to guess that time spent at the Advance probably precludes you from even writing classifieds for the NY Times, as it's considered a "peasant" paper in these parts.
But then again, everything about Staten Island screams"peasant" to people in Manhattan. But I digress.
Sometimes, probably through sheer luck, the Advance does manage to report something that catches your eye (you mean that blurb about the Staten Island Golden Pins having two 300-games in the same night at the bowling alley wasn't eye-catching?),and might, if you could forget for a second just where you're reading it, make you stop and think.
Today was one such day, for the New York City Council is in session and Mayor McCheese...errr...Bloomberg has taken time off from his important crusade against Cigarettes, Salt and Saturated Fats to see to something that actually concerns the taxpayers. They're all doing important work on behalf of the People, don't you know. And yes, that was sarcasm.
Before I tear the Mayor a new one, he did manage one potentially-useful change in policy; there is a tentative agreement to eliminate the "Rubber Room", a contrivance wrested from City Governments Past by the Teacher's Unions wherein teachers who are awaiting disciplinary action (in some cases, even criminal charges) are supposed to report while their case is adjudicated. I won't explain the convoluted process by which teachers are fired in this City, because I can't understand it myself, but the number of bureaucratic steps involved practically guarantees that the worst teachers in New York can continue to collect paychecks for several years while they're being "processed" (i.e. someone, Lord knows who, decides whether or not they can keep their jobs).
They're also collecting full medical benefits, accruing pension benefits, and I think, the time they spend in the "Rubber Room" counts towards whether or not they're eventually tenured. Some of those teachers have been awaiting disciplinary action for a decade, or near enough. it costs the City $65 million a year to warehouse problem teachers who can't be fired. The article doesn't tmake it clear whether that money is just for the warehousing, or if it's the amount spent to keep these folks on the payroll.
If that revelation, and the figure attached to it, doesn't shock you, the next item on the City Council agenda most certainly should.
The City Council, in it's infinite wisdom and exquisite attention to the needs of New Yorkers hit hard by the economic downturn and higher taxes, has decreed that Carriage horses are entitled to higher rates of pay, five weeks of vacation, bigger stables, and better health care than most of us get.
The horses, to be fair, are a New York institution. Every tourist and Prom Queen in New York clamors for a Carriage Ride around Central Park, at $34 bucks a pop. It's a popular attraction. However, one can't imagine why it is that the City Council saw fit to devote time to this issue, except perhaps because it involves a subject upon which the City Council is expert: horseshit.
Of course, space has been included for the Public Outcry involved over New York's other great Economic Boost, the MillionTrees program, in which the City of New York plans to plant 1 million new trees all over the City. Not only is this a colossal waste of taxpayer money, but it appears that the Parks Department is so badly mismanaged that they're cutting holes in sidewalks for trees that won't be planted for several months, creating safety hazards, and pissing off local merchants. In one incident related to this program, a brand new sidewalk in front of an elementary school was ripped up just weeks after it was installed so that new trees could be planted God-only-knows-when.
This is par for the course in New York City, and especially for Staten Island -- where stories about City Workers installing fire hydrants in the middle of busy thoroughfares, or even in the woods (we actually do have forests here) are more common than you might, at first, think.
People need jobs, The World Trade Center still hasn't been rebuilt, taxes are being raised, the City is financially in the red -- but we need to plant a million trees in a Concrete Jungle, ripping up the concrete in the process? Go figure. The only purpose most of those trees will serve is to give the dogs a more diverse toilet experience. Within five years, I'll wager half of them will be dead, destroyed by automobile accidents, or considered a hazard that will have to be removed for one reason or another. I'll also bet that not a single nursery in New York City, or State, has a piece of that contract to deliver said trees. It wouldn't surprise me at all to eventually discover that we're importing trees from China for this purpose.
Because you just can't get good quality trees in America, anymore, you know.
But the Union idiots in the Parks Department (the people planting the trees), the Department of Transportation (the people cutting up sidewalks),and the Department of EnvironMENTAL Protection (the ones presumably counting the trees) will at least have something to do, and paychecks to collect, I guess.
Not to be left out of the competitive and exciting pastime of following local celebrities, we learn in the pages of the Advance that three bimbos who give Italian-Americans worse names than Tony Soprano -- the Girls of MTV's The Jersey Shore -- are to be given "makeovers" which include personal instruction from a descendant of Emily Post, the Goddess of Etiquette, herself. Who knew there was a proper etiquette to Gum Snapping, Anonymous Oral Sex in a Nightclub Restroom (should you spit, or show some consideration for the next whore to use that stall and utilize a flushable paper towel? Do you serve fruit salad or an arrangement of petit-fours and finger sandwiches?), not to mention the entire gamut of social rituals involved in the use of AquaNet on a crowded dance floor?
I don't know how I could ever have survived without this vital information!
And really, isn't it sad when this is what is considered "Celebrity"? It used to be called "Notoriety", but I guess standards have slipped appreciably.