Devil is in the details
by Emily Gallagher
Jun 25, 2019 | 2338 views | 0 0 comments | 251 251 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Like many progressive reform supporters, I've been very enthusiastic about the changes that the blue wave in the State Senate has brought.

Many laws that we have been waiting for decades to pass have finally been debated and passed instead of left for dead on the legislature floor. So now we have a great deal of progressive reforms that we can be proud of.

We have new sexual harassment laws thanks to the hard work of the sexual harassment working group, many of whom were harassed by our community's own Vito Lopez. We have new housing laws that will make our rent-stabilized apartments permanently so.

And we have new climate change legislation and street cameras in school zones to protect children.

But the reality is that a law is only as good as it's enforcement, and many wonderful laws that we have don't have a practical rollout.

A proper rollout includes an education piece. When we say we are going to do an education program is that an actual conversation, is it a video, or is it a pamphlet jammed under your door, which you may mistake as a menu and throw out?

Do all stakeholders know the law is changing? Do they understand how the laws will impact them? Are they given the tools to advocate for themselves, and are the new laws written clearly and easily accessed?

Additionally, it's worthwhile to know who will be in charge of enforcing the law and what the protocol will be. With housing laws, many of the problems we have been experiencing were because of low and lax enforcement.

It was so bad, and considered such a key part of tenant harassment, that there was even a city law passed last year called "Real Time Enforcement."

The new Real Time Enforcement unit would monitor buildings with permits for alterations on more than 10 percent of their existing square footage.

According to a summary of the bill, “The RTEU will also inspect immediately hazardous complaints related to work without a permit in occupied dwellings within 12 hours, and for all other complaints related to work without a permit in occupied dwellings, such inspections shall be conducted within ten days of receipt of the complaint.”

So then this becomes an administrative issue. Who, and how many people, work in the enforcement unit? How will they be hired and trained? How will the results be recorded and followed up on?

I say this as a person very glad to have new regulations and new laws that will hold people in powerful positions responsible for harms they may cause. However, if we want these laws to truly work and not be window dressing, the devil is in the details.

And I think the details are deserving of the same attention and vigilance as the ideas themselves.

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