True or False: New York City Already Bans Racial Profiling

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© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons/City Limits

The sharpest jabs in this week's Democratic mayoral debate came over stop-and-frisk and one of the two City Council bills aimed at curbing the practice—measures that were passed by the city legislature in June and vetoed by Mayor Bloomberg in July. On Thursday, the Council overrode the vetoes on both pieces of legislation: Intro. 1079, which creates an inspector general to oversee the NYPD, and Intro. 1080, which is known as the End Discriminatory Profiling Act. That second bill figured prominently in two testy exchanges among the candidates.

Outside the NYPD, Inspectors General Are Everywhere

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FDNY, CIA, DIA, FBI, NRO/City Limits

The New York Post's outrage at Council Speaker Christine Quinn's support for an NYPD inspector general may have reached biblical proportions ("JUDAS!" screamed its Thursday headline), but the newspaper has found inspectors general pretty useful in the past. Over the past five years, the newspaper has mentioned "inspector general"—in contexts not involving the NYPD—some 450 times.

Recent examples of government incompetence/corruption chronicled by the Post and involving inspectors general include a probe of the city's top traffic judge for pitching a rental property at work, a Queens nursing home exec billing Medicaid for the use of a Lexus, revelations that construction workers at the World Trade Center were smoking and dealing pot on site, and failures by then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geither to restrict executive pay at corporations bailed out by federal taxpayers.

New York City Eyeing Wider Use of Biodiesel

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Kevin B./City Limits

Most of the city's fleet already uses biodiesel, but some want New York to embrace a mandate for public—and perhaps some private—vehicles.
As New York attempts to improve its environmental efficiency, biodiesel has become a key tool. Biodiesel is currently used to heat homes throughout the city and power the city’s fleet. With the first biodiesel mandates going into effect this winter, biodiesel use in New York City may continue to grow.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from agricultural oils, fats and greases. Biodiesel is normally blended with petroleum diesel. Biodiesel blends are identified with a number representing the percentage of biodiesel in them. Blends can range from B2, a blend with 2 percent biodiesel, to B100, pure biodiesel. Biodiesel can be used for anything that traditional petroleum diesel is used for.

National Reporting Project Finds Flaws in Brownfields Program

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Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism/City Limits

Ariana Preciado, 7, and her brother Aidan, 4, are the fifth generation of their family to live in the Carrollville neighborhood of Oak Creek, Wis. These children live near a brownfield site, a barren 300-acre complex of former factories where the soil and groundwater are polluted with arsenic and other chemicals.
A national program for cleaning up contaminated sites is dogged by funding shortages and a lack of oversight that puts lower-income communities at a disadvantage in obtaining federal support, an investigation coordinated by the Investigative News Network Found.

Among other findings, the investigation (which can be read in full here) found that:

15 Years On, Still No Agreement on Welfare Reform's Impact

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Neil deMause/Jarrett Murphy/City Limits

The panelists, clockwise from top left: Bich Ha Pham, Robert Doar, Frances Fox-Piven and Lawrence Mead.
Wednesday's panel on the 15th anniversary of welfare reform, held at NYU's Wagner School of Public Service, was certainly full of heavy hitters on the subject of how the 1996 law has affected American society. The lineup:

- New York City HRA Commissioner Robert Doar, chief proponent of the city's "Work First" welfare policies.


Police Conduct at Parade Unlikely to Get Board's Review

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Kiera Feldman/City Limits

A picture displayed at Tuesday's press conference of Kirsten John Foy, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's community affairs director, during his encounter with police.
When it comes to alleged abuses of police power, the official channel of recourse is to file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the independent agency formed in 1992 to investigate misconduct. But as of Tuesday, representatives for the two officials involved in this weekend's controversial incident at the West Indian Day Parade said neither had considered filing a CCRB complaint. It simply hadn't crossed their minds.

Recounting at a press conference on Tuesday the events at Monday's parade, Councilman Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's community affairs director, said they showed their City-issued identification, explained they had permission to skirt the barrier, and were promptly handcuffed. A video of the incident shows officers surrounding Foy and tackling him to the grass in front of the Brooklyn Library. The NYPD claimed that an officer had been punched in the face, a claim that Williams termed "bald-faced lies."


Opponents Of Over-Policing Target 'Vague Laws'

You lose your balance as the A train stops short, brushing against the newspaper and bag of a fellow commuter as you regain your footing. Have you just stumbled, or have you committed a class A misdemeanor, Jostling? Were a police officer to apply the statute's vague wording and arrest you, and a judge to agree with the officer's interpretation, you could be facing up to one year in prison.

Jostling, along with Criminal Trespassing, Disorderly Conduct, Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in a Prostitution Offense and several other New York State laws contain broad and equivocal wording. Punishments for the above violations and crimes can potentially including jail time and heavy fines. Timothy Sandefur, the principal attorney of The Pacific Legal Foundation, condemns the serious consequences resulting from many vague laws on the federal and state level. "Vagueness," he wrote in a 2010 Forbes op-ed "turns the law into a sword dangling over citizens' heads."


A Fracking Film As Cuomo Deadline Nears

Driving through much of upstate New York, you'd think there was an election on, what with all the lawn signs and banners supporting or opposing increased use of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—in New York State.

Supporters say the method (which entails injecting a pressurized mix of water, sand and chemicals deep into underground shale formations to create tiny cracks that then release natural gas) is safe; what's more, they say permitting far wider use of the method will create jobs in depressed Empire State counties and help reduce reliance on other, more problematic fuel sources.