New York City has been battling a number of budget problems lately, along with unrest in the streets over the deplorable state of the subway system. That makes the latest news about the city’s financial situation all the more of a political stinkbomb. According to the New York Post, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, was put in charge of a new mental health initiative named ThriveNYC four years ago. It was intended to help the city deal with a spiraling mental illness problem, particularly among the Big Apple’s homeless population.
Four years later, the program has soaked up nearly a billion dollars. And oddly enough, nobody seems to know what, if anything, has been accomplished or specifically where all that money went.
So, ipso presto, co-Mayor Bill coughed up enough cash to break a pack mule’s back and sent it off to co-Mayor Chirlane — who then went forth to cure Gotham’s mental-illness problems.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, when the City Council was startled to discover that McCray and Team Thrive are closing in on having spent an eye-popping $900 million since the program’s inception — and nobody seems to have a clue on what.
That is, nobody appears to have kept receipts; the subways and street corners are still overrun with crazy people, and nobody in charge knows what’s to happen next.
How does somebody get handed that amount of taxpayer money and not keep proper receipts and records to be made available to the public? And this has been going on for four years now?
Part of the problem is that the process becomes more complicated when programs are turned over to NGOs instead of departments under the municipal government itself. We supposedly monitor such things, but details involving spending tend to be obscured. You generally just see the total amount given to the NGO as one lump-sum black hole in the budget.
The other factor of concern here is that New York City has a “co-mayor” in more than just name. It’s the same problem I’ve complained about when it comes to First Ladies (and eventually First Dudes) getting their fingers into the machinery of our government. Nobody in New York City voted for Chirlane McCray for any public office. She has no official duties. And if you’re unhappy about a billion dollars simply disappearing, there is no mechanism in place to remove her from “office.”
Having a supportive spouse and a loving family is the right of anyone, including elected officials. But they don’t automatically become accountable public servants simply because they married well.