When a subject comes up they don’t want to deal with, clever politicians swat it away by insisting the intruding topic is a “distraction.” Mayor Adams apparently hasn’t learned that trick yet because he’s busy chasing the distraction.
During his campaign, the mayor relentlessly focused on crime, crime and more crime. He showed up at shooting scenes, knowing the media would follow and let voters know how determined he was to make the city safer.
A former police officer, Adams was fond of saying “Public safety is the prerequisite to prosperity” and his consistent commitment is why he won the Democratic primary and the general election.
Adams, the earlier Adams, would have been all over the case as an example of the broken system. He would have repeated his call for a special legislative session devoted to criminal justice.
Instead, he is making the migrant situation a public priority.
As I noted Sunday, the mayor said nothing when President Biden dispatched planeloads of migrants in the middle of the night to the New York area, many of whom are now surely among the estimated 13,000 migrants in the city.
Yet in the blink of an eye, much of city government is now focused on a problem that would not have occurred if Biden had secured the southern border. Schools are making room for migrant children, housing advocates are pushing for permanent shelter and heath-care costs will be staggering.
But rather than demand that Biden do his job, Adams is talking about using cruise ships to house the migrants and getting them work permits, moves that would be an invitation for even more illegal border crossers to come here. With sky-high inflation and the city’s unemployment rate already rising, to 6.6% in August, an increase of 0.6 over July, and with the prospect of a national recession looming, the budget will face even greater stresses as the migrant totals climb, as they inevitably will.
Moreover, the city has no real idea about the new arrivals, a guarantee that some will turn to crime to support themselves.
To be sure, the migrant crisis is shocking in its size — more than 4 million under Biden — and we can only imagine the desperation that leads people to entrust their lives to the cartels and coyote gangs for the dangerous trek north. The suicide of a young mother in a city shelter illustrates the toll it can take.
Yet it is not a mark of compassion for Adams or anyone else to encourage the trip, which has proved fatal for hundreds, including more than 50 people who suffocated in a sweltering tractor-trailer in Texas.
Mayors and governors have to do many different things on any given day, but they are ultimately judged by how well they did the most important things. For the city, crime remains the most important problem and Adams will be making a historic blunder if he thinks the war that barely started is already won.