MARCH 1, 1961
WASHINGTON—It was encouraging to read on Tuesday that there is to be some quickening process instituted in the Congress on the new Administration's program. Following a caucus meeting of 45 Democratic Senators, Majority Leader Mike Mansfield announced that the Senate will be taking up about one bill a week in an effort to clear the calendar.
There is a 16-point agenda of priority legislation that President Kennedy has laid down, and Senator Mansfield said he was prepared to bring the first one—increasing the number of Federal judgeships—to the Senate floor this week.
Of course, we have to remember that bills have to go through both the Senate and the House and usually differences have to be settled between them after the arguments have been set forth. However, it is encouraging to know that Congressional dawdling has ceased and an accelerating pace begun.
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New York City newspapers report the results of a poll taken by the local Democratic parties in the five boroughs indicating overwhelming rejection of Mayor Robert F. Wagner in the event that he should run for reelection.
In reading the story, however, one cannot help wondering whether the poll, if taken at the request and under the supervision of someone a little more sympathetic than the local Democratic bosses, might not have had somewhat different results. The 88 percent opposition, as indicated in the poll, may be a correct percentage as of the moment, but I doubt if anyone is really ready to declare whom he wants as a candidate in the fall primaries and election.
Nevertheless, the mayor must know that he has built for himself a reputation of considerable indecision over the past few years. It has been only in the past few weeks that he has shown the ability to decide forthrightly and state where he stands on certain questions. And one does not quickly overcome a past impression covering a lengthy period. However, it may be that many people will wait and watch developments over the next several months.
Another controversial issue in New York City, which has some bearing on a state and national level, is the question of policemen's pay increase and/or permission to work at another job on off-duty time.
This question of a pay increase—which would have amounted to a $600 differential as between policemen and firemen—was one of the causes for the recent resignation of Police Commissioner Stephen P. Kennedy. This action followed a long struggle between the policemen and the commissioner over off-duty work, the commissioner being strictly against the two-job idea.
In view of possible budgetary considerations, it is just possible that the mayor feels the policemen should be allowed to hold other jobs. If this is so, it seems to me that the two sides of the argument should be argued clearly before the public.
Personally, I think police salaries should be raised regardless of whether the men take outside jobs to supplement their incomes. If the salaries are insufficient to attract the type of men that are needed on the police force, then we are all the losers because the police force is of such vital importance to every citizen in the community. Men who are not adequately paid can far more easily justify to themselves the taking of opportunities that may occur for making money on the illegitimate side. If it does not seem to do any great harm and if they have a sense of injustice, the argument of righteousness for righteousness' sake is not as strong as it might otherwise be.
A city needs a police force that is not corruptible, particularly a city like New York or any other big city. Therefore, it seems to me that salaries should be adequate and, if it possibly could be arranged without harm to the police force, the men might be allowed to work on off-duty time to earn extra money to meet some particular need in the family.
We all know the demands of illness, of education, of a hundred and one things that may come up in the average family, and it seems to me there should be some elasticity in the rules that govern such an important body for the well-being of a big city as its police force.
It would be well, I think, for the mayor to give very serious thought to this whole question and announce as soon as possible what he thinks would give New York the best possible police force, free from politics and invulnerable to bribery of any kind.