Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: The View of Ferguson from 30,000 Feet

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"You was supposed to make it" – T.I.

As the dramatic announcement about the legal fate of Officer Darren Wilson was being made, I was where no journalist wanted to be: stuck on a plane.

Luckily for me, I was flying Jet Blue – which gives passengers individual TVs to while away their time as they soar home. So I was watching and waiting at 9 p.m. as St. Louis County prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch declared that there would be no indictment in the case.

As I got out of my seat to go to the bathroom during McCulloch's long talk, I was in for a big shock: no one else was watching the press conference on their TVs in the seats around me -- football, cartoons, "Gotham" – but no CNN or Fox News.

The marathon press conference continued as we landed; as I turned on my iPhone, it filled up with e-mails as we taxied on the tarmac. I figured I could at least take a couple of photos at JFK of people watching the press conference which was in no danger of ending. But inside the terminal, not a single TV was showing it and people milled about it like normal.

Sometimes when we think that the whole world is watching, we should think again – especially when the whole world has dozens of other channels to watch.

I'm not sure if my anecdotal evidence means that white America – and almost all of these non-viewers were white – isn't paying attention to Ferguson or that New Yorkers are particularly blasé but it was a wake-up call that sometimes what we think is a big story is nothing more than a distraction to someone's viewing pleasure.

Because race relations have improved dramatically in the city over the last 25 years, last night's local protests weren't expected to take a bad turn – and they didn't except for a dramatic moment when Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was splattered with fake blood.

It's a reminder that we have our own version of the Ferguson case to deal with as a grand jury on Staten Island considers indicting Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July. Unlike Michael Brown's case in Ferguson, there's a painful video of the encounter, where we can watch the life ebb out of Garner as he dies on a sidewalk.

Should a grand jury decide not to indict Pantaleo, the city and Mayor de Blasio will undergo a test that officials in Missouri failed miserably last night as protesters let loose following McCulloch's announcement.

And part of leading a city isn't just good crowd control. It's realizing that a child needs a good school, a neighborhood with decent choices, and a support network if parents aren't there. Much of American history is filled with people born on third base, wondering why everyone else can't hit a triple.

It's a long way from Ferguson to Staten Island but it could be a faster trip than you think without strong leadership in a time of crisis. And New Yorkers won't need a TV on a plane to watch more angry protests.


Bob Hardt

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Connect with the ItCH

• Get an e-mail each day when the ItCH is published by subscribing to our ItCH alert.
• Follow Bob Hardt on Twitter @bobhardt.
• Send your comments to insidecityhall@ny1.com.
 
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