Friday, March 20, 2009

Malcom Smith's MTA Folly

While the country obsesses over AIG bonuses and false populists in Washington feign outrage, a moment of truth for New Yorkers is soon upon us. After years of rampant cronyism and grotesque mismanagement, the Mass Transit Authority (“MTA”) is poised to stick it to struggling New Yorkers with an obscene fare hike to make up for their $1.2 billion budget deficit. Even before the current economic crisis, the MTA chronically illustrated state government at its worst. Now with New York City residents either out of work or living paycheck to paycheck, subway fares are poised to increase to $2.50 per ride combined with massive service cuts.

Governor David Paterson’s stewardship has largely been feckless but at least he’s tried to lead credibly on this issue. The same can be said of Assembly leader Sheldon Silver whom I typically despise. A commission chaired by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch recently proposed a reasonable payroll tax and tolls with respect to the East River and Harlem River bridges to spread the pain fairly. Two of the “three men in a room,” Paterson and Silver, signed onto Ravitch’s plan as did the most zealous subway riders advocacy group, the Straphangers Campaign.

The third member of the Albany governing triumvirate however, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, has not contributed to facilitating a credible resolution to the crisis. Instead he initially proposed a plan that was rightly lambasted by the New York Daily News earlier this week. Today, the New York Daily News is reporting that Smith is poised to delay a comprehensive bailout for the MTA and focus on the state budget. Smith self-righteously proclaims,
"If we can get everything done, I am sure we will, but there's 19 million people that are concerned about that budget,"
Hence, the MTA is only days away from imposing their draconian “doomsday” budget and New York City residents will reap the economic whirlwind. I don’t dispute the importance of the state’s overall budget. But that doesn’t excuse Smith’s grotesque failure of leadership. Especially when you have a proposed solution by the Ravitch Commission that spreads the pain judiciously.

Although I applaud Senator Smith's recent efforts to to make the legislative process in Albany more transparent, his callous disregard for New York City residents is unacceptable. Click here to contact Senator Smith’s office and urge him to adopt the Ravitch proposal immediately.

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