Let me take a minute to introduce you to Aileen Gunther. Ms. Gunther, pictured at right, is the Democratic Assembly representative from the 98th District. She represents parts of Orange and Sullivan Counties, and based on her biography sounds neither clueless nor stupid.
Gunther has served in the Assembly since a special election delivered her to Albany in 2003. She has amassed a generally left-of-center voting record. She has won reelection every time she was up for it and is probably well-respected in her district — or at least as well-respected as any no-name Assembly representative can be. How then can she be so utterly clueless and in fact reckless when it comes to taking about transit policy in New York City?
In a piece over the holidays in the Times Herald-Record, Gunther opined on the MTA’s financial picture. She wrote:
Jay Walder, the MTA chief, who has been blaming the Legislature for the MTA’s problems, has an excessive — and baseless — $350,000 salary. In addition, the MTA failed to put tolls on the New York City bridges, which would have generated vital revenue for the state. It is that kind of frivolous spending and financial mismanagement that has put the MTA in this awful predicament — not the Legislature.
Where to begin? Where to begin?
We’ll start with the claim — the laughable, ludicrous, downright stupid claim — that the MTA itself “failed to put tolls” on the city’s bridges. Perhaps Ms. Gunther missed the brouhaha last spring, but it is up to her august legislative body and her colleagues across the hall in the State Senate to approve bridge tolls for New York City. Lest we forget, five State Senators quashed the toll plan in March and proposed the current funding plans a week later. The MTA would gladly have accepted tolls but couldn’t because of Albany and not some “financial mismanagement” as Ms. Gunther would have you believe.
Now, what about Gunther’s claims of Jay Walder’s “excessive” and “baseless” salary? Well, Walder was a top executive in London and is now in charge of thousands of MTA workers. He’s earning a salary barely comparable to other transit executives who oversee smaller authorities, and as Chris O’Leary at On Transport pointed out, he is in line for a pay reduction due to the budget crisis.
In the end, this piece by Gunther is an irresponsible hack job. She’s not representing anyone to the best of her ability and is displaying an utter lack of knowledge about recent transit problems in the area. Yet, her piece goes unanswered by the MTA for days and festers in its ignorance online. As O’Leary asked at his site, where is the MTA’s P.R. department to combat these spurious articles? Where are the editors of The Times Herald-Record?