Home MTA Economics Assembly rep re-writes history to bash MTA

Assembly rep re-writes history to bash MTA

by Benjamin Kabak

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?

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15 comments

Jerrold January 4, 2010 - 4:35 pm

It sound like a piece of intentional demagoguery, intended for the ears of her rural constituents.

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E. Aron January 4, 2010 - 4:53 pm

“Festers in its ignorance online” – Aptly poetic. Nice work exposing yet another representative-dunce.

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Christopher January 4, 2010 - 5:29 pm

This is the type of thing that an energized straphangers organization with an activist agenda, a PR team, and the tools to generate letters and emails to both the paper and the Assemblywoman should be doing.

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AK January 4, 2010 - 5:30 pm

While we wait for the PR machine of the MTA to get its act together, why don’t we transit advocates do our part in this latest boondoggle. Tell Assemblyman Gunther to get on board a renewed effort for East River tolls:

http://assembly.state.ny.us/me.....sh=contact

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Scott E January 4, 2010 - 6:01 pm

I should be shocked that yet another politician has got it wrong, but I’m not. I think I’ve finally reached the point where I’m numb to it all…

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Alon Levy January 4, 2010 - 7:19 pm

How did Gunther vote on the MTA bailout plan?

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Cap'n Transit January 4, 2010 - 11:06 pm

Good question! I can’t find the bill on the Legislature’s website. But she could have come out publicly in favor of congestion pricing; as far as I can tell she said nothing about it on the record.

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Benjamin Kabak January 4, 2010 - 11:24 pm

Looks like she voted no on the funding package. The Assembly vote was a mere formality compared with the Senate vote though. Still, she probably has no idea for what she’s voting.

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Andrew January 4, 2010 - 8:08 pm

In any other state, I’d be shocked. In New York? Par for the course.

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Brian Hedden January 4, 2010 - 10:32 pm

If I were a state legislator, I’d be careful about throwing that “baseless salary” stone. Something about glass houses…

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Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines January 5, 2010 - 8:46 am

[…] Ben Kabak Debunks the Revisionist Transit History of Rep. Aileen Gunther (2nd Ave Sagas) […]

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Larry Littlefield January 5, 2010 - 9:46 am

“Gunther has served in the Assembly since a special election delivered her to Albany in 2003.”

Gunther is an appointee perpetual , whose predecessor likely resigned mid-term so the local machine could appoint a replacement in a special election that few knew about or voted in. While I don’t know the specifics of this case, this is what state legislators do to ensure there is NEVER a competitive election for an open seat.

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E. Aron January 5, 2010 - 12:03 pm

Her predecessor was her husband, who died.

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Steven Higashide January 6, 2010 - 12:54 pm

We have a letter responding to this piece in today’s Times-Herald Record. (It was sent in before the new year.)

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Another day, another know-nothing politician: Peter Vallone, Jr. :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog January 6, 2010 - 4:03 pm

[…] this week, I took to task Assembly rep Aileen Gunther for her spurious claims about MTA financing and East River Bridge […]

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