Felix Ortiz the latest in a long line of ingnorant New York repsBy
Meet Felix Ortiz, Democrat and Assembly representative from New York City’s 51st District. A member of the Assembly since 1994, Ortiz represents an area of Brooklyn that encompasses Boerum Hill, Borough Park, Gowanus, Red Hook, South of Park Slope, Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace and Wyckoff. As a 16-year Assembly veteran, he keeps a rather low profile but was instrumental in getting the nation’s first ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving approved by the state.
This week, he entered the MTA fray when Gotham Gazette’s David King talked to him for an extensive piece on the state of the MTA’s finances. King’s thoroughly examination of the current financial crisis summarizes the various proposals and issues, and it covers ground I’ve been focusing on for the last few months. He did, however, get some choice quotes from Felix Ortiz on the Student MetroCard issue. Take a look:
“Our working and lower-income families will not be able to absorb these additional costs, especially in the current depressed economic state we are in,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz. “This cut is discriminatory in that it affects minority communities to a much higher degree. Everyone is entitled to an education; it should never become a privilege for those who can afford it.”
Ortiz said he can’t see providing the MTA with more funding until the agency makes its accounting more transparent. “Until they reveal their two sets of books and say here is book A and book B, we can’t listen to the MTA. We need to fire everyone, restructure and reorganize,” Ortiz said. “The MTA needs to get rid of the fat at the top.”
The emphasis in there — highlight to show the sheer ignorance in Ortiz’s statement — is mine. Here is a man elected every two years to represent New Yorkers in the state Assembly, and he is not versed in the issue of the day. He is dragging up a seven-year-old charge, one levied at the MTA by a corrupt state comptroller and eventually disprove in a court of law, as indication that the MTA is not to be trusted or even funded. He wants to break labor contracts and break down the city’s transit system before he would even deign to fund the agency.
If only Ortiz were a lone insane voice amidst a sea of MTA sanity, I wouldn’t be so concerned with him. But he joins a long list of elected representatives — including current city comptroller John Liu, Peter Vallone and Aileen Gunther — who bring up trumped up charges as a way to eschew responsibility over the need to fund the MTA and student travel in New York City. This is a failure of government to an extreme.
At the end of the day, Ortiz’s statements aren’t completely about the alleged corruption at the MTA. No one is saying it’s a well run organization, but they don’t have two books and have vastly improved the transparency of their finances. Instead, it’s about an Assembly representative who won’t find money for student transit foisting the state’s problems onto an easy scapegoat. As the MTA said in a statement to me last week, “We agree that school children should not have to pay to get to school, but funding this service is the responsibility of the State and City. The MTA has been called the yellow school bus for New York City, and that’s a good analogy. All over the state school kids get picked up by yellow school buses, and they don’t pay to ride. But the bus doesn’t show up unless state or local government pays the bus company.”
If Ortiz or Liu or Gunther or Vallone want to waste his or her time blaming the victim, so be it. The MTA will turn to its last recourse and cut the services that matter to these officials’ constituents.