Can the MTA be reformed from within without, as many New Yorkers wish to see, blowing everything up? That’s the question a new sweeping report from the good governance group Reinvent Albany seeks to answer.
A month after budget season wrapped, the watchdog agency published “Open MTA: 50 Actions New York Can Take to Renew Public Trust in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.” It’s a report that squarely lays the responsibility — and the blame — for the current state of the MTA on the shoulders of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and walks through the myriad ways the MTA has failed. From a Board with no real authority to opaque budgeting to a failure of legislative oversight to ethics concerns and conflicts of interest, the 150-page document lays out the case for MTA reforms through the lens of Cuomo’s control. Andrew Cuomo controls the MTA, and Andrew Cuomo will determine whether or not the MTA succeeds. Here, Reinvent Albany says, is the way to fix things.
In a way, the report is a contrast to Corey Johnson’s municipal takeover plan, and the document is blunt in noting that blowing everything up — wresting control of an important state power — from Andrew Cuomo is unlikely to succeed. So let’s fix things from within.
Since the report came out, I’ve pondered how best to cover it. After all, it’s not easy to distill a massive call for reform into a few hundred words. So for the fourth episode of the Second Ave. Sagas podcast, I sat down with Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany’s senior research analyst and lead author on the report, for a conversation on overhauling and fixing the MTA. We spent a lot of time discussing whether or not the MTA, under Andrew Cuomo is something that can be fixed. We delved into the way the MTA Board is more symbolic and used as a whipping post rather than a true policy instrument. We explored the need for the agency to implement better open data policies. And we examined how Joe Lhota’s multiple jobs and apparent conflicts of interest undercut public trust in the agency. It’s an in-depth talk about structural challenges and the ways to fix the MTA while recognizing that Cuomo will not willingly cede control.
You can check out the Reinvent Albany’s full report right here, and you can catch my conversation with Fauss via the player below and at all the popular podcast spots — iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Pocket Casts and your favorite app. If you like what you hear and have been enjoying the podcasts, please consider leaving a review on your iTunes.
As always, thank you for listening and thanks as well to Joe Jakubowski for sound engineering. I’ve been enjoying producing these podcasts but they take a lot of time and effort. I can keep doing them only through the generous contributions of my listeners so please consider joining the Second Ave. Sagas Patreon. Since this site runs entirely on Patreon contributions, I can keep it going only with your help.