When last we visted with H. Dale Hemmerdinger, he had just been nominated for the MTA chair position. Signing off last night, I figured that his nomination would sail through the confirmation process. Well, color me wrong.
The State GOP is threatening a thorough investigation into Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s appointee due to Hemmerdinger’s close ties with the Democratic party in New York. He and his wife are major Democratic donors and are buddies with the Spitzers.
“Last week, Dale Hemmerdinger opened his home to host a big money fundraiser for Governor Spitzer. This week, the Governor is nominating him to head the MTA when his mass transit experience appears to be limited to suggesting fee increases on hard working New Yorkers,” State GOP Chairman Joseph N. Mondello said in a statement. “Governor Spitzer appears to have instituted a brazen ‘pay to play’ culture in Albany that is disappointing and shocking to the people of New York State.”
Mondello noted that Hemmerdinger had been a lead fundraiser for the Spitzer campaign and wondered if the appointment served as political payback. He also questioned Hemmerdinger’s transportation experience, noting that Hemmerdinger’s lone run-in with public transit was as head of the MTA’s Citizens’ Budget Commission.
This reeks, of course, of politics. Clearly, Spitzer would appoint an ally to head up an agency that he would like to act as a friendly body in the New York political arena, and Mondello knows that as well as anyone else. There is also no small amount of irony in a GOP leader criticizing the Democrats for engaging in “pay to play” politics in Albany. Pot, meet kettle.
Furthermore, Hemmerdinger is the perfect person to head up the MTA as its chair. With CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander firmly entrenched as the transportation policy guru at the Authority, the MTA doesn’t need another transit wonk in a position of leadership. Rather, they need a successful businessman with financial acumen to guide the Authority through what promises to be a few tumultuous fiscal years.
The Republicans will spoil for a fight. But it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Hemmerdinger is a great choice for the job; just approve him.