City Council member Peter Vallone, Jr. (D) carries with him a familial legacy of New York politics. His grandfather was a judge in the Queens County Civil Court, and his father was the city’s first City Council speaker and a long-time representative from Astoria. When Senior stepped down in 2001, Junior took up the Vallone City Council seat mantle.
Yesterday, Peter Vallone, Jr. joined the long line of New York politicians who proved they know little to nothing about how the MTA works and how the city’s relationship with the transit agency is structured. For Vallone, ignorance of transit issues is nothing new. He opposed congestion pricing despite representing a transit-dependent district. In Astoria, according to a report from NYU’s Furman Center, 67 percent of all residents rely on public transit, and the 2000 Census found that just 53.2 percent of those who live in Vallone’s district don’t even own cars.
So what does Vallone have to say about the MTA? Lots! And none of it makes much sense. Daniel Edward Rosen of the Daily News had the report:
Vallone assembled a rally outside the Ditmars Blvd. station to slam the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for its proposed cuts, deemed necessary to plug a $400 million budget shortfall. “A lot of people think that the city officials have control over this, but we don’t,” said Vallone (D-Astoria). “What I can do is speak out for my district, and that’s what I will continue to do.”
Protesters held up signs that read “Save Our Subways” while Vallone chided the MTA for granting an 11.3% raise to its workers over three years. “You can’t give raises and then cut services. It’s Business 101, and they failed it,” said Vallone.
Chris O’Leary at On Transport has the comprehensive takedown. First, O’Leary notes that “Vallone failed Labor Relations 101.” As we know, the MTA and TWU went to binding arbitration over the new labor contract, and when the arbitration panel sided with the TWU, the MTA appealed. Ultimately, the agency lost the appeal, but Vallone is content to ignore that reality.
In truth, the MTA would rather not pay the raises and doing so will impact the bottom line over the next three years. But it is simply incorrect to say that the agency is giving out raises. Going to arbitration was a foolish move, but the MTA is legally obligated to follow the arbitration award now that it’s been judicially affirmed.
But the real problem with Vallone’s comments come in his ludicrous claim that city officials “don’t” “have control over this.” O’Leary highlights and disputes this claim by a City Council member: “Vallone seems to miss the fact that the city controls a portion of the funding provided to the MTA. Coincidentally, the city’s $159 million tithe for transit operations has been virtually unchanged since the mid-90s. If the services provided to the MTA are so important to his district, why isn’t Vallone suggesting that the city step up their funding of the MTA? That’s certainly within his control.”
Earlier this week, I took to task Assembly rep Aileen Gunther for her spurious claims about MTA financing and East River Bridge Tolls. Today, I will point my finger at Peter Vallone, Jr. as the next in a long line of politicians distorting or simply ignorant of the truth to make a populist anti-MTA point. It’s far easier to blame someone else for systemic funding problems than it is to find the political will and fiscal capital to improve the system.