Due to a last-minute trip to California, I didn’t have the chance to watch the debate amongst the various candidates for governor last night, but when I landed, I watched some of the proceedings online and read the commentary. The proceedings turned into a veritable MTA bash-fest last night, and for seven minutes, the various candidates — including the front-running Andrew Cuomo — proved that they know absolutely nothing about the city’s and state’s most important public authority. They recycled claims of financial mismanagement, highlighted the disproved line about two sets of books and failed to acknowledge the changes that Jay Walder has wrought. A few of the candidates even called for the MTA to be brought under the control of the governor, a foolish plan on so many levels bloth politically and economically.
I’ll bring you more analysis from this debate over the next few days, including some video, but for now, I want to point you to Ben Fried’s recap on Streetsblog. He summarizes:
If Cuomo was trying to say that there’s no political accountability for the MTA, he failed. And his diagnosis — make the MTA a state agency — is off-base. Putting the governor in charge of the MTA won’t make the state legislature less obstinate about funding transit. Until someone with a big bully pulpit, like New York’s next governor, starts describing the threat to transit riders accurately, elected officials will still be able to duck blame for fare hikes and service cuts.
This anti-incumbent election season is as good a time as any for a statewide candidate to turn Albany into the punching bag for transit woes instead of the MTA. It shouldn’t be hard to get some of these points across:
- If Albany hadn’t swiped dedicated transit revenues from the MTA last year, the agency would have had at least $100 million more in its purse — enough to stave off cuts to buses and trains.
- Until Albany sorts out its budget problems, transit riders will be at risk of paying for the state’s fiscal mess.
- MTA revenues nosedived with the rest of the economy in 2008, and Albany dysfunction stymied the full funding package recommended by an independent panel.
- Because the Pataki administration forced the MTA to borrow excessively, transit riders are paying the price.
Someone in public office has got to start telling voters what’s actually dragging the transit system down. Otherwise legislators will just have thicker cover the next time transit gets shortchanged in Albany.
I have absolutely no faith that New York’s next governor will right the state’s transportation ship. Mass transit is too important to the economic health of New York City for our politicians to trample all over it, and until we take the fight to the polls and find some candidates who are qualified and knowledgeable enough to run the state, I might just vote for this guy come Election Day.