The New York State Governor who oversaw the most expansive cuts and constant fare hikes in recent subway history has been nominated to the MTA Board by his successor in Albany. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named former state executive David Paterson to fill the board seat vacated by the departure of Nancy Shevell. Paterson could serve in this unpaid role for as many as six years.
“Governor Paterson has dedicated his life to working for the people of this state and I am excited that he will continue his public service at the MTA,” Cuomo said today in a statement. “Governor Paterson’s energy, expertise, and experience will benefit the millions of New Yorkers who rely on the MTA every day. I look forward to working together as we continue to reform the MTA and improve service for New Yorkers.”
MTA officials echoed Cuomo’s praise. MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota issued a statement:
“I applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nomination of former Governor David Paterson to the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. I have known the former Governor for 35 years and look forward to the opportunity to work with him again. He has long shared the Governor’s commitment to our mission of providing safe, efficient and effective transportation to more than 8.5 million riders every day. Once confirmed by the Senate, former Governor Paterson will bring a unique and practical perspective, particularly with respect to issues affecting minority communities and disabled New Yorkers. I look forward to former Governor Paterson bringing to our board deliberations the charm, wit and compassion he has shown throughout his public life.”
According to Pete Donohue of the Daily News, who first broke news of the appointment this morning, Cuomo’s desire to strengthen race relations may have played a role in this appointment as Paterson does not have much of a traditional transit background. Shevell, on the other hand, had worked for nearly 30 years in the trucking industry.
The former governor vowed to “take tough stands” on the MTA Board, but I still have to wonder about the wisdom of this pick. After naming Jay Walder to head the MTA, Paterson had a very hands-off approach to transit issues. The New York native repeatedly used his executive budgeting powers to reallocate supposedly dedicated MTA funds to other state projects, and he barely raised a finger when the MTA had to cut service and raise fares in 2010.
Yet, despite Paterson’s record, even Transportation Alternatives seems prepared to offer up their praise. “With another planned fare hike looming in January 2013, Paterson’s experience as a governor and state senator will prove critical to working with Albany lawmakers to find new funding for our transit system, sparing overburdened New Yorkers yet another fare hike. Paterson knows well that straphangers can’t handle another hit to their wallets—as Governor, he saw New Yorkers endure back to back fare hikes and reap service cuts in return. He also created new funding for our transit system. If anyone knows New Yorkers are tired of paying more for less and how to find fairer ways to invest in transit, it’s David Paterson,” Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement.
While it’s true that Paterson was head of the state during the implementation of the payroll tax, his path there left him with few options. He didn’t have the political respect to push through bridge tolls, and he settled for the measure the legislature was willing to adopt. Was he forward-thinking or simply bowing to the winds of pressure Albany? Paterson’s record suggests an outlook not nearly as rosy as Trans Alt puts forward.
His appointment will have to go through the New York State Senate for confirmation, but such a vote is generally viewed as a mere formality.