Home Asides A Tale of Two Lhotas from the TWU

A Tale of Two Lhotas from the TWU

by Benjamin Kabak

As the last sprint of the mayoral race kicks into gear in the coming weeks, New Yorkers will continue to hear about Joe Lhota’s brief tenure atop the MTA. Notable for the agency’s competent and speedy response to restore service in the aftermath of Sandy, Lhota’s reign also coincided with a fare hike and toll increase. While the economic plan predated him and was an absolute must for a cash-shy agency, he was the face of the authority as prices increased, and that’s a tough problem to overcome for a candidate running, in part, on his successes after the storm.

Meanwhile, labor relations played a small role during his time as CEO and Chairman, and John Samuelsen, president of the TWU, commands a decent sized vocal bloc. Recently, though, various public statements have led me to wonder what, exactly, Samuelsen thinks of Lhota. In a Daily News piece designed more as an insult to Jay Walder than as praise of Joe Lhota, Samuelsen issued some faint praise and an incomplete assessment. Despite some gripes with Lhota over the MTA’s smart decision to shutter the subways in advance of Sandy, Samuelsen called Lhota “a quick study” who “simply did not stick around long enough to leave any permanent imprints on our transit system.”

Is that the TWU head’s final word on the matter? Of course not. In a piece issued earlier this summer in the pro-labor Chief-Leader and reprinted on the TWU’s website, Samuelsen had harsh words for Lhota over the ongoing union contract dispute. “Lhota doesn’t know a damn thing about how to run a subway or bus system,” Samuelsen said. “Prendergast knows what Track Workers go through when they’re swinging a hammer all day in the tunnel in 110-degree heat. Lhota has no idea; he’s just a two-bit bean-counter from the financial industry.”

So was Lhota just a two-bit bean counter or was he also a quick study? Is this more of a sign of TWU leadership speaking to the diverse audiences of the Daily News and Chief-Leader? Either way, Lhota’s MTA legacy remains up for grabs before Election Day.

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BrooklynBus September 23, 2013 - 7:28 pm

My opinion of Lhota is declining every day. The only thing I give him credit for is not capitalizing on the MTA’s success in minimizing damage from Sandy, probably because he knows he had little to do with the decision making that occurred. In fact in his mayoral campaign he has tried to distance himself as much as possible from the MTA by not mentioning his tenure at the MTA in his campaign literature.

He is proving to be just your typical untrustworthy politicians whose promises I will not believe. In one of the debates he promises as mayor not to raise taxes and not to cut services insisting the City has no budget problem. He stated that enough efficiciencies could be made simply by reducing waste. How I would love to believe that. But if that were the complete answer and it is so easy why can’t Mayor Bloomberg, who Lhota believes has done a good job, can’t accomplish the same? Or does he consider raising fines and parking meter rates, for example, not the same as raising taxes?

Similarly, he says he is against congestion pricing, but he wants city control of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, which of course he never suggested as MTA Chairman. The only reason for city control is to charge tolls on the free bridges. Would he do that as mayor if he got control? Of course he would. Then he would technically be correct and could still say he is against congestion pricing, but that woud be splitting hairs because the two are so similar.

And who would get the funds from city control of the Bridges and Tunnels, your guess is as good as mine. And what about the impact to the MTA no longer receiving those funds or receiving less? As mayor that wouldn’t be his problem. It would be the MTA’s. The man feels nothing for the MTA. He is only interested in himself, a typical politician.

Bolwerk September 23, 2013 - 11:03 pm

I don’t really see why this shocks you, and it’s not even itself a reason to vote against him. Of course he knows the financial situation, at least with the MTA. Surely he must also know that CP or tolls are a win for drivers, who will see less of their time wasted, in general.

He had to pander to the dumbest people in the city to win the dumb people party vote. Now he’s stuck not being able to completely throw them under the bus because, however few of them there are, Lhota’s only slim path to victory barring his opponent keeping a harem of young boys tied to his radiator involves the dumb people pushing him over the threshold to a plurality or bare majority.

Politically, de Blasio has similar problems. He can’t just go out and be pro-stop ‘n frisk now. It just happens to be a lesser problem for him because the hurrr!!11! law and order! vote doesn’t seem to be a big factor in this election.

BrooklynBus September 23, 2013 - 11:52 pm

But don’t say you’re against congestion pricing when you are pro tolls. That is just dishonest. No better than Bloomberg promising he will get the MTA to institute free crosstown buses if elected, then stating the day after Election Day, that it is up to the MTA to decide if they want it, and he only suggested they consider it and he doesn’t know if it’s a good idea or not. We need someone we can trust, if that’s at all possible in politics.

Bolwerk September 24, 2013 - 11:30 pm

First of all, I dunno, is it? I don’t know why people split hairs so much about it, but they actually do. A lot of people who are pro-CP are really anti-toll, oddly enough. I would prefer CP, but toll equalization isn’t so bad either.

But, if we want better results, we need an electoral system where people who don’t perform can lose.

Larry Littlefield September 23, 2013 - 9:02 pm

“John Samuelsen, president of the TWU, commands a decent sized vocal bloc.”

In the suburbs and in Florida.

So Jay Walder is a bum, but Virgil Conway was JUST FINE?

No wonder politicians sell the future. Those who do never get the proper blame when it arrives. What did they want Walder to do, print counterfeit money?

Nathanael September 24, 2013 - 10:15 am

Samuelsen discredited himself quite a while back. The TWU local in NY has two choices: get rid of Samuelsen, or be recognized by everyone as a bunch of chiseling no-goods.

Kind of sad.

This is not intended as a comment on Lhota in any way, positive or negative. Why should I listen to what that idiot Samuelsen says about Lhota?

Nathanael September 24, 2013 - 10:18 am

By the way, Ben, I think it’s quite important to refer to Samuelsen as President of TWU Local 100. He is not “President of the TWU”.

(He is, admittedly, “International Administrative Vice President”; the President of the TWU is James C. Little. http://www.twulocal100.org/node/61854 )

There’s no reason to slander other TWU locals (many of which are entirely reasonable) with the sins of the disgraceful Local 100 in NY.

Karm September 24, 2013 - 3:48 pm

good point

Bolwerk September 23, 2013 - 10:55 pm

Re: “just a two-bit bean counter or was he also a quick study…

Maybe some of the ambivalence about Lhota is that whatever de Blasio is – and I’m not sure myself – he doesn’t quite fit the mythic(?) mold of an old school pro-labor Democrat either. The TWU got more out of Pataki than it did out of any Democrats while most of us have been alive, going back at least to the first Cuomo. Meanwhile, the city has cut back to the bone with its transit dealings anyway.

Sort of wondering if Larry has a point though: a lot of the TWU’s members with a stake in this election might, ironically, be from outside the city. One less reason to give a shit about us.

Alon Levy September 24, 2013 - 8:43 pm

The union organizers I know have endorsed de Blasio. The organized labor vote was overall split between de Blasio and Thompson.

Bolwerk September 24, 2013 - 11:52 pm

Since when have you depended so much on experience?! :-O

I’m just not sure that union-Democrat dynamic exists the way it used to, and it may have been Giuliani who broke it. De Blasio seemed more attractive to the professional union members, mainly teachers. AFSCME (<– one of the funniest things ever, in the history of the universe) went with Liu of all people. Like Liu, Thompson is also a conservative, in the traditional sense of the word, so probably more attractive to the blue collar labor types. I think Thompson got the police union.

Karm September 24, 2013 - 3:48 pm

why would anyone seriously care what Samuelsen said??

Guest September 24, 2013 - 3:49 pm

Oh no! Not this overly used tale of two cities said by an unstable Blasio. Isn’t income inequality an issue that many cities in the U.S. are struggling with and not unique to New York?

Alon Levy September 24, 2013 - 8:42 pm

New York has the single highest inequality of all US metro areas. The city itself also has very high inequality, since the geographic income distribution is rich and poor mainly in the city, and middle class partly in the city but mainly in the suburbs.

Peter April 14, 2023 - 6:15 am

The intention is to demonstrate in pictures (and videos) the conduct we want instructors, staff, and students to exhibit when in groups of two or more.
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