Can't say that we were shocked to find out today that a certain pollster was able to determine that, contrary to other polling data from non-biased sources, most New Yorkers really support the mayor's congestion tax. Just because it was the same firm that made millions from the mayor doing his electoral poling shouldn't tarnish the legitimacy of the effort; or should it?
It all goes along with what proponents of the plan have said all along: if they can get to pose all of the issues in a way that portrays the mayor's plan honestly (in their view), then we'll find that the people will be supportive. As a corollary to this judgement we should add: If you have enough money to structure the debate in a certain way, and the other side has much fewer resources, than the public's expressed view might actually be made to conform to the prevailing permanent government zeitgeist.
On the other hand, if the public is posed the following questions we wonder what kind of responses a pollster would get:
(1) If we can reduce congestion in the CBD without resorting to a congestion tax-by, for instance, first eliminating all of the government workers with parking permits that travel through the CBD every day, enforcing all of the double parking of limousines, and rigorously penalizing all of those motorists who block the box.Would you prefer this approach?
(2) If imposing the congestion tax is too costly to the city's economy should we look for another method to control congestion? Should we then conduct a full economic impact analysis before we impose a congestion tax?
(3) If a congestion tax system loses 40% of its revenues just to maintain its operation, is this an efficient method to raise money for mass transit? (Imagine a charity that used forty percent of its proceeds to administer its operations)
(4) If asthma rates are heavily concentrated outside of the CBD, shouldn't we be looking to address the problems in these areas before looking to reduce traffic in Midtown?
(5) If the mayor is uncertain whether or not a congestion tax will actually reduce traffic in Midtown, shouldn't we conduct a full environmental review before implementing a congestion tax?
(6) If traffic will actually be diverted to areas that have higher incidences of asthma, then shouldn't we hold off imposing the congestion tax? And isn't this possibility another reason why we need a full environmental review?
(7) The mayor says he won't impose the tax until the appropriate mass transit improvements are made. Shouldn't he be made to list all of these improvements so we can determine whether he has honestly waited for the improvements before any tax is imposed?
(8) Should the congestion tax be made to sunset if, (a) the transit improvements haven't been made; (b) congestion hasn't been reduced to any significant degree, and (c) any mayor in the future tells us that-just like in London- the tax needs to be doubled in order to be effective?
(9) The mayor claims that George Bush's federal government is waiting to give NYC $500 million if the city implements a congestion tax. Should the proposal immediately be rescinded if the money doesn't get sent to New York?
A push poll by any other name is, like the computer folks say, "garbage in, garbage out." Now the mayor and his minions are buying ad time to convince the citizens of the city that a congestion tax will lead to the cure for asthma. Frankly, we know just what Freddy Ferrer must have felt when the billionaire went on the advertising blitzkrieg. But, no mater how you slice it, it's still bologna.