In what has been the biggest political bum's rush in recent memory-the attempt to ramrod a $600 million a year tax plan through the state legislature in a few weeks with little scrutiny-we are now being treated to the spectacle of what looks more like a charade. As the NY Post reported yesterday, it appears that the $500 million in federal funds that the mayor has been touting in his push for congestion taxing, may be nothing but a chimera.
All of the uncertainty has come from the skepticism shown by Oregon Congressman Peter DeFasio, chair of a powerful transportation subcommittee, that the $500 million is even available for NYC. DeFasio wrote the the mayor a questioned, "the expectation that the federal government would ever deliver those funds." Well, we questioned it all along, never understanding why people suspended their disbelief over the eagerness of the Bush administration to help this city.
All of which is making Shelly Silver look pretty good for his desire to exercise a degree of caution-and some due diligence-over the mayor's plan. This is a complex proposal that cries out for a great deal of scrutiny; it is certainly not a policy that should be fast tracked because of the urgent need to take some federal handout-especially when there's no iron clad guarantee that the hand will be out when the city puts its tax in place.
In addition, we need to have the press act more vigilantly in regards to this proposal-in particular, a more thorough review of the mayor's methods and motives. After all, this is a billionaire mayor who has been lauded for being above the so-called special interests, and the normal morass of backroom political dealings. We know for a fact, however, that the mayor has been wheeling and dealing like an old ward boss in order to entice every last assemblyman and state senator to come out in support of the tax.
Which, by the way, is not something that we have any moral objection to. It is something that deserves scrutiny because it puts the mayor in a totally different light; and when seen in the context of his complete about face on environmental issues, the whole dramatic production deserves to be gone over with a fine tooth comb (Especially when we see our real estate scions lip-locked with the grunges from the environmental justice groups).
Put simply, Kermit the mayor has, through his shopping center and box store building (not to mention his proposal to put a football stadium in the Far West Side of Manhattan), added tens of thousands of tons of CO2 emissions into the city. Now, are we to believe that the mayor has gotten religion all of a sudden? That the outcasts of the environmental movement are now to be given favored spots at the mayoral banquet?
Which brings us directly to motive. The mayor is building an environmental and public health platform in preparation for running for national office. On paper, and with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, this traffic reduction scheme will look like a winner. It simply doesn't matter whether it works well, or is efficient at accomplishing its stated goals of cleaning our air. When the dust settles on all of this, the mayor's quixotic national quest will be long over; and New Yorkers, in spite of what the NY Post inexplicably says, will still be paying for its folly- unless wiser heads prevail.