Friday, February 17, 2006

Integrity in Government Part 2

In today’s NY Sun, Andrew Wolf talks about the poor economic state of Bronx and how Borough President Carrion has done little to improve this situation. He specifically points to the recently approved Bronx Terminal Market redevelopment and says that Carrion can claim no credit for the project for it was a Bloomberg Administration initiative wholly irrelevant of the BP. As for the “Community Benefits Agreement” negotiated by Carrion, Wolf responds that this agreement is really an:
“extortion scheme that links permission to build with concessions that the local politicians can dispense to their supporters, a new form of patronage coerced from the private sector.”
Wolf is exactly right here and his trenchant comments are quite relevant to our previous comments on integrity in government. We’ve already mentioned that if the Mayor and Speaker are truly concerned about limiting special interest access to the halls of power, the first place they should be looking is the Bronx Terminal Market sweetheart deal driven by a close relationship to real estate interests.

But Wolf’s comments also demonstrate that integrity reforms need to address another aspect of the Terminal Market situation: government officials that utilize faux community benefits agreements (CBA) in order to enhance their own interests. As the “C” in CBA suggests, the community should be the recipient of developer concessions not the politicians and quasi-public agencies they support. In the case of the BTM agreement, the majority of the money is going to the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC), an agency controlled by BP Carrion, and of the few groups that actually signed the document most are government-controlled. It also seems that this same situation is occurring with the CBA being secretly negotiated for the Yankee Stadium giveaway.

Again, if the Speaker and Mayor want to enhance the honesty of NYC’s government, it needn’t look farther that the Bronx Terminal Market development and all the nefarious machinations associated with it.