Saturday, June 23, 2007

Congestion Contention Unresolved

As Newsday is reporting today, with the close of the current legislative session, it remains unclear just where the mayor's proposal to tax motorists going into the CBD is going. Speaking on his radio show yesterday, Blomberg "remained optimistic," yet all that we are hearing from Speaker Silver seems to indicate that his skepticism about the mayor's plan remains unabated.

In particular, as Silver told the Daily News, he has "lingering questions about the plan, including the disproportionate impact it would have on drivers entering Manhattan from Brooklyn and other boroughs." Shelly pointed out that it is precisely those less affluent borough residents who would be paying the full $8 dollar a day tax; while the more well-off commuters coming in from, let's say, New Jersey, would have the tax deducted from their daily toll.

In talking with a number of city council members who remain opposed to the mayor's plan we're hearing two discordant themes. In the first place, there are a number of law makers who have seen the mayoral push for a congestion tax as an opportunity to mimic Monty Hall in "Let's Make a Deal." As some members have said, the willingness of the mayor to hold a public auction and the number of eager council participants means that there is less of a clamor for proper legislative oversight-a persistent theme with this council.

The lack of council oversight was raised in a conversation with Brooklyn council member Vinnie Gentile. The council member asked us why some restaurant owner needed to go through an entire environmental review if he wanted to put a couple of extra tables out in front of his eatery; yet somehow a vast mayoral taxing and driving scheme, ostensibly aimed at creating a cleaner environment, needed no EIS or council oversight. Not even a home rule message?

Which brings us back to the possible return of the legislature in mid-July. If the serious questions about the disparate impacts and over all environmental effectiveness of the mayor's plan have not been properly addressed-not to mention the problematic nature of the availability of federal funds-than there is no reason to move this proposal forward; certainly not with the undue hast that the mayor has been urging.