Tuesday, June 19, 2007

London Assumptions Falling Down

Just as the congestion taxing scheme appears headed for a postponement, comes a fascinating piece in the NY Post on the impacts of the congestion idea on the city of London. It's not that the Post article finds universal condemnation from Londoners, it's that the plan has some far reaching implications-some of them unpleasant- that many New Yorkers may not be prepared to deal with.

In particular, there is a clear indication, as we have been warning, that the plan will seriously hurt small businesses who need to deliver to, or service customers in, the congestion zone: "But while most have sought ways to avoid having to pay, some-like contractors and deliverymen-have had no choice. 'I spend two hundred pounds {about $400} a week on it, 'said Paul Bowles, who runs a custom window installation business. 'You have to roll that onto your clients...'"

What is remarkable here is that the city of London has never bothered to do any kind of economic impact analysis on the congestion tax plan. And of course the mayor, in his full court press for the New York version, abjures any real in-depth evaluation of any of the potential negative consequences of the plan.

Yet without this kind of analysis it is difficult to make any accurate judgements about the benefits of the mayor's grand scheme-for without a cost ledger, the real impact of the idea simply cannot be judged. And when we add to this, the phony enviro-asthma posturing of Mayor Mike, we should all be glad that Shelly Silver, along with New Jersey Governor Corzine, is exercising caution.

Which brings us to the larger issue of mayoral motivation. As the plan moves inexorably forward (in spite of the public's deep skepticism-see new Q-Poll); with a momentum resulting from the tremendous confluence of political power and money, it is important to step back and contemplate where this born-again environmental tsunami is coming from. Our answer is quite simple: this is all part of a unique special interest crusade. That special interest is enveloped in the mayor's hubris; an arrogance that is pushing him to promote a concept that will be useful in marketing Team Bloomberg on the national stage.