Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tarnishing Silver

Our usual friends over at the NY Post are letting their animus against Speaker Shelly Silver get in the way of their good judgement. In today's paper the editorialists continue to go after Silver for his refusal to join the mayor's amen chorus on the congestion tax. They feel that his stated reasons for opposing the measure are pure smoke screen for his typical deal making predilections.

We can't read the speaker's mind, but the paper's dismissal of Shelly's stated objections to the mayor's plan is much too cavalier. And, by the way, we don't see the Post questioning the real reasons behind the mayor's born again environmentalism-after five year of mega-building that has dumped thousands of additional tons of CO2 emissions on the city.

The crux of the discussion here, as the NY Times story on Silver's objections underscores today, should be on the costs versus the benefits of the mayor's plan. This is something that only Silver has bothered to raise with the skepticism that it deserves. After all we have a tax, ostensibly designed to raise money for mass transit, of which 40% of what is generated in revenues will be siphoned off to administer the compliance system.

If this was a charity all of its officers would be carted off to jail! Isn't there a more effective way to raise funds? Of the $620 million in projected proceeds, almost $300 million goes to administration. And by the time the mayor gets through promising the proceeds to various elected officials-yesterday it was for new Metro North stations in the Bronx, the congestion tax bank account will be seriously overdrawn.

And what about the air quality argument? The traffic reduction foreseen in the plan is so minute that it will reduce emissions in the city by about 0.4% Is this enough to justify the negative business impacts that have been estimated to be close to $690 million a year? Oh, we forgot, no one has even bothered to do the economic impact analysis-not in New York, or even in London where after 4 years there is no definitive analysis of the congestion plan's hit on local businesses.

So the speaker is correct. There are many unanswered questions her, and we expect the Post to exercise a greater degree of caution when elected officials are looking to rifle through our wallets. So please, leave the Silver bashing aside and concentrate on the significant flaws in a grandiose scheme, one concocted to launch the mayor on some kind of quixotic national crusade.