Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bloomberg' Congestion Advantage: Paper Thin

The NY Times this morning is describing as "unlikely" the chances that the mayor's congestion tax will garner Albany approval-at least in time to meet the self-imposed "deadline' for the flow of Federal transportation money into the city. Instead another congestion-tackling proposal, sponsored by Assemblyman Lancman, is ready to be introduced in the assembly; a bill that doesn't include the $8 car tax and the $21 truck tax that the mayor sought to levy.

The current turn of events follows on the heels of a scathing assembly report from Richard Brodsky that exposed the regressive nature of the congestion tax, while at the same time underscoring the extent to which the plan failed to deliver on its core objective: any significant reduction in the level of congestion in the central business district.

Typically our tax-and-spend friends were driven into a frenzy of fury by Brodsky's report. Over at the DMI, a place that we have already scrutinized for its love affair with taxing New Yorkers, the assembly report was greeted with scorn by DMI spokesman Chad Marlow, who released the institute's own memo: "Mr. Marlow said the the Drum Major report should 'carry more weight than one written by a politician who had already announced his opposition to congestion pricing before he started writing his report.'"

Is this the same place that recently honored the mayor and, like all of these congestion tax supporters, are eagerly anticipating the future largess of our Johnny-come-lately billionaire environmentalist? Meanwhile, others even less tactful than DMI, have resorted to accusing Brodsky-of all people-of being a tool for the parking garage industry. This raise chutzpah to a new level.

While others, like the Plague of Conservation Vultures, chide Brodsky's report for its failure to "evaluate the cost to our environment" if the mayor's scheme is not enacted. It's lucky that Brodsky stopped where he did and didn't treat all of the environmental assumptions with the same critical eye that he gave to the economic impacts of congestion taxing (although he did point out that the congestion relief in the proposal was minimal). If he did it would have been revealed that some people, including the mayor,were using that little girl's asthma inhaler for something more that pure air.

The mayor's money, and his willingness to spend it freely, is the elephant in the room here-and we're not including his "city for sale" performance in enticing electeds to support his plan. Every single good government group is angling for a piece of the pie, something that greatly stimulates what may have been an inclination to support the mayor in the first place.

And what are we to make of the Sierra Club which is trying to make congestion taxing a question of-national security? Just what we need, people who probably opposed all of our real national security efforts-both military as well as espionage-now raising the specter of security to support their natural tendency to expand the "good" role of government at the expense of the tax payers.

Which leaves us with the mayor. He continues to arrogantly act as if he can dictate to the other elected leaders of the city and state. And why shouldn't he feel this way when the city council has totally abdicated its role as a check on mayoral power? Not having been disabused, he drives forward in the belief that he can bogart everyone. As the Times reports: "At a news conference yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg declined to address the congestion pricing issue, but did refer briefly to the Assembly report, saying, 'That's just a piece of paper.'"

And so is toilet tissue, but we know how important that is. In the end, the office cartoon about no job being complete without the paper work (with a picture of the child wiping his behind), may justifiably come to symbolize the importance of the Brodsky report in the final demise of the mayor's plan.