Monday, July 16, 2007

Commissioning the Mayor

As of five o'clock this afternoon, it looks as if Speaker Silver has snookered Mayor Mike in calling for the creation of a commission to study "all of these issues." As News4 is reporting on its website, " Assembly Democrats are concerned about how much of Manhattan would be subject to entry tolls, the amount of the tolls, creating exemptions, how parking permits will be issued outside of the zone for mass transit commuters, and other major aspects of Bloomberg's proposal."

In other words, the Assembly is concerned with every thing the mayor has laid out-and is not convinced that the plan is necessary in its current configuration. Yet Silver told the press that he believed that the commission would be sufficient to keep the city in the running for the federal dollars that the mayor has been holding out as the carrot in this well-orchestrated campaign.

Clearly, the Assembly members didn't believe the mayor that there was any hard and fast deadline that needed to be heeded; "But Silver always questioned the deadline, saying a clear agreement short of legislation likely would be good enough for the federal government."

What Silver has done here, as Sewell Chan lays out extensively in the City Room blog, is to insure that the Bloomberg plan, as well as any number of reasonable alternatives, is subjected to the fullest review possible, and from the comments of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, it is not clear whether any congestion tax could be passed in Albany. As Richard Brodsky told News4, "'It's regressive, it's unfair to the outer boroughs, it does not necessarily do much for the air.'" Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, a supporter of the mayor's, said that "he wanted changes in substantial elements of the proposal, including where parking lots will be built and how the pricing will be enforced."

All of which leaves the entire plan very much up in the air-with the congestion pricing concept threatening to become an Albany pinata; with folks from all sides looking to use the process for their own particular political advantage. From where we sit tonight, it looks like a big defeat for the mayor, but there is still time for him to emerge victorious if opponents of the congestion tax fail to mobilize properly.

Update from Liz

Shelly's not done insuring that good government prevail in the mayor's congestion tax promotional tour. As LB reports the Speaker is insisting that the City Council weigh on on whatever the commission decides through a "home rule" message. As he told the News, "'In many areas {that} Assembly members represent, the City Council members are in their district telling people or not telling people that they should urge their Assembly members to vote against it or to vote for it or just not say anything.'"

What the speaker is doing is to make council members take a stand-and not just take the mayor's largess with no electoral consequences. What this means is that outer borough members who have signed on to the mayor's plan-with the understanding that the state legislature would be making the final decision-will now have to answer to their constituents, voters who generally oppose the mayor in large majorities.