Monday, July 16, 2007

Hypocrisy to the Very End

In our press conference yesterday, Senator Ruben Diaz forcefully challenged the using of the health of black and Latino children as a primary rationale for the mayor's congestion tax. As the NY Times reports this morning, Diaz told the assembled media; "'Who is going to assure us that the people who are suffering from asthma are not going to be suffering more when all these residents of Westchester County start leaving their cars on their streets.'"

Diaz, whose district has one of the city's highest asthma rates, was joined by Marion Feinberg, one of the Bronx's leading fighters against asthma. He went on to say-as the Daily News reports-"Who is going to show me that the people in the South Bronx suffering from asthma will not be suffering after the mayor's plan." Diaz called for a full environmental review of the mayor's plan.

Joining with Diaz was the intrepid Councilman David Weprin, who released a study that showed that the areas with the highest incidences of asthma also had the highest mass transit riderships-another indication, as the NY Sun points out, that the attempt to make the asthma-congestion tax correlation is pure bunk. As Feinberg told AMNewYork, "Doing something about traffic congestion in Manhattan, is not really going to affect the air quality in the Bronx..."

While the so-called D-Day approaches the editorial acolytes of the mayor continue with their relentless drumbeating. Both the News and the Post focus their attention on Shelly Silver who, for his part, is not falling over for the hyperbole of the mayor's amen journalistic chorus. As he told the Post, "'The mayor is offering this {as} all things to all people, saying this proposal will raise $250 million and advertising it as paying for the Second Avenue Subway, which is a minimum $16 billion project, and keep the fare at $2...'"

Of all the editorial drumbeating it is the stance of the NY Post that causes the most consternation. That the Post should support this tax-especially the part of the plan that would impose the $21 fee on trucks-when it has stood steadfast against all of the other mayoral tax schemes, frankly mystifies us. If memory serves here, we think that the paper opposed getting more people enrolled in food stamps-even though the money was available from the Federal government and wouldn't have put any additional burden on local tax payers.

The Post also-along with the NY Sun-vehemently opposed the mayor's outrageous "Bodega tax" on cigarettes, the one that is costing local stores around $250 million a year in lost revenue. So what is driving these folks on the mayor's congestion tax? Are they the newly emerging clack for the fight against global warming? Frankly, we just can't fathom the reasoning over there.

The one question that remains here, assuming that Silver holds firm, is what will the city and state do to fight congestion? As Jacob Gershman of the NY Sun wonders; Where is plan B? What the mayor's pumped up deadline and concomitant hysteria have done is to drive any reasonable discussion of this issue-and the corollary ones about mass transit funding and the subway fare-away from the public policy table.

Silver was right to put the brakes on; now maybe-if the mayor's piques doesn't get in the way-a rational policy deliberation can take place, one that takes into consideration who will, and should, pay the bill for the ultimate rendering.