Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Basement Paneling

In her effort to furnish the congestion commission, Speaker Quinn has outdone herself in proffering the most unbalanced possible panel choices. What's interesting, as we have pointed out, is what the impact her choices might have on congestion tax critics. The first blowback has now come in-in the form of Assemblyman Rory Lancman.

As the Observer points out, Lancman severely takes Quinn to task about her transparent effort to promote the mayor's plan by stacking the commission with kangaroos: "This is already a plan the public is not happy with. The legislature is not happy with. If there is an impression that the commission is stacked, it will not help the mayor's efforts to get a congestion pricing scheme."

We really can't understand what the speaker is thinking here. It is extremely difficult for any speaker to make the step up to city wide office, even more so if the speaker in question is seen as a Manhattan-centric liberal. There's a perception in the outer boroughs, especially among those Democrats who deserted the party in droves to support Guiliani and Bloomberg, that this species of Democrats has no sense of empathy for tax paying homeowners.

Quinn's support of the congestion tax, widely seen as an effort to build an expansion bridge to the Magic Kingdom of Bloomberg, is likely to earn scorn from those borough voters. Her nomination of Kathy Wylde to the commission, someone who is rightfully seen as the mayor's major congestion tax supporter, will only reinforce the sense of alienation that these more conservative Democrats feel towards the Manhattan elites. This, we believe, will be exacerbated by the fact that Wylde represents all of the city's real estate power elite-a fact that will further distance Quinn from the bulk of voters that she will have to win over if she runs in 2009.

But will the mayor's endorsement help her overcome this isolation? We believe not; and the reason is that Mike Bloomberg is given a pass for his pro-tax insensitivity and Nanny-state proclivities (something the Speaker herself shares); a dispensation that won't be bestowed on the candidate Quinn. In the end even if she gets it, and there's no guarantee that she will, we think it will amount to little more than a Phyrric victory.

Which brings us to choice number two: Andrea Batista Schlesinger of the Drum Major Institute. Schlesinger, who we have taken to task in the past for her Institute's aggressively pro-tax views, is trained in the field of education and appears to have little or no environmental expertise. Her appointment, once her resume is made known and the ideology of the DMI is brought to light, will further isolate Quinn from the voters she'll need the most if she's going to survive a Democratic primary, let alone a general election.

So what we have is an effort to use the congestion tax issue to cement a tie to the mayor. The cement in question, however, may well turn out to be the weight that sinks her city wide candidacy; and the congestion tax issue will introduce her to outer borough constituents with the kind of imprinting that we believe will not be to her future political advantage.