Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Send in the Consultants

In what was a refreshing and honest look at the way we do the city's so-called environmental review business, the Manhattan Institute's Hope Cohen exposed what we have called the collusion of the consultants. This is the process by which consultants in this city revolve into and out of government and, as a result of the potentially lucrative golden parachutes that are waiting for them once ensconced in a decision-making position, they are unwilling to honestly evaluate development projects.

Here is how the Manhattan Institute report accurately captured this phenomenon: "The revolving door between powerful government and highly paid private-sector CEQR jobs means that no want wants to go on record blowing the whistle..." Which brings us to the present conflict over congestion pricing, and the report by Liz that the city has issued a RFI for consultants to possibly implement the technical phase of the mayor's plan.

As the Daily Politics points out, the city is looking for firms "with the right technical expertise" to demonstrate just how the congestion tax would be implemented and monitored. This is no small matter because, as we have pointed out, the cost of manging the congestion tax system could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

So who might be lined up in this anticipated feeding frenzy? We don't yet have the list of potential suitors, but there' one firm we know will be there, and it will have an intimate friend right at a coveted seat at the table. The firm? Parsons Brinckehoff, a company that has been involved in the pre-planning of this tax scam from the very beginning, and whose former employee is now the DOT commissioner and congestion commission member-Janette Sadik-Kahn. And since sadik means "wise one"in Yiddish we're convinced that Sadik-Kahn will... Well, just learn from history on this up-coming scenario.

It should also be pointed out-and why aren't more reporters involved in doing this basic investigative journalism?-that PB and the NYC Partnership were the partners in the original study that Kathy Wylde, also a commission member (any patterns developing here?), continues to allude to in her learned defense of the mayor's plan. This is a real conflict of interest scandal in the making-and the real basic question here is: who will regulate the regulators?