Thursday, April 03, 2008

Congestive Traffic Failure in Albany?

Well it looks as if the will of the people may be getting a radical readjustment as the congestion tax plan gets reviewed by the NYS Assembly. As the NY Post eloquently puts it, the plan is "wheezing:" "Mayor Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plan was "on life support" last night after a contentious closed-door meeting of Assembly Democrats in Albany... Of 36 lawmakers who spoke on the proposal to charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street during business hours, only about seven were in favor, sources said. "Congestion pricing is not dead but it's on life support," said Assemblyman opponent Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn)."

Some of the opposition in the Democratic conference is so severe that it appears unlikely that the measure will even be brought to the floor for a vote-although we did get a kick out of the fact that, according to the Post: "Some elected officials said they could be convinced to support it - but only if some very difficult amendments were added, such as launching a time-consuming environmental review and imposing a charge on New Jersey drivers now exempt from paying a fee." The good old time-consuming EIS, nice to hoist the EDF on its own petard. No?

The NY Times underscores the bleak prospects of the little engine that couldn't: "Assembly Democrats, who were weighing in on the proposal for the first time since the City Council handed the mayor a major victory by approving it on Monday night, appeared to be leaning heavily against the plan. Opponents who spoke during a four-hour, closed-door conference in the Capitol on Wednesday night outnumbered supporters by about five to one, according to Democrats who attended."

Maybe the mayor has simply run out of goodies to give away. Or perhaps the Albany law makers don't quite see the historic nature of all this, something the city's traffic commissioner-that once and future partner of the congestion tax promoting firm of Parsons-Brinckerhoff-tried to get across to the assembly: "“It’s like the mayor said: You are either for this historic change in New York or you’re against it, and if you’re against it, you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said."

Nothing like being on the wrong side of history here. All of which, as the NY Sun reports, puts the mayor and Speaker Silver on a collision course: "A defeat of congestion pricing in the Assembly may irrevocably rupture the relationship between Speaker Sheldon Silver and Mayor Bloomberg and provoke an open conflict between the two city leaders...Mr. Bloomberg, who has said repeatedly that he supports politicians who back his policies, might be tempted to do the opposite if his plan to charge motorists a fee to drive into the busy parts of Manhattan collapses in the Assembly, on which Mr. Silver wields tremendous influence."

Wouldn't that be fun to watch? Then we'd get to see the naked power posturing of the mayor exposed for what it is-the untoward exercise of big money in the corruption of the democratic process. Oh, maybe that's overstating it a bit, but it's hard to resist the observation when the mayor and the speaker are in their holier than thou modes-posturing about the evil influence of money while the mayor continues his droit du seigneur purchase of legislative influence.

Lewe Fidler, who has done more than any one to shed light on this double standard, gets the last word in this morning's Crain's Insider: "Councilman Lew Fidler, D-Brooklyn, a leading congestion pricing opponent, won’t knock his colleagues for making deals. “That’s politics,” he says. “But I’m
criticizing the hypocrisy of Bloomberg. He plays by rules that he condemns others for.”