Friday, April 04, 2008

Hammond's Political Atlas: No Guide to Democratic Practice

Bill Hammond of the NY Daily News is outraged by the power and control exercised by Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver over the Bloomberg congestion tax. He's shocked that one man can stymie what he sees as the will of the people: "Never mind that the welfare of millions of New Yorkers hangs in the balance. Silver will determine behind closed doors whether Mayor Bloomberg's plan lives or dies. Never mind that the City Council and civic leaders agree congestion pricing is the right way to relieve traffic, clean the air and funnel billions into mass transit. Silver could declare the plan DOA with no public debate."

Please Bill, save your indignation for another issue; this one defies the attempt to Tar Baby Shelly after the display of arm twisting and hubris at the City Council this week. As for the welfare of millions of New Yorkers hanging in the balance, we think it's best to consult these folks directly before giving the mayor and the speaker the right to arrogate to themselves the definition of what's in the public interest.

Does Hammond believe that this tax would pass a city referendum (even one where the mayor money would impact the results)? Check out the NY Post letters section today-"Congestion Indigestion;" a better expression of the popular will than the suborned vote on Monday down in the council chambers. After all, there wasn't a single City Council nay vote from the Bronx where public opinion polls have shown the greatest skepticism and opposition to the mayor's tax plan exists.

So what we have here is one speaker who exercises her political clout in one direction, and another wilier speaker who does the opposite. It's not as if Shelly is doing what Quinn did-reverse the judgment of opponents through time-honored pork barrel politics. In fact, as the NY Sun reports this morning, Assembly Dems are overwhelmingly opposed to the Bloomberg tax: "Yesterday, Assembly Democrats resumed discussions of the bill in a private conference meeting at which the overwhelming majority expressed opposition."

In this morning's NY Post the level of Assembly discontent was expressed: "There are a number of members who have serious concerns about who will be paying the fees, how they will be paying the fees, and whether this is, among other things, a regressive tax," Silver said.
At a closed-door meeting, only 17 of 73 Assembly Democrats supported the plan, sources said."

And of course Bill Hammond fails to adequately-and/or critically-go into the details of the mayor's $500,000 contribution to the Senate Republicans. Here's how he describes the Good Joe's actions: "Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno exercises pretty much the same dictatorial control in his house. Bruno and his Republican majority - eager to stay on the good side of Bloomberg, one of their biggest political donors - have already gone on record in favor of congestion pricing.

Doesn't this, however, seriously undermine the argument against Shelly? It all comes down to whose ox is being gored-and Hammond likes the congestion tax so its Silver who becomes the undemocratic bad dude.

We'll leave all this with a comment from the Vox Popular in the Post. As Malcom MacKinnon of Woodside wrote: "The City Council passed the congestion pricing plan, and what does Bloomberg say? "The people of New York City have spoken." Bloomberg misspoke. The residents of New York City didn't vote; 50 well-paid City Council members did. New Yorkers are adamantly opposed to this plan, which amounts to nothing more than another tax on the middle class - a huge financial burden as we slide into a recession. Once again, the mayor demonstrates how clueless he is about what real life is like in the city..."