Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Liu of Incompetence

As the Crain's Insider is reporting today (subscription), John Liu-one of the city's most intelligent politicians-has quietly been in the forefront of criticizing the MTA's bridge toll: "The disconnect between the agency and elected officials is exemplified by the harsh words of Councilman John Liu, chairman of the council Transportation Committee. Liu is a fan of mass transit and supported congestion pricing. But he has been a relentless critic of bridge tolls proposed to shore up the MTA’s finances. Liu was one of two elected officials outside the state Senate to support that chamber’s alternative to the Ravitch plan (Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was the other)."

And here's the kicker; Liu's concerns devolve from the questions he has about the use of the tolls for-not keeping the fare down-but for the long term capitol needs of the MTA. Can anyone say congestion tax? But, just as those "clowns" in the state senate, Liu has no idea just what that capitol plan entails: "“A lot of people are playing numbers games,” Liu says. “But [Richard] Ravitch said so himself back in December that revenues from bridge tolls are not needed for the bailout of the MTA, that in fact they would be solely used to fund future improvements in bus service.” And the MTA won’t say what those improvements will be, Liu complains."

The Insider captures this pig-in-the-poke approach: "Agency officials say they don’t want to be accused of developing bus plans without community input. But elected officials want specific improvements to justify new tolls and taxes." How similar is this irresponsible naivete to what's going on down in Washington with AIG?

Michael Goodwin captures what we believes is an eerie similarity: "Much of the government outrage over the bonuses pool of $165 million was phony anyway, canned up for a public now being taught that the private sector is evil and must be punished. The real outrage is that the bonuses represented a fraction of the $180 billion of public money pumped into AIG without any real oversight."

And this is precisely what Malcolm's marauders are trying to avoid; and instead of accolades they are greeted with derision by the practitioners of business as usual; folks who are trying to backdoor the tolls because of the failure of the Bloomberg congestion tax. The sad thing here, is that Shelly should know better. The congestion cockamamie isn't a bad idea simply because Mike Bloomberg proposed it.

The Herculean task of cleaning the MTA's Augean Stables needs to begin posthaste. Everything else is liner for the bird cage.