Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Is David Paterson Being Selected For MTA Board?

Former New York Governor David Paterson had a woeful and forgetful stint as the accidental governor of New York following Eliot Spitzer's departure in the wake of a prostitution scandal. Paterson himself had scandals of his own, including issues with not paying for Yankee tickets.

So why is Governor Andrew Cuomo picking Paterson to sit on the MTA board? Cuomo has picked Paterson to replace outgoing board member Mrs. Paul McCartney, Nancy Shevell.
Despite his considerable political baggage, Paterson’s appointment is seen by some insiders as a nod to the black community — a part of the electorate with which Cuomo has had his ups and downs.

Paterson, the state’s first black governor, said he was first approached about the MTA board post by his former chief of staff, Larry Schwartz, who has the same role under Cuomo.

Paterson, who is legally blind, said he immediately accepted, not caring that he will go from running one of the biggest state governments to being just one voice on a 23-member board. “I’ve been the head enough,” he said, referring to his time in the governor’s mansion. “I don’t mind being a soldier for a while.”

A former state senator and lieutenant governor, Paterson admits he does not have a wealth of experience on transportation issues. But he did deal with the MTA while he was governor, and hired Jay Walder, considered by many to be one of the agency’s best chairmen in recent times. “One thing I did for the three years I was governor was take tough stands, and I think that is going to be of some service,” Paterson said.
Paterson himself admits that he has no background in transportation policy. Some see this as a purely political decision to reward Paterson and the African-American community.

 I would concur.

 The MTA doesn't need yet another political hack on the Board. It needs people who not only understand mass transit and infrastructure, but can help address those needs and help secure a stable source of revenue to help fund the operating budget and the capital budget.

 Paterson has the political background, but he's not the solution here. He's a symptom of the larger problem with the MTA (and similarly, the Port Authority). Both the MTA and Port Authority are refuges for the governor NY (and NJ for the Port Authority, which is a bistate agency) to place political patrons and other notable figures. Some of those at the agencies are there only because of political connections, and not because of their knowledge and familiarity with transportation issues.

 The agencies need a house cleaning so as to get back to the core mission of providing for infrastructure - maintaining, upgrading, and adding to needed infrastructure around the region along with providing daily mass transit services that are cost-effective.

 Paterson's selection doesn't bode well for the MTA.

Ben Kabab at Second Avenue Sagas notes just how disastrous Paterson was for the MTA during his tenure as governor. It's all the more reason to oppose this particular appointment.

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