Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sander: Political rhetoric as a self-fulfilling prophecy

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Elliot G. Sander, recently forced out by New York Gov. David Paterson as chief executive of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, offered his opinion to The New York Times in a strongly worded editorial published June 1. In it, Sander (pictured below), a seasoned and highly respected transportation professional, takes New York’s politicians to task over what he feels is political meddling. Following are highlights of his remarks:

elliot_sander.jpg“Gov. David Paterson and the Legislature offered up $1.8 billion to allow the MTA to impose only modest fare increases and make no deep cuts in subway, bus and commuter-rail service. But in the political process that led up to this rescue, damage was inflicted on the MTA’s reputation.

“Elected state and city officials leveled the old and discredited accusation that the agency keeps two sets of books, one real and one for public consumption, and suggested that agency officials were untrustworthy and corrupt, comparing them to Bernard Madoff, the self-confessed mastermind of an enormous Ponzi scheme. These false charges landed enough sensational headlines to help camouflage the politicians’ own inability to reach a timely agreement on how to finance public transportation.

“The MTA has long been burdened by convoluted and overlapping operating charters, work rules, and politically dictated mandates. But during my two years as chief executive we made significant progress in consolidating the back office functions of seven regional agencies. . .

“Only with genuine support from our elected officials can the next chief executive keep improving the transit system. . . . The Legislature and the governor have allocated enough money to cover the first two years of the MTA’s new five-year plan to rebuild and improve tracks, signals, stations, buses and trains, and that’s a decent down payment. But it’s wrong to retreat from the practice of fully financing the MTA’s five-year capital programs, which a former MTA chairman, Richard Ravitch, instituted in the 1980s. Two decades and $76 billion later, New York’s century-old transit network is reliable and functional.

“The governor has begun an international search for a new M.T.A. chief executive. All of us should wish that whoever takes the helm gets the backing of all of New York’s elected leaders. As the people who call the shots on M.T.A. financing, they really are the agency’s shadow board of directors.

“If, on the other hand, politicians continue to run against the MTA, their rhetoric may become self-fulfilling prophecy, and the system may devolve into the state of dysfunction they denounce.”

For the full text of Sander’s editorial, CLICK HERE.

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