I must applaud New York Governor David Patterson for making the right call in terms of choosing not to replace MTA CEO/Executive Director Elliot Sander. Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News has the story:
Gov. Paterson has replaced more than a few high-ranking officials since taking office, but MTA CEO Elliot Sander is definitely staying on the bus.
“At a time when transportation agencies throughout the country are facing the hard choices that are the result of a national economic downturn, Lee has been a steadfast leader and an honest broker,” Paterson communications director Risa Heller told the Daily News about Sander. “We need his expertise now more than ever.
“He has the complete support of the governor as we all work together to find creative ways to increase efficiency and provide improvements to the best transit system in the country,” Heller said.
Not long after Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s sexcapades with a high-priced call girl led to his resignation earlier this year, there was speculation among government insiders that Paterson would want to install a CEO of his own choosing. Speculation flared again after a run of bad publicity, including reports that Sander negotiated a raise while MTA deficits ballooned.
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), a frequent MTA critic, shrugged off those controversies and said Sander has made significant improvements at the MTA over the last 18 months. They include fostering better relations between management and transit workers, who waged a strike in 2005, Brodsky said.
Relations between the MTA and its workers were “awful,” Brodsky said. “There needed to be a sense that workers were being treated fairly and someone was listening. I think Lee has done a remarkable job with that under difficult circumstances,” Brodsky said.
Sander himself said the much-maligned MTA has turned a corner.
“What I’m most proud of is this organization of 68,000 people has begun to implement a new vision of the MTA, one that is more customer-oriented and efficient by being leaner, flatter and more integrated,” Sander said.
Some of the milestones and initiatives since January 2007 by the MTA include:
* Record on-time performance by the commuter railroads. Buses going a record number of miles between breakdowns.
* The first bus route to New Jersey, linking Staten Island and the light-rail line in Hudson County. The MTA also has announced plans to run Metro-North trains from New Haven, Conn., to Secaucus, N.J., for Jets and Giants home games, further breaking down geographic boundaries.
* The first bus rapid transit route, the BX12 in the Bronx, with riders paying at bus stops before boarding.
* Placing three bus divisions under one manager instead of having three separate presidents.
* Creation of an emergency response center to coordinate responses to emergencies such as severe storms that have flooded the subways.
Still, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said he’d pencil “incomplete” on Sander’s report card. The big test is whether he is able to secure needed funding to continue maintaining, upgrading and expanding the system, Russianoff said.
“We hope in the coming months he will be a vocal champion on behalf of the needs of the system’s 9 million daily riders, not just a political buffer for Gov. Paterson,” Russianoff said.
Gov. Patterson absolutely made the right call in not replacing Elliot Sander as MTA CEO/Executive Director. At a time when the stability of the MTA is in question, the last thing needed is a change of a major leader. Most casual observers would call for his head due to the current state of the MTA & its finances especially with a fare hike most likely looming (more on that in a few minutes) next year.
However those of us who follow the MTA daily know he has been doing a great job considering the mess he inherited. Even with that, Elliot knows that his legacy as MTA CEO/Executive Director hinges on how he & the rest of the MTA brass get out of the financial mess they are in.
xoxo Transit Blogger