Dale Hemmerdinger Editorial

Today’s New York Daily News had an editorial piece about the new MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger. The editorial was titled “Chip In, Dale”. I thought the editorial was worth sharing with my readers. Here is the full editorial by an unnamed individual:

New York’s subway and bus riders have a new man at the top. Real estate mogul Dale Hemmerdinger has taken over as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and he admits he has a lot to learn.

We’re happy to help him out.

Lesson No. 1 for Mr. Hemmerdinger: You owe first allegiance to your passengers. Make their lives easier with speedy, reliable transit at reasonable prices, and you’ll be a hero.

Lesson No. 2 for Mr. Hemmerdinger: You owe first allegiance to your passengers. Perform as a yes-man for the governor who appointed you, Eliot Spitzer, and legislative leaders, and you’ll be chalked up as a flunky.

Lesson No. 3 for Mr. Hemmerdinger: You owe first allegiance to your passengers. Your predecessors Dick Ravitch and Peter Kalikow had the guts to battle political patrons.

Ravitch earned New York’s eternal gratitude for rescuing the subways from near-death in the 1980s and for, finally, squeezing funding for transit out of Albany. One episode is particularly relevant right now.

In 1980, facing deficits, Ravitch raised the fare from 50 cents to 60 cents. A dime hike, quaint today, was huge then. Even so, Ravitch succeeded only in buying time.

When the summer of 1981 rolled around, the MTA was still in trouble. Getting precious little help from Albany or City Hall, Ravitch proposed another fare hike, this time a 15-cent jolt to 75 cents. But he also called on the Legislature to enact a package of taxes dedicated to the MTA, including a levy on oil companies’ gross receipts, a sales tax and new property taxes.

Albany balked. But Ravitch didn’t. He said he would push through the 75-cent fare and that he would then okay another jump, to $1, in two weeks unless Albany approved the taxes. The public rallied and the Legislature caved.

Money flowed in – enough to rebuild the system and hold the fare reasonably steady. So successful were Ravitch’s taxes that governors, legislators and mayors cut their traditional MTA funding. A bad move.

Which bring us to today, Mr. Hemmerdinger. Your CEO Lee Sander has proposed a fare hike without fighting for state funds. Another bad move.

The hike should be delayed at least until April to let members of the Assembly, led by Richard Brodsky, battle for aid as the state budget is negotiated. They need help. Will you rise to the occasion, Mr. Hemmerdinger?

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