NY Times Looks Into The Tenure Of Elliot Sander

MTA CEO/Executive Director Elliot Sander
MTA Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander; Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon Inquirer

William Neuman of the New York Times has written many transit related pieces which I thought were well done. He once again does what is expected & has penned a nice piece looking into what has been quite a tenure for MTA CEO/Executive Director Elliot Sander:

It is often said that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the sprawling agency that runs the city’s buses, subways and commuter railroads, was created to shield governors and mayors, allowing them to take credit in good times and dodge responsibility when times are bad.

Times are now very bad, and the authority’s executive director, Elliot G. Sander, might suddenly seem a very lonely man. Standing at the head of an agency with a ballooning deficit and rapidly shrinking tax revenue, Mr. Sander, 52, who goes by Lee, has only unpopular choices before him: to cut service, raise fares or, most likely, do both.

“Lee is forced to tread a very difficult and sometimes confusing line between the political realities of the day and the fiscal realities of the day, and that is a very difficult line to be straight on sometimes,” said Mitchell H. Pally, a member of the authority’s board.

The crisis comes at a time of transition for the authority and Mr. Sander’s office.

For decades the power at the authority centered not on the executive director, but on the board chairman, a post held at times by civic lions like Richard Ravitch or politically connected businessmen like Peter S. Kalikow. But a 2005 law made the chairman’s job, which has a fixed six-year term, more advisory and shifted control over policy and day-to-day decisions to the executive director.

When Mr. Sander took over the authority in January 2007, he became the first executive director to take full advantage of the expanded powers. But Mr. Sander’s position is also something of an unwieldy hybrid: he has much of the power once held by the chairman but not the broad sway and job security that comes with a fixed term and a vote on the board.

Though Mr. Sander is an employee of the board, he serves at the behest of the governor and can be removed at any time. And the governor he serves today is not the one who appointed him: his friend, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned earlier this year in disgrace. Though Mr. Sander says he has a strong relationship with Mr. Spitzer’s replacement, Gov. David A. Paterson, the two are clearly not as close.

Click here for the complete article.

Personally I am a big fan of Elliot Sander. While he has come under criticism with some being rightfully so such as when he took a pay raise while the agency was crying poverty. Even with that though, he has shown himself to be a strong leader while trying to work around the agency’s financial difficulties while maintaining current service levels.

I admit that he has a long way to go in terms of helping the MTA navigate its way out of the financial crisis but he clearly is the right man for the job. Lets just hope “Lee” can get it done like many of us believe he can.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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