Voting Details On The Defeated Bus Camera Bill

Earlier today Ben Fried of Streetsblog posted a report providing an exclusive voting breakdown for the bill that supported the installation of bus-mounted enforcement cameras. Here is Ben’s report courtesy of Streetsblog:

A source sends along this roll call of the State Assembly transportation committee’s vote on bus-mounted enforcement cameras. The names come from the official record; whether the record accurately reflects who raised a hand and who didn’t is not certain, for reasons explained below. Note that the vote was on whether to table the bill, so “Yes” actually means “No” to better bus lane enforcement. You can match names to districts here.

YES: (14)
Gantt, Lafayette, Weisenberg, Hoyt, Perry, DelMonte, Latimer, Lupardo, Alessi, Gabryszak, Hyer-Spencer, Titone, Schimel, Spano.

NO: (11)
Cusick, Millman, R. Diaz, Maisel, McDonough, Thiele, Bacalles, Errigo, Reilich, Giglio, Tobacco.

Among the “Yes” column, Lafayette, Perry, Hyer-Spencer, and Titone represent districts in the five boroughs.

Multiple sources told Streetsblog that the vote was held soon after committee chair David Gnatt called the meeting, at around two in the afternoon. They described a rushed scene in which advocates and legislators were scrambling to make it to the room where the meeting was held. The location of committee meetings is not known, even to legislators, until the chair announces it.

Not everyone on the committee made it in time for the vote. According to parliamentary rules, the votes of absent members are automatically counted as “Yes” votes. There is some time between the committee vote — in this case, a show of hands — and the official recording of the roll call. During this gap, one source told us, legislators can change how their vote is recorded, but the tally of the committee vote cannot be altered.

That clears things up, right?

How sad is it that 4 of the politicians against the bill represent parts of NYC?  It is quite sad in my opinion as if anyone should know how badly these cameras are needed, you would think it would be local politicians. This is just another sad day for riders who depend on buses.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Mack Backpedals

MTA Board Vice President David S. Mack has now backpedaled on his outrageous statements about the free perks he & other MTA board members receive. Here is his statement which was released through the MTA Press Office & posted on the New York Times City Room Blog:

I regret that my comments yesterday did not reflect my commitment to the M.T.A and the work it does to provide the best public transportation system in the United States. My colleagues on the board are dedicated to keeping fares low, services efficient and continue to look for ways to make improvements to the system. I am proud to serve on this board, and I support Chairman Hemmerdinger and his policies. I plan to vote next week in support of changing our policies so that free passes for our transportation systems are used only by current board members, who are on official M.T.A. business.

Does anyone for one second believe he had a sudden change of heart? This is the same man who referred to the general driving & riding public as “common people”. His backpedaling reeks of someone who had his arm twisted by a fellow colleague. I also find the comment exchange in the City Room’s entry interesting. One particular comment that caught my eye was posted by Adrien who stated:

It seems strange to me that the MTA would fight to put striking union leaders behind bars and fine each union member worker when they are trying to preserve basic standards like bathroom breaks.

Meanwhile- the people making the rules refuse to give up illegal perks? While throwing the actual workers in jail and fining those with nothing, they fight over what perks they deserve just for coming into a few meetings… disgrace- thank goodness Paterson and Cuomo are around.

The exchange has even gone into the issue of the class level in society of board members & the riding public. To check out the comment exchanges, click here for the City Room entry.

xoxo Transit  Blogger

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Gov. Patterson Issues A Statement On Free Perks

Earlier today, New York State Governor David A. Patterson issued a statement on the hotly debated issue of free perks received by Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board members. Here is his statement courtesy of the New York State Governor website:

According to published reports, some members of the MTA board are considering voting in opposition to Chairman Hemmerdinger’s proposal to restrict their own personal use of free E-ZPass tags, commuter rail passes, and other special benefits. At a time when millions of state residents are feeling the pinch of an economy in turmoil and struggling to support their families, such a decision would demonstrate an utter contempt for average New Yorkers. And according to Attorney General Cuomo, it would violate the law. These board members, while valuable to the MTA, are certainly not above the law. If MTA board members truly want to better understand the system they oversee, they should pay the same tolls and fares as everyone else, and be part of the public transportation system that millions of New Yorkers depend on every day.

Gov. Patterson is 100% correct on his thoughts. Someone really needs to show these board members that they are not above the law. If it takes a lawsuit & fallout from it, so be it.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Andrew Cuomo Threatens To Sue MTA Board Members

As you know by now, the free perks received by Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board members have come under harsh criticism from riders, transit advocates, & elected officials. The most peeved individual might be New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who has questioned the legality of these perks. Now word has come out that Mr. Cuomo might sue MTA Board members over these perks.

The New York Sun filed this brief report:

New York’s attorney general says he’ll sue board members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority if they refuse to give up their freebies.

The Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, was responding today to a published report that several board members would oppose a restriction on their use of free E-ZPass tags, and transit and commuter rail passes.

The board is scheduled to vote on the resolution next week.

The MTA had no immediate comment.

On May 29, the nation’s largest mass-transit agency said it planned to rescind former board members’ free-travel perks and restrict current members to using the privilege only for official business.

This issue will just not go away fast enough for the MTA. Let me state that I am glad that it won’t as the abuse of the everyday person has gone on for far too long.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Free Perk Showdown Looming

Earlier this morning, I wrote about how the MTA Board Vice President David S. Mack only rides the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) because of his free pass. Free perks such as his pass have come under harsh criticism from riders, transit advocates, & elected officials such as New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The backlash from these perks might even lead to a lawsuit headed by Mr. Cuomo  (more on that in the next entry). Before any such suit takes place, a showdown is looming between members of the board over these free perks.

William Neuman of the New York Times filed this report on City Room:

A revolt over free travel appeared to be brewing Wednesday on the normally docile board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as several board members said they opposed a move backed by their own chairman to restrict their use of free E-ZPass tags and transit and commuter rail passes.

“I would say it’s probably going to be voted down,” said David S. Mack, a vice chairman of the authority, referring to a resolution that will come before the board next week to curtail its own perks. “The board is not happy.”

Controversies on the board are rare, and the discussion of free travel for board members — many of whom are wealthy — comes at a difficult financial time for the authority. The board raised fares and tolls in March and may propose another increase that would take effect next year.

The travel pass tempest began last month, when Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo wrote to the authority, saying that its longstanding custom of giving free E-ZPasses to its board members — and letting them keep them for life — violated a state law that requires the board members to serve without compensation.

In a meeting on May 28, the board vowed to fight Mr. Cuomo, saying it would ask a judge to decide whether the passes were a form of pay.

But the authority’s chairman, H. Dale Hemmerdinger, quickly reversed course, telephoning board members a day later to say that the E-ZPasses would be taken away from former members and that the 22 current members could use them only for official authority business, like traveling to a board meeting. He said that the same would be done with other free passes given to board members for travel on subways, buses and the commuter railroads.

But Mr. Hemmerdinger’s decision must be ratified by the board, setting the stage for a possible showdown when the members meet again on Wednesday.

Eight votes are needed to pass a resolution on the authority’s board. It appears that in addition to Mr. Hemmerdinger, the city’s four representatives on the board will vote to end unlimited use of the travel perk, said one of those board members, Jeffrey A. Kay. It was not clear how other board members would vote.

Mr. Mack said that it was important for board members to be familiar with the transportation system they oversaw and that free travel passes encouraged that. In their trips through the system, board members frequently notice problems that can be corrected swiftly with a phone call, he said.

“We’re invaluable,” Mr. Mack said, speaking to reporters during a break between meetings of two board committees that he heads, one on the Long Island Rail Road and Long Island Bus and the other on the authority’s bridges and tunnels.

“If you saw something and called it in, it goes right there,” he added, as he put his foot on top of a wastebasket. “When the normal public calls it in, you know what happens with the bureaucracy, they don’t get the response that a board member would get.”

But Mr. Mack, a Long Island resident who says he typically rides the railroad 5 to 10 times a year, said that if he had to pay, he might change his habits.

“Why should I ride and inconvenience myself when I can ride in a car?” he said.

Similarly, he said, without free E-ZPasses, some board members might use the city’s free bridges and avoid the authority’s tolled bridges and tunnels.

He said that he kept the telephone numbers of the managers of the authority’s bridges and tunnels in his car and that if he saw a problem, he called them from the road. He said he had instructed bridge managers to open an additional toll lane if there were long lines.

Mr. Mack also questioned Mr. Cuomo’s motives on the issue.

“What he’s trying to do was strictly a soap box, where it looks good to the common people,” Mr. Mack said.

Benjamin M. Lawsky, a special assistant to Mr. Cuomo, issued a statement saying that Mr. Hemmerdinger and the authority’s executive director, Elliot G. Sander, “have both indicated they now agree with the attorney general’s position.” He continued, “If the board rejects its own leadership, we are prepared to enforce our position because no one is above the law.”

Mr. Mack, a wealthy real estate executive and a member of a politically well-connected family with close ties to the Republican Party and former Gov. George E. Pataki, was appointed to the board in 1993. He is a senior partner of the Mack Company, a real estate development firm, and a director of Mack-Cali Realty. He also serves on the board of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

An inventory in May showed that Mr. Mack, 66, had six free E-ZPass tags, but he said on Wednesday that he now uses regular tags of the paid variety.

Mr. Mack did not say whether he believed that former board members should be allowed to keep their passes.

Two other board members at the committee meetings on Wednesday also said that they opposed placing restrictions on the free travel passes.

“We’re the eyes and ears,” said Mitchell H. Pally, a board member from Suffolk County. “Our job is to use the system as much as possible.”

Francis H. Powers, a board member from Staten Island, said Mr. Cuomo was wrong to call the travel passes a form of pay. And he objected to the way that the board’s decision to take the matter to court was reversed. “It wasn’t handled right,” Mr. Powers said. “We should have outside counsel review this.”

The Daily News also reported this week that Mr. Sander received a raise increasing his total compensation package this year by $10,000, to $350,000.

The free passes and the salary increase in the face of fare and toll increases simply reinforce a common perception among transit riders that the leadership of the authority is out of touch with its customers, transit advocates say.

Mr. Hemmerdinger declined to comment.

According to this entry on Streetsblog, NYC Council Member Eric Gioia issued this statement in a press release today:

Vice Chairman Mack should either clarify his statement or resign. With sentiment like that it is no wonder that the MTA is in such dire straits. His comments represent an absolute disdain for the very entity which serves millions of hardworking New Yorker every day who don’t have a choice to just ‘take their car.’ This sense of entitlement and contemptuous thinking is what leads New Yorkers to rightly ask who is on their side at MTA headquarters.

While I questioned the thought process of Eric 3 days ago, I must say Eric is spot on with his statements. Hopefully he meant what he said & was not just saying “the right thing” to look like the “good guy” to the general public.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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