Do We Want Yet Another Real Estate Mogul?

On June 18, Gov. Spitzer announced his nomination to replace Peter Kalikow as MTA Chairman. His nomination went to H. Dale Hemmerdinger, the president of Atco Properties & Management. Here is a detailed article about the nomination courtesy of the Daily News:

Gov. Spitzer may replace MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow with another real estate mogul – a financial backer of Democrats who once headed the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission.

Dale Hemmerdinger is a leading candidate for the position, sources said.

Spitzer’s appointment must be approved by the state Senate, which heads home for the summer next week at the close of the current session.

Former Gov. Pataki appointed Kalikow, who has agreed to step aside so Spitzer can choose his own leadership for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest mass transportation system in North America.

Hemmerdinger is the president of Atco Properties and Management, which owns and manages more than 2 million square feet of residential, commercial, industrial and retail space.

While he was chairman of the Citizens Budget Commission the group made recommendations on how to balance the MTA’s budget, including higher fares for riders and more tolls and fees for motorists.

Hemmerdinger’s wife has given $40,000 to Spitzer campaign committees since 2000, and the governor’s wife hosted a Democratic Party fund-raiser at the Hemmerdingers’ Central Park South penthouse in May.

For most of his tenure, Kalikow wielded substantial power, making key policy and strategic decisions, and was the public face of the authority.

MTA officials have said the next chairman’s role will be more limited due to legislative reforms enacted in 2005 redefining the roles of chairman and executive director.

Still, the chairman oversees monthly meetings of the board, and the board must approve budgets, including possible fare hikes, labor contracts and other business and policy matters.

Here is another article about the nomination courtesy of the NY Times:

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has nominated H. Dale Hemmerdinger, a real estate executive, to be the next chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, succeeding Peter S. Kalikow.

The chairman’s job is far less powerful than it was under Mr. Spitzer’s predecessor, Gov. George E. Pataki, because the governor has reorganized the authority’s leadership to provide for a strong full-time chief executive and executive director.

That executive, Elliot G. Sander, a transportation policy expert, just issued this statement supporting the nomination of Mr. Hemmerdinger:

Dale’s background in business, civic life and as former chair of the Citizens Budget Commission make him an excellent candidate to lead the board in its oversight of the M.T.A. I look forward to working with Dale and the entire M.T.A. board as we continue to tackle some tough challenges and implement a new vision for our transportation network.

Although Mr. Sander, who is known as Lee, remains in charge of the M.T.A., Mr. Hemmerdinger is expected to play an important role in running board meetings and working closely to generate public support for Mr. Sander’s decisions.

I’m all for a change from the Kalikow reign of terror. However my concern over this nomination is the fear of things not straying far from the status quo. Does the MTA really need another real estate tycoon running the show?

I always felt the job should be held by someone in touch with the needs of the riding community. I find it hard to believe that a real estate mogul is the type of person that matches that description. I don’t want to say that Dale will fail at his job if he gets it (The nomination still needs to be approved by the NY State Assembly). I’m just overly cautious about this nomination & will watch the new chairman closely.

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