Spitzer: Patronage and the Transit Strike

Eliot Spitzer, speaking this morning at a Regional Plan Association conference, suggested the present Governor’s political patronage had led to labor-management strife at the M.T.A., if not the actual strike in December:

For much of their history, organizations such as the M.T.A., the Port Authority, New York state’s own transportation department and the Thruway Authority, were world class leaders in their field. Sadly, this is no longer the case. We must restore these organizations to their previous standards of professional excellence. We’ll appoint individuals to executive and board positions based on professional excellence and experience and not based on political patronage. … The transit strike illustrated the depth of labor-management conflict at the Transit Authority. The fact that 23 percent of all TWU employees faced disciplinary charges in 2005, a truly astonishing figure, indicated the problems go much deeper than just the single contract dispute.

Also noteworthy, his tepid support for the $6 billion rail link from Wall Street to J.F.K. Airport, another favorite of the current Governor. While saying that ensuring the vitality of Lower Manhattan should be the top economic development priority in the region, he said:

We should complete the draft environmental impact statement for the J.F.K. Rail Link so we can better evaluate the cost of the project as well as the expected economic benefits.

Calling for completion of a D.E.I.S. that is already in progress (and which will be finished right about when the new Governor’s term begins) is like saying that a jury should be allowed to reach a verdict.

-Matthew Schuerman