For another, changing the law would have meant that the Sheriff of Wall Street would be violating one of the sacred principles of post-Enron governance: that a chief executive should report to a board of directors of which he is not a voting member, and the chairman of which should provide independent oversight.
And why exactly pick another fight in Albany? Because the 1980’s were such a heyday for the M.T.A.? When the lights in the subway cars would go out because some crackhead had stripped out the copper wire?
Mr. Ravitch, who is now in private practice as a lawyer, said he still believes that it is best to have one single chief executive and chairman, because the M.T.A. is “sui generis” as an institution.
“The danger is that there couldn’t be a total meeting of the minds if there are two different people, although the current executive director is smart enough to deal with that situation,” Mr. Ravitch told The Observer. “You want the political heft of a chairman who has everybody else reporting to him, and who has the confidence of his board in order to get things done.”
In the time leading up to his appointment, Mr. Sander did pretty much everything that any outsider could do to get the 2005 $2.9 billion transportation-bond act passed. He caught hold of Mr. Spitzer’s ear often and held onto it throughout his campaign, becoming his chief transportation advisor and speechwriter.
And yet, Mr. Sander said that he wasn’t disappointed by the Spitzer administration’s decision to pass him over for chairman.
“We discovered that both models are viable—the Ravitch and the post-2005 model—but that the previous model of a part-time C.E.O. had some issues with it,” he said. “It’s possible that we could have gone to the Legislature to amend it, but we didn’t.”
The distinctions among a chairman and chief executive and executive director, after all, are nebulous ones, and depend as much on the personalities involved as on the job descriptions. Once he came into office in January, Mr. Sander began to present himself as the public face of the agency, even if the public thought that Mr. Kalikow was still in charge.
After board meetings, Mr. Sander, who clearly enjoys the chance to discuss policy options and r
attle off names and numbers, would stand alongside Mr. Kalikow and answer questions from the reporters—something that the previous executive director, Katherine Lapp, rarely did.
At the May 7 announcement, Mr. Sander took to the podium and declared, “This is Peter’s day,” refusing to go into much detail about off-topic questions like the possibility of fare hikes. But, once off the podium, he took another five minutes of questions, diving into the pros and cons of congestion pricing. (“Some areas need to be clarified,” he said, including how to pay for operating all those extra buses that the Mayor is suggesting that the M.T.A. run.)
“Lee is the principal having negotiations with [Deputy Mayor] Dan Doctoroff, [Port Authority executive director] Tony Shorris,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, an organization of business executives. “He’s dealing directly with members of Congress, the federal Department of Transportation, and the primary interface of those conversations used to be [Mr.] Kalikow.”
As for Mr. Kalikow’s nominal replacement, the Spitzer administration says the process will take several weeks, and that the Governor has just begun to consider candidates. A tolerance for getting bruised is apprently a must.