Congestion Pricing Headlines

Marc Shaw, the former deputy mayor and executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, probably knows a thing or two about running meetings. Still the enormity of the challenge facing him as chairman of the state’s new congestion mitigation panel became clear Tuesday as its first meeting threatened to become a repeat of the contentious hearing back in June, when Mayor Bloomberg took on members of the state Assembly.

As has been pointed out, the panel is stacked with members who favor congestion pricing. But Mr. Shaw, who is now executive vice president at Extell Development Co., said that “the appointing authorities who have appointed each of you have to be happy at the end of the day,” suggesting that any plan would have to meet muster with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who so far has been the most skeptical state leader about the Mayor’s proposal of charging drivers $8 to drive into Manhattan south of 86th Street.

He also said that the commission was not subject to the state’s open meetings law, but that he would open meetings to the press and public as much as possible. As the meeting dragged on past the hour mark, at once pushed by some members’ picayune questions about data collection and pulled by other members’ opposition to congestion pricing, Mr. Shaw objected to Assembly Member Denny Farrell’s laboring over the difference between the words “tax,” which he preferred to use to describe the congestion fee, and “revenues,” which Mr. Shaw preferred. It was going to be hard, Mr. Shaw said, to complete the commission’s goal of coming up with a traffic reduction plan by Jan. 31 “without leading to unnecessary headlines.”

Given how many reporters turned out, maybe a couple of headlines would not have been a bad thing.