A BRITISHER’S VIEW - MTA not going your way

The Brooklyn Paper

A perk for perk’s sake is just beserk.

Yet, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is making sure its board members live on E-Z street – doling out no-charge travel passes, pay increases and bonuses like lollipops – while dooming riders to fare hikes and crying poverty amid an astounding current operating budget of $10.8 billion.

Add to that reported claims by an agency official that he wouldn’t care to use his agency’s trains if he had to fork over a fare, and small wonder that the MTA isn’t going your way.

The snottiness of Board Vice Chairman David Mack – a wealthy real estate developer from New Jersey with offices in New York and Arizona, who is on several MTA committees, including Capital Program Oversight, Finance, and Audit – is just one reason for a complete overhaul of the vast transportation network, which says it is “committed to guaranteeing that the best city in the world has the world’s best transportation system.”

Mack, whose comments were recorded during a break in a committee meeting, scoffed that when he called the MTA with a complaint, it was “corrected,” but other civilian complaints were promptly dumped in the garbage. He, reportedly, kicked the lid of a nearby trash can for extra effect. Nice.

The questions are oozing: Why are straphangers destined for another possible fare raise next year when the MTA has oodles of cash? Why is Chief Executive Officer Elliot “Lee” Sanders calling upon the State Legislature to help his apparently cash-strapped agency, citing a deficit that could balloon to $700 million when, last month, he received an $85,000 raise, boosting his annual salary from $265,000 a year with a housing allowance, to $350,000? Why is the MTA crying the fiscal blues when its five-year capital plan for 2005-2009 is $21 billion? That’s the equivalent of the US Energy Department’s 2009 budget for its nuclear-weapons programs, and the 2005 defense budgets of South Korea and Russia.

Most distressing of all is why its 22 appointed board members and 37 former ones – many of them multimillionaires – have carte blanche to MTA tunnel and bridge crossings, and subway and commuter rails, when their personal wealth indicates they clearly don’t need it.

A sampling of the current leadership reveals not a single charity case on the roster: Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger is president and director of a commercial and residential real estate ownership and development company; member John H. Banks III is vice president of government relations for Con Edison; member Nancy Shevell is vice president of a motor freight company; and member Mark Page is director of the New York City Office of Management and Budget.

As their terms don’t expire until 2011, there could be a lot more pillage headed their way unless the board heeds the warning of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to “immediately terminate and rescind all free E-ZPass tags that have been provided to past and present MTA board members,” or else risk “appropriate enforcement actions.”

Good.

If the MTA wants to over-compensate its wealthy board members – for what, pray? – better it does so with a self-funded pizza party, and re-direct the tens of thousands of free travel dollars into the wallets of its regular riders where they belong.

Greed does not become a public benefit corporation with a gargantuan budget, nor its well-heeled board members, who deserve a swift kick in the pants, along with their E-ZPass cancellations, just for lapping up more when they already have so much.

E-mail“A Britisher’s View” at BritView@courierlife.net. All letters become the property of Courier-Life Publications and are subject to publication unless otherwise specified; please include your name, address and daytime telephone number for verification.


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