Anti-Pricing Council Member Has Pro-Parking Industry Fans

With one possible exception, no elected official has been more outspoken against congestion pricing for New York City than Queens Council Member David Weprin. A scan of the city’s campaign finance database reveals over 20,000 reasons why that could be.

weprin_headshot_lg.jpgIt may not be a significant amount in relative terms, but since taking office in 2002 Weprin has accepted at least $20,500 in campaign contributions from parking garage owners and operators, almost all of them with facilities in Manhattan. During the 2003 reporting cycle alone, Weprin collected over $14,000 from the parking garage lobby, with three garage owners contributing the maximum permitted by law.

The most recent contributions on file date to this year. In other words, as Weprin campaigns against congestion pricing, parking garage owners are writing checks to his campaign committee.

The latest edition of the Queens Courier features two anti-pricing editorials: one from the paper’s editors, and the other by Weprin, who, responding to a pro-pricing argument from the Partnership for New York City’s Kathryn Wylde, refers to congestion pricing as a "tax" 10 times in 500 words. Yet he offers no alternative solutions on how to pay for the mass transit expansion he and other pricing opponents purport to favor. Coincidentally, during the 2005 campaign finance reporting cycle, Weprin received $100 from Vicki Schneps — publisher of the Queens Courier, as well as Queensborough, newsletter of the ill-informed propaganda machine that is the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Where does your council member stand? From whom does s/he accept contributions? Follow the money.

  • Kind of an odd thing. Here in Atlanta, parking lot and garage owner Lanier Parking has been campaigning aggressively for the Atlanta Streetcar. You would normally think that these folks would be against progressive transportation policies. But unlike most parking lot owners, Lanier is smart. They see their long-term investment not in parking revenue, but in land value.

    It’s a long-term strategy that benefits everyone. I would hope the parking garage owners, upon seeing the land value dollars flowing from increased quality of life, would get Weprin to change his mind.

  • “Improving traffic management, offering incentives to motorists and businesses to use mass transit, and improving the public transportation system, especially in the outer-boroughs will also reduce traffic without having to impose another tax.”

    How in the world does he expect to pay for those incentives and those transit improvements without raising the funds through some tax or other?

  • Gregg R.

    The idea is noble, but the economics are not efficient. Why burden the taxpayers with over $600 million in fees to only net $300 million for “transportation improvements”. Why not add a surcharge when renewing or registering a vehicle in addition to increasing the cost of permits given to developers to close lanes of traffic during construction and tripling the block the box fines. Bloomberg should be able to raise $600 million and improve traffic flow without spending $300 million.

  • Gregg,

    Raising money for public transportation is not the only goal of congestion pricing or really the primary goal. The goal is to encourage drivers to switch to public transportation and from a number of studies posted here, the $8 a day really is the only thing that’s going to change people’s behavior. For people who are unwilling (again, the studies posted here show that people are largely commuting by choice, not necessity) to make the switch, they’ll support people who do use more efficient methods of transportation.

    I agree that its not the most efficient method, but sometimes efficiency isn’t the goal. You’re also being misleading in using the term “taxpayers”. It a fee for usage that only applies to people who make a certain choice to drive into a certain area, not just because they reside in the city.

  • momos

    I just had a very interesting phone debate with the legislative director at the NY chapter of AAA (516-873-2254 if you’re interested in having some fun with them). They were mentioned in a NY Sun article as among the anti-congestion pricing lobbyists present in Albany yesterday.

    The lady had 3 main points: 1). Congestion pricing hasn’t worked in London. The proof is that they’ve raised the tolls. 2). Congestion pricing is elitist. 3). Congestion pricing will hurt businesses.

    Point 1 is factually false. Point 2 is philosophical, but it’s logic is essentially libertarian and would oppose many things with widespread acceptance, such as cigarette taxes. Point 3 is not only false, but the opposite of what every business association in the city except the Queens Chamber of Commerce maintains.

    It’s just incredible how feeble a grasp of facts the opposition has. But they throw a lot of red meat to the peanut gallery, which is a tactic that might work. Politically successful debate is rarely deeply informed and well-reasoned.

    I pushed AAA’s legislative director to come up with an alternative. She eventually said “improve mass transit.” I said, ok, where’s the money going to come from? She said it wasn’t fair to ask AAA to figure that out. I said that for any proposal to improve mass transit to be taken seriously she would have to address the funding issue. And around we went.

    If congestion pricing fails it will be a setback for sustainability in NYC, but it will also represent a triumph of poorly-reasoned, badly-informed reactionary politics. (Nothing new there I suppose.)

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    NY1 has a “snap poll” on congestion pricing:

    http://www.ny1.com/ny1/Polls/index.jsp

    For some reason my vote didn’t register.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Funny enough, I just got a call from a guy who identified himself as a Quinnipiac pollster and asked me a bunch of questions about congestion pricing, though.

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