David Paterson held his first press conference as governor-in-waiting this afternoon, holding forth to a Red Room described by Elizabeth Benjamin of the Daily News as "more crowded than I have ever seen it in the almost 10 years I’ve been covering Albany."
Self-deprecating and genuinely funny, Paterson fielded questions on the budget, campaign finance reform, and the fate of Eliot Spitzer, among other issues. When asked about congestion pricing, he offered only this:
"On congestion pricing, we’re taking a look at it."
There are conflicting views about whether Paterson’s ascension will help or hurt. Bypassing the haters who have practically made a vocation of declaring the plan dead, the Staten Island Advance talked to local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, each of them offering what sounded like well-reasoned — if not always optimistic — prognoses.
City Councilman Michael McMahon (D) told the Advance:
"Without knowing, I can’t imagine that new Gov. Paterson would be able or willing to put that much behind it in the next two weeks. He’s got to figure out his staff and everything else."
And here’s Republican Councilman James Oddo:
"It almost takes a crisis for (Albany) to act at all," "This is actually an opportunity to get people around the table . . . and actually get a few things accomplished, maybe perhaps one of which is congestion pricing."
Note that both McMahon and Oddo are opposed to pricing, at least in its current form.
Though it names no sources, New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer believes having a new governor at the helm could provide a boost.
Paterson should be so eager for a positive political climate that he’ll be inclined to bring together what one veteran lobbyist calls the "Big Ugly" — a massive deal in which lawmakers get raises, Bloomberg gets congestion pricing, and the governor gets something or another — without making the tough campaign-finance-reform demands that Spitzer had wanted.
What do you think?