Last Night’s Gov Debate: Cuomo Piles on in MTA Bash-a-Thon


Try this little experiment. Click over to the video of last night’s seven-candidate gubernatorial debate. Start at the 55:30 mark, then close your eyes and listen to seven solid minutes of MTA bashing. Which of those candidates is the presumptive governor-in-waiting with a 35-point lead in the latest poll and, presumably, some political leeway to tell voters the truth about what’s happening to their transit system?

Even with a helpful introduction from the moderator, it’s tough to pluck that guy out of the crowd. On transit and the MTA, Andrew Cuomo sounds almost indistinguishable from “Manhattan Madam” Kristin Davis.

In his allotted MTA minute, Cuomo falls back on the “two sets of books” line (a standby dismissed in court years ago but revived by shameless pols ever since), singles out overtime costs for scorn, and claims that “no one is in charge” of the agency. Those would be the same overtime costs that MTA chair Jay Walder — the person in charge — has started to rein in.

Strangely, Cuomo doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of Walder, who’s made good on early promises like improving the MTA’s delivery of information to transit riders. (Ride the train these days, and all the new countdown clocks are hard to miss.) Even Richard Brodsky says good things about the guy.

If Cuomo was trying to say that there’s no political accountability for the MTA, he failed. And his diagnosis — make the MTA a state agency — is off-base. Putting the governor in charge of the MTA won’t make the state legislature less obstinate about funding transit. Until someone with a big bully pulpit, like New York’s next governor, starts describing the threat to transit riders accurately, elected officials will still be able to duck blame for fare hikes and service cuts.

This anti-incumbent election season is as good a time as any for a statewide candidate to turn Albany into the punching bag for transit woes instead of the MTA. It shouldn’t be hard to get some of these points across:

Someone in public office has got to start telling voters what’s actually dragging the transit system down. Otherwise legislators will just have thicker cover the next time transit gets shortchanged in Albany.

  • Cuomo is Mr. Play It Safe. He’s riding his father’s coattails into office. This feels more like an anointment than an election. Unless he opens his mouth and says something substantive, I may have to resort to my standard procedure when faced with two (or more) unacceptable candidates: I’ll go the voting booth but won’t cast a vote for governor.

  • Car Free Nation

    Really? No Difference? Come on, we don’t need a Christie in New York. People were saying that about Bush and Gore, and guess what? There was a difference.

  • Josh

    I thought the Libertarian candidate (I’m sorry I can’t remember his name at the moment) was the only one who had anything worthwhile to say about the MTA.

    I’m still voting for Jimmy McMillan, though.

  • Kaja

    I was going to not-vote, then I heard Jimmy McMillan.

    As a karate expert, he has my vote.

  • fdr

    “On transit and the MTA, Andrew Cuomo sounds almost indistinguishable from “Manhattan Madam” Kristin Davis.”
    A vote for Kristin may mean Ashley Dupre for head of the MTA.

  • Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins at least claims to support increased investment in mass transit. Strangely, he wasn’t mentioned *at all* in the NY Times article (although shown in the accompanying photograph).

  • Ordinarily, I’d get pissed at third party voters. But right now, when the Greens have approximately the same chance of winning as Paladino, I just don’t care.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hey, at least you have two candidates for Governor who are actually running. Is that true for state legislative offices in your neighborhood?

    That’s the problem. People are paying too much attention to the Governor/President.

  • rhubarbpie

    I think it’s a little less clear about whether the MTA had “two sets of books” than you suggest, and I’m not sure a court’s conclusion is necessarily enough to convince me the charge didn’t have some validity.

    The charge was that the MTA sought to conceal its overall budget outlook when it proposed a 2003 fare hike that it didn’t need at that moment. Take a look at the transcripts of the interview with the MTA’s budget chief at the time, and you’re likely to conclude that there was at least some deception going on. There’s a reason he was shown the door after the debacle, and that important budget reforms were introduced at the MTA after the lawsuit.

    Ultimately, the charge didn’t help the perception of the MTA, but given the way the agency often operated (and still does, unfortunately), even without the two-books charge I don’t think we’d see any less MTA-bashing today.

    It is very frustrating, since I’m a big believer in extremely generous transit funding, but sometimes the grave you’re in is the one you helped dig.

  • All Blond

    Hey Cuomo had for over 2 years all document on city corruption and what did he do?
    I do not know,
    claims that those documents never got onto his hands…

    On the first run of the Bloomberg I voted for him because good businessman should be good for city, and how wrong it turn out to be.

    Well we all know that he is a jerk and about to run city into the grave.
    Lets hope that corrupt governor will not do the same for state…


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