Op-Ed: Holding the MTA ‒ and elected officials ‒ accountable - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the March 2019 Juniper Berry Magazine

Op-Ed: Holding the MTA ‒ and elected officials ‒ accountable

We all know the biggest problem with the MTA: its massive debt compounded by the borrowing of money to pay for such debt. Meanwhile, the services provided to our communities are seemingly getting worse. It's an insult to the taxpayers of our City and State that we continuously deal with this ineptness. Unfortunately, the Governor continues to play politics with the issue, constantly flip-flopping over whether or not he's in charge of the MTA. The current MTA Board structure consists of a mixture of appointees by various individuals. However, the Governor still has the most power over the Board and is basically responsible for naming the Chairperson of the MTA.

There is zero accountability. I have recently introduced legislation (A.5042) to change this. The bill would mandate that various elected officials be placed on the Board. I understand that putting politicians on the Board seems like a bad move. After all, who wants more politicians involved with anything? Well, the thought process here is the following: The NYS Comptroller, NYC City Comptroller, the Comptrollers of Nassau/Suffolk County and the Executives of various upstate counties are individuals elected in their own capacity. Therefore, if these individuals do not do a good job helping to run the MTA, the People can finally hold them and the MTA accountable and vote them out of office. Under the current structure since all Board members are appointees, the People lack this ability.

Furthermore, Comptrollers are well versed in financial matters. Currently, the finances of the MTA are a mess; by placing individuals on the Board who have financial backgrounds, the proposed MTA Board would have a much better hold over the finances of the MTA going forward. This should help prevent future repeated bailouts. My legislation will also increase the necessary vote total for borrowing money and other financial issues. The Mayor and Governor will still be able to appoint individuals to the Board, but they will be balanced by the elected officials mentioned above. The Mayor's appointees would be subject to approval from the NYC Council, and the Governor's appointees subject to the approval of the NYS Senate.

This new proposal is merely that: a proposal. It is a working idea to try to solve the issue. Is it the only answer? Of course not. But it does accomplish two things: (1) Gives the People of the State the ability to hold the MTA accountable by voting out those who fail to do their job; and (2) Puts individuals with financial experience on the Board. The Governor has maintained that he needs sole power over the MTA. He already has had years to fix the MTA but hasn't done so. Therefore, he doesn't deserve this power. The MTA needs accountability and financial reform. My proposal is a step toward accomplishing both.

March 2019 Juniper Berry Magazine

March 2019 Table of Contents