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Cuomo officially nominates Joseph Lhota as new MTA chief

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Courtesy of The Madison Square Garden Company

Transportation Nation has a long rundown of the Lhota appointment as head of the MTA, which had been practically a foregone conclusion for weeks now.

"Throughout my career in both the public and private sectors, I have initiated reforms that are performance-based and that cut costs, and I look forward to bringing this same approach to the MTA," Lhota said in a statement from the governor's office. "I thank Governor Cuomo for this exciting opportunity to serve the people of New York."

You can read the governor's statement on the appointment at Transportation Nation. But let's take a look at some of the on-background remarks about the appointment:

Reaction among transit watchers, none of whom would speak on the record to avoid alienating the next chief of the NY MTA, was part puzzlement and part wait-and-see.

“I was a little surprised that Joe Lhota rose to the top of that pool,” said an official from a previous mayoral administration. “He understands inter-governmental relations and he understands the politics but he’s more of a political operative than a manager.”

Both Cuomo and outgoing MTA chairman Jay Walder have said in the past few weeks that the next chair did not need to have a transit background. “I think it is helpful to have a knowledge of mass transit,” Walder said at the NY MTA’s September board meeting. “I don’t know that it’s an absolutely essential quality.”

Lhota fits that profile. His resume shows no transportation posts. But he did manage large governmental agencies in the Giuliani administration and ran the city when the mayor was out of town. Since then, he has navigated the executive suites of the Cablevision Systems Corporation, which owns Madison Square Garden. And Lhota has served as a board member at the City University of New York for the past ten years.  Lhota was one of two board members who did not support withholding an honorary degree from playwright Tony Kushner last May.  The vote to table the degree past last spring’s commencement was much-criticized and later reversed.

...

Sources differed on Lhota’s ability to rise to those challenges. The NY MTA needs someone “who can handle the union relationships, the crisis of money, and Lhota will get it faster than most people,” said one.

But others don’t expect Lhota to be a voice for transportation in the way Jay Walder was.  Walder came from London Transport and is headed for a job running Hong Kong’s transit system.  In his tenure as MTA chief he pushed for several innovative transit measures, including countdown clocks, real time information, and better communication with customers.  But his relationship with the union was toxic, and Walder presided over the MTA’s deepest cuts in more than a generation.

The governor is also appointing two other people to the MTA family:

Cuomo also appointed two women to serve in key transportation posts:  Nuria Fernandez, a former Federal Transit Administration official and Chicago Aviation Commissioner, who resigned under pressure from then Mayor Richard Daily after failing to close a deal with United Airlines.  Fernandez will serve as the the MTA’s CEO, and Karen Rae, who worked in the  Obama Administration on high speed rail, will serve in the Governor’s office as Deputy Secretary of Transportation.

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It's A Free Country ®

The End of Gadhafi?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The question is now – can Libya make good on the promise of the insurgency?

—  Benjamin Barberpolitical theorist and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the policy center Demos, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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It's A Free Country ®

Transcript: Obama Speaks After Death of Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi

Thursday, October 20, 2011

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Today, the government of Libya announced the death of Moammar Gadhafi. This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya, who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya.

For four decades, ...

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It's A Free Country ®

New Allies in Battle Against Controversial Ala. Immigration Law

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Alabama’s business and agricultural communities, which for the most part remained silent while the legislators were crafting the legislation, are only now becoming vocal opponents, as they see their bottom lines getting slashed by the law, which has scared Latino laborers—authorized and unauthorized—out of the state.

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It's A Free Country ®

The White House and The Root: Open for Questions

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The president is going to say, piece by piece, stand up and explain why you say we should preserve tax breaks for the very wealthy but we shouldn’t fund our nations schools.

—  Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor and assistant to President Obama for Public Engagement and Intergovernment Affairs, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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It's A Free Country ®

Chat Transcript: The White House and The Root on the Opportunity Agenda

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Join It's A Free Country and TheRoot.com Contributing Editor David Swerdlick as we live-chat the White House live Q&A event - Open for Questions: The Opportunity Agenda with The Root. The session will also be streamed live on the White House website and at TheRoot.com.

 

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The Empire

How bike lanes became the front lines of a political power struggle

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Transportation Nation's Andrea Bernstein posted a great piece that pulls back the political shroud around the battle over bike lanes in Brooklyn. It's a meticulously traced story of how high-profile political players--Senator Charles Schumer's wife, former Giuliani aides, and others--use their status for personal battles.

The lede here is priceless:

Last March, Mayor Michael Bloomberg dined privately with a small group of guests that included his former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, and her husband, the United States Senator, Charles Schumer.

By that time, both Schumer and Weinshall had made known their displeasure over a bike lane that had been built across the street from their home – on Brooklyn’s leafy Prospect Park West.

According to two sources familiar with what was said at that dinner, Schumer asked the mayor: “Can’t you get rid of that lane?”

“You don’t like it?” the mayor responded.  A beat. “I’m going to make it twice as wide.”

Thus ensued a political battle wrapped up as a NIMBY issue:

But the clash of two broadly powerful men is typical of the story of the Prospect Park West bike lane story, which was never really about a bike lane. Or rather, it was never only about a bike lane, but rather about the perennial New York City question – who decides what goes where in the densely-packed urban streets we call home, and how they get to decide.

It's well worth reading the entire article here.

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The Empire

Bloomberg's healthy Big Brother laws OK with New Yorkers

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sometimes--maybe even regularly--polls come in that have fascinating (baffling) results that make you either question the usefulness of polls or the cognitive faculties of mankind.

Today's case study: According to a Quinnipiac Poll released this morning, those polled showed New York voters are behind the mayor's war on fun attempts to make the city a healthier place to live.

  • 79 percent of voters polled said law requiring fast-food restaurants to post calorie information is “useful.”
  • 70 percent that the Bloomberg administration is “correct” to encourage restaurants to use less salt.
  • 50 percent supported a ban on Food Stamps for sugary sodas.
  • 85 say the smoking ban is good for people's health, and 52 support the ban on outdoor smoking in city parks and elsewhere.

OK, fine, part of this makes sense. People know what makes sense, health-wise, and they support concrete efforts to encourage healthy behavior. Shared social consequences for individual health problems and all that--valid argument.

But if voters support the government's involvement in the personal choices they make about their diet and tobacco use, then it's mind boggling to get to this next statistic: 49 percent say government shouldn’t get involved in people’s eating and drinking habits -- the plurality.

It might just be an issue of how much is too much, according to Maurice Carrroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“New Yorkers are split on the question of ‘nanny government,’ the idea that City Hall might be intruding on their personal lives,” Carroll said. “But they like – a lot – a couple of the things that critics complain is ‘nanny’ government:  making restaurants post calorie counts and urging less use of salt. That ban on outdoor smoking?  A bare majority backs it.”

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The Takeaway

The Conservative Divide Over the Border Fence

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The extension of border fences has been a hot topic at recent GOP presidential debates. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann has signed a pledge urging the completion of a fence by by 2013. Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain also supports a full-border fence, but he backed away from his comments over the weekend that the fence should be "20 feet high, with barbed wire, electrified." Of the nine candidates, only two say they think the fence is a bad idea — Congressman Ron Paul and Texas Governor Rick Perry. But what would it really mean to build a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico? And do the perspectives the GOP candidates reflect most Republican's views on the fence?

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WNYC News

Occupy Wall Street: From A Blog Post To A Movement

Thursday, October 20, 2011

After more than a month, the cause that started with a protest in New York has gained momentum and spread around the world. That's quite a feat for what began in July as a blog post inspired by the Arab Spring.

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WNYC News

With Romney In Race, Mormon Church Steps Up Ads

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

As former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tries to overcome unease about his religion in his bid for the GOP nomination, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken out billboards and TV ads in 12 new cities. The ads proclaim "I'm a Mormon" and aim to dispel misconceptions about the church.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: How I Learned to Love the Filibuster

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

After the Senate last week defeated President Obama's American Jobs Act through filibuster, the Congressional tactic has come under a lot of criticism. Illinois Senator Richard Durbin said Tuesday that he favors a return to earlier (and tougher) rules, which required dissenting lawmakers hold ...

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The Empire

Patrick Foye in as new head of the Port Authority

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

  (Courtesy of MTA.info)

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced his recommendation to replace Chris Ward, a Paterson appointee, as head of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Transportation Nation has the write up:

Chris Ward’s three and a half year tenure as executive director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has come to an end.   Patrick Foye,  Cuomo aide and former state Economic Development chief, is in.

...

Cuomo announced the appointment in a press release today: “The Port Authority must meet its potential as a major economic engine that plans for the region and attracts business on an international scale. We must also improve its operations and maximize the value out of every dollar spent so that it is financially responsible and respects the tax and toll payers.”

Foye’s most recent job before that was deputy county executive for economic development for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. Foye left that job in January after Mangano decided, against Foye’s advice, to sue a state-appointed control board to prevent it from taking over the county’s finances. The county lost the lawsuit.

Foye, a lawyer who worked with Skadden Arps, is a former downstate chairman for New York’s Empire State Development Corporation. Since May 2010, he has sat on the board of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In an interview, MTA board member Mitch Pally said Foye has been active in his role as the appointee from Nassau County in Long Island. “He’s delved into operating details of the system, communication issues with commuters and fare structure,” Pally said.

You can read the entire post here.

One more interesting thing in the notice about Foye's appointment was the governor's desire to move the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Moynihan Station project under the purview of the Port Authority. More, hopefully, on this later.

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It's A Free Country ®

Podcast: 2012 GOP Candidates Sink With Latinos

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In this podcast, Fi2W Executive Producer John Rudolph speaks with La Opinión senior political writer and columnist Pilar Marrero about the first poll measuring how Latino voters are responding to the GOP presidential field. Listen:

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It's A Free Country ®

20 Years Later: Anita Hill and the Justice Thomas Confirmation Hearings

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm a journalist. I'm a reporter. I cover the court. This was my story. I thought it was a credible story but you know, you saw what I saw and I don't think we actually have proof positive. Lots of people have their opinions, but I don't think it's in my interest to actually resolve this based on an opinion as opposed to fact.

Nina Totenberg, NPR's legal affairs correspondent, on The Brian Lehrer Show

Comments [10]

It's A Free Country ®

Anna and the Independent Voter: Maine's Rebellious Streak

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

As the autumn chill begins its descent southward, it's not just the crisp air that's making the rest of the country feel a little like Maine. Here, anti-establishment rebelliousness and economic populism is nothing new. This is the state where Ross Perot came in second in 1992. This year, a deep sense of alienation from Washington political representatives is polishing the independent streak, with some unexpected results.

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The Empire

Cuomo receives award at HuffPo's 'Occupy SoHo'

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Update: Photo slideshow added at the bottom.

Occupy Wall St protesters outside the awards ceremony (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

It was supposed to be a celebratory evening for Governor Andrew Cuomo. The liberal news site The Huffington Post was presenting the governor with its 2011 "Game Changer of the Year" award for his successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.

Magazine cover celebrities and newsmakers lined up for pictures on the carpet at the entrance. Glasses of champagne were handed out to hundreds on hand celebrating the governor and 99 other leaders' work on various social, political and business fronts.

During his remarks, Cuomo spoke out against the death penalty, up for a woman's right to choose, and about the inevitable future of legalized same-sex marriage "from coast to coast."

But the other 99 -- the Occupy Wall Street "99 percent" protesters who'd shown up outside -- had a different set of talking point. The crowd of about 150 was mostly young, grungy and remarkably disciplined. They made up chants decrying the governor's support for hydrofracking and refusal to extend taxes on upper income earners.

After some initial back-and-forth with the police, the protesters agreed to move their picket across the street. They were violating a permit the Huffington Post party organizers had for use of the sidewalk.

Shortly after Cuomo's remarks some mid-level celebrity in sequence and high-heels ran into the middle of the street. A gaggle of dutiful photographers followed, flashes blowing. Traffic was forced to stop for the impromptu photo shoot.

The protesters, dimly lit by the cameras, continued to protest the governor who'd already left out the back.

Check out a photo slideshow of the event after the jump.

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The Empire

Comptroller DiNapoli: budget problems ahead

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

From a new report on the state's fiscal condition released today by the Comptroller's office:

Growth in revenue collections in several major categories of taxes is slowing, and at the midpoint of the fiscal year, Personal Income Tax, sales tax, and business taxes are lagging recent projections by $400 million. If these trends continue, the state may need to adjust its revenue projections downward.

This is probably a major part of the problem. From Susanne Craig's post yesterday in the Times DealBook on Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks decreased profits:

New York, the nation’s financial hub, is bracing for the fallout. Wall Street, which accounts for 14 percent of the state’s tax revenue, is expected to lay off an additional 10,000 employees in the area by 2012, bringing total layoffs since 2008 to 32,000, according to a recent report by the New York State Comptroller.

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The Empire

Quinn continues to lead 2013 Democratic field

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wanted to just break this out from the rest of the Quinnipiac results:

Regardless of who else is running, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn continues to lead all other rivals with Democratic voters. Among all voters, when added to the equation, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly remains at the top of the heap.

At this point, though, the 2013 polls remain mostly a name recognition game:

  • Police Commissioner Ray Kelly -- 25 percent, with 17 percent of Democrats;
  • City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – 17 percent, with 22 percent of Democrats;
  • Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz – 14 percent, with 15 percent of Democrats;
  • City Comptroller John Liu – 10 percent, with 10 percent of Democrats;
  • Former City Comptroller William Thompson – 8 percent, with 9 percent of Democrats;
  • Public Advocate Bill de Blasio – 6 percent, with 7 percent of Democrats;
  • Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer – 5 percent, with 6 percent of Democrats
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The Empire

USS Bloomberg adrift in third term say NY voters

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More than half of respondents in a new Quinnipiac poll say Mayor Bloomberg has lost focus during his third term, which the mayor was able to serve thanks to a controversial overturn of city law. According to the poll, 52 percent of New York City voters polled said the mayor was adrift.

Likewise, the bump in job approval number the mayor received after the tropical storm scare earlier this summer has been erased. The mayor's post-storm job approval high was 52 percent on September 12. It's now fallen back back to near the 45 percent mark it was at on July 27, according to Quinnipiac.

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