2004-12-30 / Political Page

I on politics

By John Toscano


Nolan’s Veto Derails MTA’s 5-Year Capital Spending Plan

As the year 2004 draws to a close, the imperious Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has ignored repeated requests for information from the City Council and, if it had its way, would hold only one public hearing on its budget issue, now finds itself without an approved five-year capital plan covering 2005 forward.

The MTA has only two days to try to get a plan approved. This would seem to be difficult, since a longstanding MTA nemesis, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, vetoed the proposed MTA budget last Wednesday.

Nolan (D–Ridgewood) was appointed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to the MTA Capital Program Review Board. Other members are appointed by the governor, the New York City mayor and the state senate majority leader.

All four must vote “yes” on the budget in order for it to pass. Last Wednesday, Nolan threw a monkey wrench into the transportation agency works by voting “no.”

It’s not the first time Nolan has upset the powerful agency’s plans. But this time, her opposition comes as the MTA, despite recently sticking the riding public with the second fare increase in two years, appears to be wandering around in a fog, trying to figure out how to run the subways and commuter train lines and still plan for future developments such as the Second Avenue Subway and Long Island Rail Road access to Grand Central Station on Manhattan’s East Side.

In a letter to the MTA, Nolan said her “no” vote on the five-year plan would stand until there was a full and formal review of the proposed capital plan.

The feisty, veteran lawmaker stated: “Since the state will face many tough fiscal decisions in the coming months, it is prudent to make these tough decisions only after reviewing the state spending plans as a whole and conducting budget hearings on the proposed [MTA] spending.”

Another CPRB member, state Senator Dean Skelos (R–Long Island) through a spokesman put in his two cents, too: “I hope the MTA is going to hear loud and clear the message and take this as an opportunity to restart the process and engage the legislature—at least the members of the CPRB—to put together a realistic plan that can gain support.”

The MTA, which usually acts unilaterally, was in effect given a message by Nolan’s veto to go back to the drawing board, get its act together and give the CPRB, that is the governor, the mayor, the Assembly and the state senate some straight answers before any trains pull out of the station.

MONSERRATE GIVES, TOO: Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D–Corona) will celebrate his fourth annual Three Kings Day Celebration by distributing 2,000 toys to children from Jackson Heights, Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and the greater Queens community next Thursday, January 6.

Three Kings Day (Dia de los Reyes), Monserrate explains, is the largest holiday celebrated throughout South and Central America. It’s a Christian celebration that commemorates the Biblical story of the three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ child. Monserrate said he invites children from all ethnic backgrounds to attend.

The celebration will be held January 6 at the Florence E. Smith Center, 102-19 34th Ave., Corona from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monserrate will be assisted by the New York Naval Military Youth Cadets, the Latino Action Center and The Trinity Tribune.

BLOOMY’S GOP CHALLENGER: Steve Shaw, a Manhattan investment banker, says he’s planning to challenge Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Republican mayoral primary next year. Shaw, 30, says he doesn’t have much money to face off with the billionaire mayor, but he does have a Web site and the conviction that the campaign is a “winnable election.” The hopeful, who’s from Brooklyn, reasons he can attract Republican votes because, “If you are a Republican voter you want to support the people who believe in what you do.”

GOTBAUM FOE: Another citywide incumbent, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, may also be facing a challenge if, as expected, she runs for re-election. Unlike the mayor, who knows nothing about Steve Shaw, Gotbaum is well acquainted with her announced challenger, Norman Siegel, because she defeated him and several others in the 2001 Democratic primary.

Siegel, well known as the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said he’d be a “natural” for the $150,000-a-year post as the city’s ombudsman, handling complaints about and being a watchdog over the city government. The election is for a four-year term.

RATING PARTY LOYALTY: According to the highly regarded Congressional Quarterly magazine, United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congressmember Anthony Weiner voted most often with the Democratic delegation in their respective houses last year.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who is New York’s senior Senator, wasn’t far behind the former First Lady. Clinton had a 96 percent rating, Schumer a 91 percent rating.

Weiner (Queens/Brooklyn) had a 99 percent pro-Democratic record. The mayoral hopeful opposed President George W. Bush almost 70 percent of the time, CQ said.

The other members of the all-Democrat city delegation weren’t far behind Weiner in their voting records. Congressmember Steve Israel of Long Island often deserted his Dem colleagues in the statewide delegation, but still racked up a 92 percent loyalty rating.

Meanwhile, Schumer earned a 96 percent rating for his voting record on environmental issues, as listed in the 2004 National Environmental Scorecard, published by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). An LCV official said Schumer has “continued to advocate for stronger laws against polluters and raising money for public transportation” in New York state.

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