Tag Archive: NY/NJ Port Authority

News Roundup and Open Thread for Thursday, August 13, 2015

It’s looking grim for Christie in New Hampshire: In Boston Herald’s new NH poll, the first since the Fox show, Christie sunk to a tie for 10th place (3%). In the previous average of five polls from Real Clear Politics, he had been 5th (6.5%). His PAC has poured money into one race only, New Hampshire, where he has spent the most time and where a win or near-win is essential.

PolitickerNJ writes about the relationship between Gov. John Kasich and Christie who have been friends, but points out that Kasich “is moving up in NH polls and has the most impressive team of endorsements in the state.” Newcomer Kasich ranked third in the latest NH poll in comparison with Christie at 10th. That’s tough for Christie as both are ideologically similar.

Adding in the first national poll from Rasmussen after the Fox debate: Real Clear Politics in its average of five polls has Christie still in 9th position.

Clinton vs. Sanders: In the Boston Herald poll mentioned above Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton by 7 points in New Hampshire. Sanders has been a breath of fresh air: forthright, forthcoming, clear, and passionate on important issues.

At yesterday’s Energy Master Plan Public Hearing NJ Spotlight writes: “The state’s energy policies are working just fine, according to the Christie administration. However, numerous critics said the state depends too much on fossil fuels to meet energy demands, falls short in promoting renewable energy, and does too little to curb energy use.” More protest is needed. The next public hearing is today in Room 11 in the Statehouse in Trenton, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

More about the AC rescue package, grandstanding on a new tunnel, and NJ public employee unions below the fold.

Avalanche of PA subpoenas provide breadth of investigations and hope for change

The NY/NJ Port Authority (PA), once held in the highest esteem nationally, has post-Bridgegate suffered a severe blow to its reputation. In its “Preliminary Official Statement” of bond offerings (page I-4), it disclosed the huge number of subpoenas it has received. The subpoenas open a window into a broad investigation of PA-related activities. Those issuing the subpoenas include the NJ U. S. Attorney, County of NY District Attorney, Securities and Exchange Commission, NJ Select Committee on Investigations, and NJ  State Ethics Commission. Issuance of any one  subpoena does necessarily result in a criminal charge. However, the breadth of such an unprecedented number of requests is a harbinger of changes to come. PA Chair John Degnan discusses some of these changes and other matters on this weekend’s NJTV “On the Record.”

Time for change: NY/NJ Port Authority’s reach has exceeded its grasp

     

The NY/NJ Port Authority Commissioners have a scheduled meeting today. Let’s remember the PA was established to serve bi-state transportation needs. Over the years it ventured into expensive real estate and give-aways to both governors (including a recent $900 million multi-year slush fund for them) which jeopardize its core transportation mission. Its reach has exceeded its grasp. The result has been dilapidated tunnels, bus terminals, ports, bridges, and airports. It now faces the urgent need to make major investments in the Gateway tunnel, Midtown Bus Terminal and other aging infrastructure.

As the Record explains after an interview with Board Chair John Degnan:

“More money could be freed up by selling or leasing some of the Port Authority’s land, buildings and air rights to private developers,” Degnan said. Much of that money could come from the World Trade Center, but such an arrangement would be complex because many of the bonds sold to pay for the construction are backed by revenue from the Port Authority’s other facilities, including bridge tolls and airport fees.

It is normal for corporations to consolidate their revenue streams in order to be more attractive to bond purchasers. However, the PA is not just any corporation. It has an overarching responsibility to users of its transportation services. Its real estate arm includes some fallow properties (including air rights) which generate no income and most importantly the World Trade Center which devours cash. Last year Estimated Gross Revenue from its Bridges, Tunnels, and Terminals was $1.4 billion (page 60) and its expenses were $439 million (Page 64), so the surplus became available for whatever use the PA wanted. It is not wise that tolls for bridges and tunnels which have increased in the past few years from $7 to a scheduled $15 this december be diverted to subsidize real estate ventures and demands from PA’s uber-bosses (the two governors.)

The needs, particularly for the Gateway Tunnel and the Midtown bus Terminal, are within the PA’s grasp. By divesting itself of real estate and returning to its core mission the funds are are there. Combined with state and federal monies, there is a path that can assure its infrastructure, some of which is over 100 years old, will be rebuilt or replaced to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs.  

Sen. Sweeney maneuvers from Pinelands to Gateway Tunnel

Senator Steve Sweeney is a mercurial man who is not adverse to changing his position on a matter nor to taking a non-progressive stance on an issue one day and a progressive stance on another issue the next day. He was against marriage equality until he was in favor of it. He had opposed limiting gun magazine round legislation, but later supported the bill. He urged pension/benefit overhaul in 2011 and now opposes overhaul until the governor makes “a good faith effort” to fully fund the pension system. He supports progressive ideals except when he does not. His changes are not dissimilar to those of some other legislators, but they are significant because he has the power of the senate president and is a likely gubernatorial candidate.

On environmental issues he has sometimes been supportive. However, yesterday he cast a deciding vote blow against protecting the Pinelands. Gov. Christie had earlier failed to reappoint a commissioner who opposed the construction of a 20-mile gas pipeline through this protected area. Instead Christie who wants the pipeline built nominated Robert Barr as a new commissioner. Against loud protests from environmentalists, and only after an initial vote failed, Sweeney swung his support in favor of Mr. Barr who then won confirmation.

 

NY/NJ Port Authority: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”

The NY/NJ Port Authority, with considerably less authority now than eight months ago, is being pricked at by multiple assailants. Like a monarchy fearing the loss of its throne the Port Authority may view this as a “rude assault” but “little pin bores through the castle wall” signal that after years of “self and vain conceit” it is no longer impregnable. This three-headed monarchy has already found its chairman David Samson slipping away into the night (and likely into infamy). Its most aggressive ruler Chris Christie, like the vain, greedy and villainous King Richard II, must be realizing that within his “hollow crown keeps Death his court and there the antic sits, scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp, allowing him a breath, a little scene to monarchize.”

Tomorrow the Senate Judiciary Committee will review Gov. Christie’s nomination of John J. Degnan, a wealthy former NJ Attorney General and senior executive with the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, to be Chairman of the Port Authority. Unfortunately Degnan brings no experience in the PA’s line of business. He appears to have been helpful to Christie in providing him political cover after the governor failed to renominate Supreme Court Justice John Wallace, and he joined the Christie gun violence commission that reported back supporting only the “low hanging fruit” which Christie espoused. What the PA needs is a New Jerseyan more familiar with its business and less involved with the governor’s politics.

Our Budget Crater: PLAN C

The two-year shortfall of $ 2 to 3 billion that our government is facing represents a significant gash in our budgets and not something that can be repaired by moving expenses from one year to the next nor other forms of short-term gimmicks. Christie has presented his Plan A, he claims to have no other plan, and he is no rush to suggest alternatives. The burden is on the Legislature to do so. Others have proposed Plan B which often consists of a millionaire’s tax, or a gas tax, or cutting state subsidies, etc. Any one one or two of these plans, however, is insufficient to meet the challenge.  We need a Plan C.