11/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

MTA Accountability

New York Governor Paterson has a great opportunity to make the Metropolitan Transportation Authority -- which runs the city's subways, buses and commuter lines more accountable to the public.

A bill passed the state legislature in July which would reform New York State's public authorities. It's sponsored by New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) and State Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) and will soon be sent to the Governor.

It is the best chance in a generation to make the authorities -- like the MTA -- more transparent and efficient. Many of these authorities have the same accountability issues as the MTA. The bill -- A. 2209/S. 1537 -- can be found by clicking on this link

The legislation would create a new Independent Authority Budget Office. It would closely monitor the finances of the authorities and work to see that taxpayer dollars are fairly and smartly spent. The bill also subjects authority contracts to greater scrutiny

The other day, eight leading civic groups sent the following letter to Gov. Paterson in support of the legislation. Let's hope he listens.


September 16, 2009

Hon. David Paterson
Executive Chambers
State Capitol
Albany, New York 12224

Letter in Support: S. 1537/A. 2209

Dear Governor Paterson:

We write to underscore our support for legislation that would make public authorities more accountable, transparent and efficient.

The legislation would create an Independent Authorities Budget Office responsible for monitoring and reporting on the State's "public benefit corporations." The agency would be housed in the New York State Department of State and you would appoint the IABO's director to a four-year term.

In our view, the bill will serve to make public authorities more credible and efficient. A similar agency in New York City (the Independent Budget Office) has helped hold City government accountable. In many cases, when it has agreed with the City, the agency has enhanced the City's credibility.

The New York Times and Newsday have endorsed the legislation. On their editorial page, the Times wrote: "The bill would establish an independent authorities budget office with plenty of muscle to investigate, including subpoena power. And authority contracts ...would go through the state comptroller's office for review. Perhaps even more important, board members at these entities would have a new fiduciary duty to protect the authority's bottom line, just like board members in most private corporations. Governor Paterson supported these reforms as a legislator. He now should make them happen."

The bill passed both houses on a bi-partisan basis: June 17th in the State Assembly by a vote of 140 to 0 and in the State Senate on July 16th by a vote of 39 to 18.

We understand that your office has raised a number of fair questions about the language and impact of the bill. Our groups are hopeful that these can be resolved keeping the basic goals of the bill intact.

We appreciate your listening to our views.

Sincerely yours,

Ruth E. Acker Gene Russianoff
President Senior Attorney
Women's City Club of New York NYPIRG/Straphangers Campaign
307 Seventh Avenue, Suite 1403 9 Murray Street
New York, NY 10001 New York, New York 10007
(212) 477-4833 (212) 349-6460

Rich Kassell Kate Slevin
Senior Attorney Executive Director
Natural Resources Defense Council Tri-State Transportation Campaign
40 West 20th Street 350 West 31st Street
New York, New York 10011 New York, New York 10001
(212) 727-2700 (212) 268-7474

Paul Steely White Barbara Robinson
Executive Director Vice President/Issues and Advocacy
Transportation Alternatives New York State League of Women Voters
27 West 26th Street, Suite 1002 62 Grand Street
New York, New York 10001 Albany, New York 12207
(212) 629-8080 (518) 465-0812

Susan Lerner Mary Barber
Executive Director Director, Living Cities Program
Common Cause/NY Environmental Defense Fund
74 Trinity Place Suite 901 257 Park Avenue South
New York, New York 10006 New York, New York 10006
(212) 691-6421 (212) 505-2100