Friday, April 01, 2005

Off to Court

Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Doctoroff, Jets owner Woody Johnson, and Governor Pataki got what they wanted yesterday: the MTA board unanimously approved the Jets bid for the Far West Side site.

No surprise here. The rubber members of the MTA board have rubberstamped what the big boys wanted. But three non-voting members of the board expressed their disapproval of the vote, saying essentially that the MTA board had violated the trust of New Yorkers by selecting the inferior bid and accepting millions less for the site than it is worth. This argument is potentially damaging to the Jets stadium deal because the MTA needs an infusion of millions in cash for capital improvements and repair projects over the next five years. The need is so dire that legislators have been planning a slight increase in the sales tax to fund some MTA projects. So if it appears tha the MTA accepted less money for the site than it is truly worth, the deal could be held up in court.

And now the process will be going from the backroom offices of Deputy Dan and Mayor Moneybags straight into the courts. Both Cablevision and the Straphangers Campaign (a transit riders public interest group) plan to challenge the MTA decision in court. Between the court challenges and the need for the approval of the Public Authorities Control Board (a Pataki aide, State Senate leader Joe Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver), the Jets have plenty more obstacles to hurdle before the final "TOUCHDOWN" headlines are written in the tabloids. The Mayor, flush with victory yesterday at his press conference, knows this. You can expect to see more union "jobs" demonstrations, more rallies with local minority politicians, and many more commercials trying to sell this stadium to an unconvinced public.

The one irony in all of this shameless behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing is how such devout free-market capitalists like Bloomberg, Doctoroff, and Woody Johnson only agree to free market bidding when it suits their purposes. When a true free market bidding process threatens their sweetheart real estate deals, then they rig it like Tammany Hall bagmen of olden days and create their own monopoly.

Funny thing that. The mayor and many other Republican education reformers are always decrying the monopoly that the public school system and teacher's unions have over American education. They push the Charter School Movement and vouchers as ways to add some "free-market accountability" into the mix. And yet when faced with their own "free-market accountability" moment during the Far West Side bidding process, they threatened potential real estate bidders, stacked the voting board with a bunch of rubberstamps, and chose cronyism and personal profit over their cherished free-market values.

Thankfully, what George W. Bush calls "the accountability moment" is coming up soon for Mayor Bloomberg. The election of '05 is the time to pay him back for choosing his real estate and banker buddies and his own ego over the citizens and schoolchildren of New York City.

Let's send this self-anointed "reformer" on a permanent Bermuda vacation (where he usually spends his weekends). What the hell. Maybe they need some of Bloomberg's brand of "reform" (i.e., cronyism) there.

Or maybe their in the market for a new, over-proced sports stadium.

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