Yesterday, New York's Democratic-run Assembly killed Mike Bloomberg's plan for $8 traffic congestion charges. Today, the New York Times reveals how the Bloomberg forces screwed up.
In Albany, the commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, expressed the mayor’s sentiments, saying: “You are either for this historic change in New York or you’re against it. And if you’re against it, you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.”
Ms. Sadik-Khan’s remarks were widely noted by Albany lawmakers, with some viewing her tone as condescending. So when it was revealed that the state police had pulled her over for speeding and improperly using her lights and sirens on her way to the Capitol, it only underscored what the legislators saw as the Bloomberg administration’s imperious attitude.
And that was just the toothless threat. Bloomberg personally donated $500,000 to Republican state senators, who narrowly run that body... shortly thereafter, the State Senate's leader endorsed the plan. Bloomberg's political advisor, fresh off the Bloomberg-for-President draft campaign (How'd that turn out?), growled about defeating anti-congestion charge pols at the ballot box.
[Sheekey has] hinted that opponents of congestion pricing would face rejection by voters in the fall elections.
“If there are people out there who aren’t helping New York City, I suppose they should fear,” Mr. Sheekey said on Monday, just hours before the Assembly rejected the measure in a closed door meeting. “It’s not the mayor they should worry about.”
I think the Bloomberg team's punching above its weight. They had to know that polls showed a solid majority of New Yorkers against the plan, and that most Democrats in the state Assembly represent the city or its environs. They'd have to face voters boiling over with rage at their new taxes, and thanks to city council term limits there's no shortage of ambitious, bored politicians who could jump in and unseat them. Bloomberg needed to convince the city that the city's roads are a distorted market, that the revenue from congestion taxes will come back to them in public transportation, etc. and etc. You can only go so far with hype and bullying.