Brodsky Killed Congestion Pricing But We Hurt His Feelings

brodsky.jpgState Assembly Member Richard Brodsky is displeased by the suggestion that his opposition to New York City’s congestion pricing plan had anything to do with the fact that he has accepted more money from parking industry interests than any other State Assembly Member and that his district houses the wealthiest Manhattan car commuters in New York State.

This entire line of discussion, Brodsky says in this letter to Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Kate Slevin, represents the deterioration of of public and political discourse and "the politics of personal destruction." Brodsky believes that despite their numerous, detailed studies over the last few years, congestion pricing advocates have failed to address the substance of his objections. It’s not exactly clear what Slevin wrote that so offended Brodsky. Tri-State addresses Assembly Members’ congestion pricing falsehoods in this article.

Here is his letter to Slevin:

July 13, 2007

Ms. Kate Slevin

350 W. 31st Street, Suite 802

New York, NY 10001

Dear Ms. Slevin:

I’ve read your Statement entitled Asemblymember Brodsky and Councilmember Weprin: Fighting for the People, or for Parkings Special Interests? and after much reflection, I’m writing to you about it.

The substance of my concerns about the Mayor’s various congestion pricing proposals are set forth in the Interim Report: An Inquiry into Congestion Pricing as Proposed in PlaNYC 2030 and S.6068. The Report was the result of six weeks of analysis and careful consideration. It sets forth my deeply held concerns about the use of pricing mechanisms to distribute public goods, invasion of privacy, regressiveness, and the elimination of SEQR and public health protections, practical concerns about air quality in neighborhoods surrounding the Zone, toll offsets, and exemptions for taxicabs, and pointed out that the legislation doesn’t require the revenues to be used for capital mass transit, does not put into place mass transit improvements prior to implementation, does not contain any privacy protections, and is not a pilot program. I trust you read the Interim Report before you issued your Statement. I assume that you will offer criticism of the substance of the Report at some point, and as always, I welcome any thoughtful critique of my work and views.

Along with many other thoughtful Americans, I have watched with dismay, distress, and ultimately disgust as public and political discourse has deteriorated. What Senator Clinton has rightly called the politics of personal destruction has become commonplace. Attack on motive and character are substituted for argument about ideas and values. It’s wrong, we should not participate in it, and when we see it we should call it by its name.

In your statement, referring to me, you say, "While these legislators paint themselves as populists representing middle and low-income New Yorkers, the money trail clearly leads back to the parking lobby."

You may actually believe that the Report and my concerns are motivated by my desire to please the parking lobby, that I’m Fighting… for Parking’s Special Interests and Pandering To The Priviliged, that its arguments are intended to satisfy campaign contributors, and that my stated concerns are hypocrisy or at least not genuinely reflective of my views. I almost would prefer that you did so believe. Whatever revulsion I feel about such false and malicious personal attacks, it would be truly intolerable if you didn’t believe it, and were saying so for some other reason.

I think it would be helpful to remind you that when I was leading the efforts to stop the Mayor’s proposal for the West Side Stadium, or when I authored and led the successful fight for the Transportation Bond Act, or when I authored the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Fund, investigated wrongdoing at the MTA and the Hudson River Park Trust, protected private bus operations when the Mayor and the MTA were seeking to reduce them, led the successful fight for clean buses for the MTA… well, I could go on. When I was doing these things, when I introduced legislation against congestion pricing in 1995, there was a sense that I was committed to a vision of the public interest, and said what I believed to be in the public interest even when it was not popular or well received by the powerful and influential. I suppose it is possible that all of that has changed. But, although it is somewhat awkward and a bit self-serving, I can assure you that it hasn’t changed, that I remain consistent in my concerns and my willingness to serve the public interest as I understand it, that I believe the Report reaches intelligent and valuable conclusions, and that I haven’t yet heard otherwise from Transportation Alternatives.

If we are to consider sources of financial support as relevant to why we take the positions we take, perhaps all of us would benefit from a review of our funding sources. I raised over $2 million during recent years, largely from progressive sources, but including friends who had a variety of business interests. During the same time, the Mayor, to his enormous credit, has given huge sums of money to organizations, some of which support his congestion pricing plan. Although I am not familiar with how Transportation Alternatives funds its activities on behalf of legislation it is supporting, I would be surprised if you were not supported by folks who have business interests in the City, or with respect to the use of bicycles, or other kinds of alternative transportation. And I believe that the Mayor, and your supporters are sincere and honest in their advocacy, business activities, and support, and should continue that support. Unlike Transportation Alternatives, I would not dream of suggesting that the Mayor, you or they were anything but sincere in the positions you take.

I have written to you partially to correct the public record about your attack on me. But I mourn for a climate of public discourse which fosters attack on motives, and trashes opponents no matter what their record or the seriousness of their policy concerns. And I truly feel it will be helpful if such attacks are challenged not just because they are inaccurate, but because they disserve all of us who participate in public life. Perhaps your statement illuminates more about Transportation Alternatives than it does about me.

At any rate, I will persist in my concerns that we reject pricing mechanisms for the purpose of social control, that we do not put loopholes in SEQR, that we protect air quality and public health, that we fund mass transit capital projects, that we deal with congestion effectively, and that we be able to take public positions without vilification.

Best Wishes,

Richard Brodsky