By Frank Vernuccio
One of the most infuriating traits of government officials, both those appointed and those elected, is the absolute refusal to admit making a mistake, or owning up to wrongdoing.
Originally posted in the New York Analysis of Policy & Government newsletter
Sometimes, it is illustrative to see this on a purely local level, rather than on a nationwide scale. Nowhere is this more clear than in the traffic patterns of New York City, and especially in the Throgs Neck community, a quiet semi-suburban area.
For over half decade, local community groups continuously warned city officials that the new shopping centers and other developments being planned would produce a dramatic increase in traffic.
Those warnings were ignored. Indeed, even without the input of community boards, local associations, and individual citizens, which were numerous, those charged with overseeing transportation and planning should have made plans to address the matter. Local groups were diligent in discussing the matter, and bringing it to the attention of appropriate officials. But the City’s bureaucrats were apparently asleep for at least five years.
Certainly, the areas’ local officials—all Democrats, in one of the most Democrat-heavy states in America, and in a city totally dominated by the Democrat Party—had the clout and power to address the challenge. The local representative to the city government actually served as chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee. The region’s state senator was one of the most powerful men in the state capital. The local Congressman serves as chair of the House Democrat Caucus.
Local residents have been burdened by the enormous increase in local traffic. On certain hours, local roads in what was once a quiet, semi-suburban neighborhood, the congestion is similar to that seen in the main business district of Manhattan.
When finally called to explain their negligence before community organizations, the City’s asleep-at-the switch personnel responded in an arrogant and dismissive manner.
The situation is actually far worse than negligence or incompetence. In what has all the earmarks of a revenge hit for the criticism belatedly levied at them, the City’s bureaucrats emplaced a new traffic pattern on an important local roadway that is manifestly dangerous. Once again, when the plan was presented to the community, the deadly traffic pattern was widely condemned. The bureaucrats and the elected officials, however, ignored the very citizens who pay their salaries, and went ahead with their viciously incompetent plan.
Throughout the entire phase of planning for the new commerce centers, those who should have been protecting the interests of the area’s residents accomplished nothing. Some of the conversations, which included area elected officials as well as appointees of both the current and prior mayoral administrations, were absolutely surreal. The former mayor’s bizarre traffic commissioner, infamous for clearing off bike lanes before roads in a major snowstorm, responded to one such inquiry by stating that bicycle lanes would be developed.The bicycle lane mania is an excellent example of the arrogant attitude city leaders in many states have towards commuters. At a time when traffic is over-congested and public transportation is clearly inadequate, these lanes exacerbate an already bad situation.
Incompetence in traffic planning is nothing new to New York City. One reason that the metropolis’ streets are so clogged is the lack of freight-carrying rail lines, a problem the local transportation commission, the Port Authority, was long-ago formed to address. In the nearly one hundred years since its inception, nothing viable to address the freight issue has been done. NYC still has less freight rail access than it did in the past. One major freight line has actually been turned into a public park.
Similarly, expanding the city’s public transportation system has been largely overlooked.
Rather than solve problems, city and state officials seem to concentrate only on penalizing those desperately trying to navigate the region. Rather than respond to the need for expanded public transportation access from the boroughs to Manhattan, much discussion centers on levying new or higher tolls.
On that note, beware of the new “stopless” toll technology now being emplaced in many parts of the United States. It won’t be long before that concept is used to place new and higher tolls everywhere. Commuters see congestion as a problem to be solved; politicians, elected and appointed, see congestion as a way to wrench ever-increasing tolls from them.
Negligent bureaucrats and arrogant elected officials frequently claim the infrastructure problems are too expensive or difficult to resolve. Nonsense. There are numerous cost-effective approaches. However, the funds that should have financed them, and used to repair America’s decaying bridges and roads, were diverted by the Obama Administration to political allies who, in many cases, simply took the money and accomplished nothing, Solyndra being a prime example.
While addressing actual infrastructure and traffic problems is the heart of the matter, exposing and punishing the negligence and arrogance of the nation’s elected leaders, particularly those from the prior White House Administration, is a necessary first step. The over $800 billion that was spent by President Obama, which produced no appreciable gain for the American people, constitutes the greatest case of governmental malfeasance in history. The nation’s taxpayers deserve restitution—and justice.
Editor’s Note. Northern Virginians should recognize that residents of other locales face similar transportation issues: elected officials and transportation bureaucrats who are sometimes unresponsive, the building of (and payment for) bike lanes that increase already over-congested roads, and the introduction of “stopless” tolls that add to the financial burden of living this ares. The time has come for local citizens, whether in Northern Virginia, New York City, or elsewhere, to demand cost-effective transportation solutions and to press local officials to reject spending of money on projects that don’t address the most critical infrastructure problems.