Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bill de Blasio Gets His Transit Black Mark

NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio joins Comptroller John Liu in getting a transit issue black mark. De Blasio earns his by demonstrating he is completely in the tank for taxi medallion owners by filling an amicus brief on behalf of the medallion owners in the lawsuit to stop the borough taxi plan. I thought the Public Advocate was supposed to speak up for the people of New York City. Instead, like just about every other major NYC politician, he's thrown his lot in with the powerful and wealthy medallion cartel.

Unlike what de Blasio et all will tell you, the vast majority of medallions are owned by a very small number of individuals. Drivers don't generally own their medallions, and the number of mom and pop medallion owners are a tiny portion of the ownership pie compared with the vast taxi empires of the big owners. So why does the Public Advocate, especially a progressive one like de Blasio, feel the need to advocate for the few that have prospered enormously under the old status quo? Is it because the medallion owners are major campaign contributors in city politics?

Moreover, as followers of the taxi debates should recognize, the medallion owners and drivers really shouldn't care about the borough taxi plan. After all 97% of legal street hails are in Manhattan below 96th street. Despite what they say about fighting to preserve a system that is working, the effective outcome should their lawsuit prove successful would be to keep upper Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and The Bronx deprived of legal street hail taxi service. They never give a satisfactory answer on expanding service to these areas except that if only illegal black car street hails were cracked down on, taxi service would flourish in the far reaches of the city, which is frankly preposterous.

The old status quo created artificial scarcity for medallions, which drove the price of medallions through the roof, and legal street hail service to the 80% of New Yorkers living outside Manhattan. The borough taxi plan alleviates that scarcity. Government should not exist to preserve rent seeking behavior. When the City Council was bought and paid for by the taxi lobby to preserve the wealth of rent seekers on the backs of ordinary New Yorkers and drivers, Mayor Bloomberg rightly went to Albany to get the law changed. Despite bitter opposition from an entrenched special interest, the law was passed, and like opponents of the ACA, they've gone to the least democratic branch of government to get it overturned. De Blasio's hollow accusations of anti-democratic behavior on the part of the Mayor in this case is absurd on face.

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