Danny Hakim, the New York Times's Albany bureau chief, noted that the law emerged from concern that oversight of the state's more than 700 authorities has been essentially ad hoc.
Though the bill had been floating around for years, its passage was "a little bit of a surprise." Hakim said, suggesting that those voting on the bill--at about two in the morning--may not have really known what they were voting on. Now Mayor Mike Bloomberg is asking Governor David Paterson to reject the bill.
Hakim explained that Bloomberg objected to the requirement that "board members have a fiduciary responsibility to the authority they serve and also the mission of the authority as opposed to having a duty to the politician who appointed them.... He's been very clear that he expects his appointees to do what he wants them to do. The tension there is—these are supposed to be independent bodies. We do have agencies of both the city and the state government that are directly controlled by the mayor or the governor."
Guest host Andrea Bernstein followed up: "Let’s give an example of that, the MTA when they engaged in the deal to approve the Atlantic Yards development, there was a lot of question about whether they were actually getting the best deal or whether the board members were just doing what the mayor and the governor at the time wanted them to do."
As a legislator, Paterson, noted Bernstein, was a champion of transparency.
"He’s still trying to find his governing philosophy," suggested Hakim.
Citizens Union weighs in
Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union, suggested that many people supported the idea of reform but are now focused on the details. "It’s a very very good bill, but it’s not a perfect bill," he said. "Let’s be blunt. This bill was passed in the dark of night. There should’ve been more discussion on this."
Dadey agreed that it was a good thing to make sure that the authorities are less accountable to the elected officials, and that’s a good thing, "because they should be acting in the public interest... That's been a problem at times."
One genesis for reform was an effort, during the push for a West Side Stadium, to have the MTA "give away, in a fire sale to a developer, the West Side railyards."
Hakim noted that the bill's sponsors think that Bloomberg's concern is false, because the deal could be done at market value, and the city, should it want to push for such things as affordable housing, could then give the developer a grant.
Hakim predicted that the bill would be signed with the understanding that it will be amended. Dadey also predicted that there wouldn't be a veto, but the bill would be amended.