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Posts from the "Michael Bloomberg" Category

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Bloomberg and Dems Blast Congressional Plan to Let Guns on Amtrak

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg teamed up with two Democratic members of Congress yesterday to blast the Senate for its vote in favor of forcing Amtrak to allow guns and ammunition in passengers' checked baggage.

350.0.1.0.16777215.0.stories.large.2009.09.20.McCarthy.jpgNew York City Mayor Bloomberg, far left, with members of Congress at yesterday's press conference. (Photo: Epoch Times)

Bloomberg, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) were joined by the Democratic mayors of Philadelphia, Jersey City, and Trenton at a Penn Station press conference intended to spotlight Republican senators' successful bid to deny Amtrak any U.S. DOT funds next year unless the train network accepts firearms in baggage.

Local reporters found Bloomberg unabashedly critical of the Senate GOP's move:

“If anyone in Congress thinks the threat of terrorist attacks on trains have gone away, they are mistaken,” the mayor said. Bloomberg said that the Amtrak security was already pretty lax, and if the new bill passes, there wouldn’t be anything keeping someone from carrying multiple assault weapons in their baggage.

“And the American people will blame the Senate if a terrorist attack does occur,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the second amendment and the right to bear arms, but everything to do with keeping passengers safe.”

The Amtrak amendment is not the first time this summer that Bloomberg, who is running for a third term this fall on the GOP and Independent tickets, has leapt to Democrats' defense on the issue of gun possession. The mayor helped mobilize opposition to a July amendment from Sen. John Thune (D-SD) that would have relaxed rules governing the transport of concealed weapons across state lines.

Nor is yesterday's press conference the first gauntlet thrown over the Amtrak amendment, which would force the train network to significantly strengthen its security screening process without providing any federal aid to help with such a move.

On Thursday a gun-rights group in Washington state accused Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) of showing "bigotry" against gun owners by voting against the amendment -- a charge aimed at pressuring Democrats into keeping the provision in the final version of the 2010 U.S. DOT spending bill.

The final word may not come until next month at the earliest, when negotiators from the Senate and House, which did not take up the guns-on-Amtrak question, will unveil the merged version of their two chambers' transportation bills.

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Money or Nothing

Building America's Future is a kind of DreamWorks for the infrastructure set.

It's an organization put together by Govs. Ed Rendell (D-PA) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- men strongly committed to the idea that infrastructure investment is of critical importance for a nation's economic health, and should enjoy bipartisan support. A timely mission, given the deteriorating state of the country's infrastructure and economy, and the new threats posed by rising energy costs and global climate change.

The critical nature of the challenge was at front and center in a discussion held yesterday, co-hosted by BAF and the National Governors Association and featuring former legislators Dick Gephardt and Newt Gingrich as guest speakers.

Rendell and Bloomberg opened the session with a typical call to arms -- saying, simply, that we can wait no longer to act and invest boldly. Gephardt and Gingrich, by contrast, focused almost exclusively on the biggest challenge, and in many ways, the only one that matters: money, money, and money.

Both men are convinced that Americans can be persuaded to pay more for infrastructure investments provided that a few conditions are met. Namely, they'd need to be able to see progress (and quickly) and they'd have to feel confident that money wasn't being wasted through incompetence or political chicanery. The hard part is understanding how to get the government to satisfy these conditions.

The two men recommend simple (sounding) steps. The government should use a capital budget apart from the annual budget process (as do corporations), so that investments aren't counted in the same way as normal expenses. Mega-projects should be on the agenda -- surprisingly, to me at least, this came directly from arch-conservative Gingrich.

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Want a Clean Bill of Health for the MTA? Call Obama.

Former MTA CEO Lee Sander spent the last two-and-a-half years doing his best to make the MTA a transparent, accountable public agency, and in doing so restore its reputation. He let the sunshine in, but was unable to undo the damage to the agency's image caused by years of attacks from transit advocates, unions and politicians.

In politics, reputation matters. The scapegoating of the MTA has undermined the political case for transit funding and given cover to the hypocrites in Albany who blame the MTA, instead of themselves, for the agency's funding woes. Looking forward, it is critical that the MTA burnish its reputation as an effective and accountable public agency and excellent investment for public funds. There are many political forces that benefit from keeping the MTA as a scapegoat, its reputation besmirched. So, a clean bill of health for the MTA requires an unimpeachable, politically formidable force far above the gutter of the New York political fray. How about President Obama?

The president has spent enormous energy restoring public confidence in the banking system. A key part of his efforts has been the Treasury Department’s careful scrutiny of bank management and finances. Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson should ask President Obama to help restore public confidence in the MTA by ordering the Federal Transit Administration to send in a team of management, finance and policy experts. The MTA receives millions in federal support and the U.S. government has a strong interest in seeing that money well spent. The FTA team would definitively and publicly assess the state of the MTA, detailing both its good and bad management practices while clarifying and vetting agency finances.

Most transit experts believe the MTA is a relatively well run public agency which compares favorably with other big American and foreign transit systems. The agency’s biggest problem is that the state and city have spent the last two decades reducing their financial support, loading the agency with debt, and making it overly dependent on volatile, cyclical funding like the mortgage recording tax. The FTA's assessment would bring these facts to the fore and lay the political groundwork for a stronger case for transit funding.

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Bloomberg to Obama: Stimulus Aid Should Go Directly to Cities

obama_bloomberg.jpgA face-to-face back in April. Photo: Scoop08.
Yesterday the President-elect unveiled the broad strokes of his economic recovery plan at a DC press event, and Mayor Bloomberg was there to give his response. Bloomberg's message is critical for the prospects of green transportation in the upcoming stimulus package. Here's the abbreviated version via Liz Benjamin at the Daily Politics:

I have made the case to his incoming administration that a lot of the resources have to go directly to the cities, which is where these projects will get managed and built.

We've said it before and it definitely bears repeating: This is a big opportunity and Obama can't afford to blow it. If his team is serious about its sustainability goals -- and by most accounts the energy portion of the plan is legit -- they'll heed Bloomberg. Directing transportation funds to cities is one of the most effective ways to support transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure. The bigger the share cities get, the better. But that's not what one of the key players, House Appropriations Chair David Obey, has in mind:

Yesterday, Congressman David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, stated on National Public Radio that stimulus funding directed towards transportation infrastructure will be allocated directly to states to determine how best to use the American tax dollars.

That's a recipe for disaster -- funneling tens of billions of dollars to highway-builders while starving the agencies that do the most to give people better transportation choices and more livable neighborhoods. On the campaign trail, candidate Obama promised he would talk about cities once in office. Now the inauguration is less than two weeks away. I don't think it's too early to say: "Let's hear it."

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Plan B: Reallocating Street Space To Buses, Bikes & Peds

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In a piece from the March issue of Outside Magazine that seems especially relevant today, Tim Sohn writes about public space reform in New York City. His article is accompanied by an illustration of what the future of our city could look like: complete streets with dedicated bus and bike lanes, traffic calming gardens, and sidewalks wide enough to accommodate window shoppers without slowing pedestrian traffic -- none of which would depend on Albany for approval.

Recently, a New Yorker (let's call him Tim) was forced off a sidewalk by a double-wide stroller, a large dog, and an elderly pedestrian all traveling abreast. So he shimmied between parked cars, nearly collided with a bike messenger going the wrong way up a one-way street, and walked through the exhaust-choked margin of the avenue while fantasizing about a future in which New York City's clogged streets are reconfigured in favor of pedestrians and cyclists. A pipe dream? Nope, and you can thank advocacy/watchdog group Transportation Alternatives. New York is a walker's city, but its streets, which represent 85 percent of its public space, are monopolized by the fume-spewing, driving minority.

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Obama Endorses Pricing as “Thoughtful and Innovative”

bloobama.jpgLast month Barack Obama released details of a vaguely encouraging transportation platform, pledging investment in rail and "livable communities." Today the Democratic presidential candidate endorsed congestion pricing.

In town for a speech and fundraising events, Obama was introduced at Cooper Union by Mayor Bloomberg this morning.

WNYC reports:

Speaking not far from Wall Street, Barack Obama told a Manhattan audience that the US needs better oversight of national financial markets, help for financially stressed homeowners and an additional $30 billion stimulus package.

REPORTER: Later, in an exclusive interview with WNYC, Senator Obama said he supports congestion pricing.

OBAMA: I think Mayor Bloomberg's proposal for congestion pricing is a thoughtful and innovative approach to the problem.

REPORTER: Obama said congestion pricing should not replace federal funding of mass transit.

Maybe this will take some more air out of the right-wing conspiracy theory, propagated most vocally by Congressman Anthony Weiner.

In the interest of equal time (sort of), Bill Clinton has also expressed approval for pricing -- and cycling.

Photo: AP

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Details of the Mayor’s Residential Parking Permit Proposal

RPP_signs.jpgPotential residential parking permit stickers, curbside regulations, and David Yassky.

Here are some more details about the residential parking permit program proposed today by Mayor Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan:

  • A residential parking permit (RPP) plan will be included in the congestion pricing legislation that will be introduced in the City Council and State Legislature.
  • Though details still need to be worked out by the legislators, neighborhoods and Community Boards will have the choice to opt in to the program and propose their own curbside regulations and zone boundaries. Borough Presidents, Council members and DOT will also be involved in the process. "Community Boards will make the determinations and balance the various interests to form the most reasonable plan," DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan said.
  • The proposed community-driven process would look something like this, according the Mayor's press release: "Beginning in the fall of 2008, residents can petition for the establishment of an RPP zone in their neighborhood by submitting a request to their Community Board on a form that will be available on the DOT web-site. The Community Board will then be required to hold a public meeting. The Community Board's approved plan will be submitted to the Borough President and the local City Council member, who will both be required to approve the plan before it is implemented."
  • Curbside regulations will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood but would likely be limited to very specific times and places. So, for example, if a neighborhood is worried that they'll become a park-and-ride location, only vehicles with permits would be allowed to park during a specific period of time during morning rush hour. For example:
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  • The RPP program will specifically be aimed at discouraging park-and-ride activity and to help residents secure parking in "neighborhoods that face pressure from large facilities like sports arenas," Bloomberg said.
  • There could be "a small fee" for permits to help cover the administrative costs of running the program but the Mayor said that would be up to the legislators. "With oil at $108 a barrel and gasoline approaching $4 a gallon, $10 a year for parking isn't going to make that much of a difference to most people who can afford to have a car in the first place," Bloomberg said.
  • New York City's RPP plan is being modeled on successful programs up and running in Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and London.
  • The RPP program will not go forward if congestion pricing is not passed.

The Mayor's full press release can be found after the jump:

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Resolved: More Driving for Teachers, Less for Everyone Else

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Another DOE employee not abusing a parking placard, courtesy Uncivil Servants

Following United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten's "deeply troubling" letter to Mayor Bloomberg earlier this month protesting the city's directive to reduce parking placard issues by 20 percent, this week UFT chapter leaders and delegates approved a resolution not only demanding an exemption from placard reform, but calling on the city to increase the number of placards and parking spots reserved for motoring teachers.

This in and of itself is not terribly surprising, except that in December UFT members passed another resolution condemning America's avaricious consumption of fossil fuels, dependence on foreign oil, lack of interest in alternative energy, and production of greenhouse gases.

Hmm... where have we seen this before?

Here are the two rezos in their entirety, first from December:

Resolution on Protecting the Environment -- Reducing Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Whereas, it is a well established scientific fact that greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming, resulting in great dangers to our environment; and...

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Bloomberg Touches on Safe Streets, Pricing in State of the City

bloomberg.jpgMayor Bloomberg delivered his seventh State of the City Address yesterday morning at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The speech had several nuggets of news and info related to livable streets issues.

Touting the good news from 2007, the Mayor noted that New York City's streets are getting safer:

In 2007, we made the safest big city in the nation safer than it has been in generations. The fewest traffic deaths in nearly a century. Historic lows in jail violence. Historic lows in fire fatalities. And the fewest homicides recorded in modern history. This is New York City today.

And, in a roundabout admission that more can be done to improve safety, Bloomberg mentioned a new initiative aimed at making the city more livable for senior citizens (like his own 99-year-old mom), taking a page from Transportation Alternatives' Safe Routes for Seniors program:

Today I'm announcing a major effort called 'The All Ages Project.' In collaboration with the City Council and the New York Academy of Medicine, this project will completely re-envision what it means to grow old in New York... For instance: How can we ensure that more seniors are cared for in their own homes, rather than in institutions? And how do we make our city easier to get around in? Next month, we will begin to address that second challenge with traffic engineering improvements at 25 high-accident areas which are especially problematic for seniors.

He wrapped up with a lengthy push for PlaNYC initiatives, including a brief pitch for congestion pricing:

With the State's blessing, we'll also use technology to create a system of congestion pricing -- something no other American city has done. It will help us achieve four critical, inter-connected goals: reducing traffic congestion; raising money for mass transit; improving our air quality; and fighting climate change.
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If Mayors Ran America …


In 2004, after John Kerry and John Edwards conceded a second term in the White House to George W. Bush, the editors of Seattle's liberal-tarian weekly The Stranger published an essay entitled "The Urban Archipelago," calling on urban Democrats and their political candidates to unite on issues relevant to cities, where the majority of Americans live. Though an enjoyable read, most of the essay isn't suitable for print on a family blog, but here's a representative passage:

With all the talk of the growth of exurbs and the hand-wringing over facile demographic categories like "security moms," you may be under the impression that an urban politics wouldn't speak to many people. But according to the 2000 Census, 226 million people reside inside metropolitan areas -- a number that positively dwarfs the 55 million people who live outside metro areas. The 85 million people who live in strictly defined central city limits also outnumber those rural relics. When the number of city-dwellers in the United States is quadruple the number of rural people, we can put simple democratic majorities to work for our ideals.

According to the New York-based Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, those ideals include funding for police, health care, housing, utilities, transit and other infrastructure -- and, for the most part, still aren't being talked about in the heart of the 2008 presidential primary season by either dominant party. So DMI, in association with The Nation magazine, launched MayorTV, a series of interviews with mayors from coast of coast, in which they talk about why cities matter and challenge White House hopefuls to make urban America part of the national discussion. (Mayor Michael Bloomberg has so far not participated.)

In addition to being "an ATM for the major presidential candidates," said DMI Executive Director Andrea Batista Schlesinger in a recent TV interview, "If cities aren't functioning, being the economic engines for their regions, then it becomes the problem of suburbs and exurbs, and it becomes the problem of the country."

Video: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, via MayorTV/YouTube