[Editor's Note: Here's a state-level race that is turning up on the national radar. Democrat Paul Newell's primary challenge to entrenched New York State Senate Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is making headlines. Newell has been a high-profile community organizer in New York City – a trait he has in common with a certain high-profile candidate from Illinois. Following is his latest press release, a superb example of holding a machine politician's feet tp the fire.]
July 24, 2008 – Paul Newell today called for Sheldon Silver to clarify his expressed concern about the recently floated MTA fare hike.
Responding to Silver's comments yesterday that "we cannot afford" a hike, Newell asked "If Speaker Silver is so concerned about the burden on transit riders, why did he kill congestion pricing with it's over $600 million annual revenue stream for public transit?" Newell continued, "It makes one wonder if the Speaker's real concern is for the fares he collects from the automotive industry as they fund his PACs and his reelection campaign."
Newell, a community organizer, pointed out that Sheldon Silver had taken thousands of dollars from Parking and Automobile lobbyists as he prepared to kill Congestion Pricing behind closed doors in Albany. Less than 3% of 64th Assembly District residents drive to work, while the vast majority uses public transportation. Mr. Silver – who receives a taxpayer funded stipend to commute to his job – is an exception. The vast majority of traffic in the highly congested district comes from cars driven by people from outside New York City. Congestion Pricing was not the first time Silver has sided with the interests of suburbanites over his constituents. In 1999 Silver played an integral role in the repeal of the Commuter Tax – a levy not paid by a single Lower Manhattan resident. The loss of that tax has passed billions of dollars of costs onto New York City taxpayers.
Speaking to supporters, Newell also discussed the lack of oversight of public authorities in Albany. "Sheldon Silver's culture of failure in Albany allows hundreds of public authorities to conduct business with taxpayer money virtually unsupervised. While Sheldon Silver may find secrecy comfortable in the halls of the Assembly, the gross mismanagement of public authorities under Silver's watch costs New Yorkers millions of dollars a year."
Newell proposed a dramatic rethink of New York' transportation priorities.
Noting the dominance of the automobile in transportation policy, Newell called for change. "It is high time New York started thinking about transportation policy in terms of how we best move New Yorkers around our city – not how do we make room for more cars. Mayor Bloomberg has taken some bold steps on this track, but he has been blocked by the congestion of Silver's three-men-in-a-room system at every turn." Calling these policies "human-centered" Newell proposed that congestion pricing, more support for mass transit, bus rapid transit lanes, widened sidewalks, protected bicycle lanes and other policies will make the city more livable for all New Yorkers. "It is time we started reclaiming out streets – and our tax revenues – from automobile industry lobbyists".
Contact: Jennifer M. Berkley