Bloomberg: Traffic fee had votes

Bloomberg blasts politicians over congestion pricing defeat
April 8, 2008 4:50:54 PM PDT
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday shrugged off the stinging defeat of his congestion pricing plan, saying Albany lawmakers lacked the courage to address it and insisting the proposal would have passed if it had come to a vote.Bloomberg declined to directly criticize Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for choosing not to bring the issue to a vote, though the mayor did dispute Silver's stated reasons.

Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, drove the final spike in Bloomberg's plan Monday when he said there was not enough support in the Assembly to have a vote. Bloomberg's long-sought goal would have used tolls at peak travel times to reduce traffic and ease pollution in New York City.

In a speech at Georgetown University, the mayor insisted courage is needed in political leaders to take decisive action on the environment.

"A lot of people would still rather do nothing. It is sad but true. It takes courage to ask people to change - even if it won't really cost them much. Political leaders today are afraid of their constituents," he said.

The Assembly, Bloomberg said, "didn't even have the courage to vote on it - they just killed it in a backroom."

After the speech, Bloomberg deflected questions about whether he blamed Silver directly for the lack of a vote, but he tellingly added: "I do not think that any one person should decide what is right... The results would have been there. It would have passed."

Silver has now played a key role in defeating not just the mayor's congestion pricing plan, but also his failed dream to build a West Side Stadium.

The city had been in line to receive $354 million from Washington to help implement congestion pricing, but now, the mayor said, that money would be distributed instead to other projects around the country.

Bloomberg had spent more than a year striving to make New York the first U.S. city to launch a congestion pricing scheme, which has already been implemented in London and elsewhere.

He insisted there was no point crying about the defeat.

The mayor said it was time to move forward with other environmental goals for the city, and "not let one time when you have one step, one that if it goes wrong, or one hiccup, stop your whole program."

To that end, he was the first speaker in an environmental conference at Georgetown, sponsored by Newsweek magazine.

He announced the city would launch a new initiative with the U.S. Department of Energy to install solar panels on 11 city buildings throughout the five boroughs, including five schools and a community college.

Yet he conceded Tuesday that without congestion pricing, and the revenue it was expected to generate, he wasn't quite sure how other energy efficiency goals for the city could be accomplished.

"I quite honestly do not have any other answers. I never could find one, which is why I was such a proponent of congestion pricing," he said.