MTA budget cuts...

Behind The News
June 18, 2008 1:38:38 PM PDT
The thing that surprised me about Pres. Bush's announcement that he wants Congress to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling and open a portion of the until-now off limits Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration - wasn't the oil part of his message. What struck me right from the start as rather shocking was that I didn't have any idea who the two men flanking him were at the White House announcement. Turns out they were the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, and the Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman. I'm saying this not to embarrass myself in public because I don't know the faces of the Bush Administration Cabinet. Instead, if I don't recognize them - and I think I'm pretty good at this category of current events -- then I assume most Americans don't recognize them either.

Kinda pathetic, no?

I'm just sayin'.

The President's announcement may not have been surprising - word leaked out last night that he wanted to lift the ban -- but it's caused quite a stir. Is putting up drilling platforms off the coasts the answer to the nation's energy problems? How about drilling in the wilderness? Mr. Bush has been pushing for this throughout his tenure, and with gasoline at $4 a gallon and more, the White House is clearly trying to strike while the emotional iron is hot -- to totally butcher the metaphor.

Critics of off-shore drilling don't buy the arguments that it's worth it. It's a strange political reality, living in coastal areas: conservative people, who might otherwise be in favor of off-shore drilling, don't like the idea of seeing platforms from their backyards or from the beaches where they take their families.

As for the Alaska wildlife area - the Pres. says it's only 2,000 acres, or less than one-tenth of one percent of the land up there. That's where they will drill. But the environmental impact is unknown, and the work crews will certainly use more than that amount of land to traipse in and out. Why are we in such a rush to trample and perhaps affect such virgin and pristine land? To cut the cost of gas a few cents? And would it really do that?

Tonight, those who oppose the President's proposals are asking lots of questions: Why doesn't the federal government give the kind of tax breaks and incentives to alternative forms of energy that it gives to the oil industry? And why isn't conservation as important as boosting the supply side of this equation?

Tonight at 11, we'll take a look at the President's proposal, and the criticisms that are now being raised.

Also at 11, we'll have the latest backtracking by the MTA. This time, the agency says it will not launch a $60 million service improvement campaign - that if I can remember way back to, oh, March, was tied to the latest fare increase - because, surprise!, it's run out of money.

Is this any way to run a public transportation agency? What's most sad, in addition to the lack of improvements for the millions who take public transit, is that during these times of high energy costs, the MTA should be pushing public transportation as an alternative to the private car. But that's hard to do when the MTA makes it so unattractive and unappealing for people to take its transit system.

Again, I'm just sayin'.

We're also keeping abreast of the newest cases of salmonella -- six of them in New York City. More than 200 people have been afflicted so far - and the new cases come at a time when many restaurants are re-introducing tomatoes in their fare.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.