Sometimes it becomes very clear why many people don’t trust government. When government agencies and officials are slow to respond, give incorrect information, or just don’t perform the duties charged to them by the public, the result is the loss of public trust. Here are three recent examples — two which Tri-State directly experienced, and one which is affecting the entire New York region.
The MTA’s Stimulus List is Public Information — Unless You Ask the MTA
Tri-State staffers recently asked the MTA about some of the projects that the agency wants to fund using federal stimulus money, but the official word from the MTA’s press office is that there is no list of projects. This is months after CEO Lee Sander told state legislators that the Fulton Street Transit Center would be receiving stimulus funds.
Worst of all, this supposedly nonexistent list is publicly available. The list of projects which the MTA is requesting stimulus money for is on the front page of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s website.
[UPDATE: In the comments, MTA Press Secretary Jeremy Soffin responds, saying that "The list did go up on the NYMTC site earlier that week, but we were not informed that it had been posted." Soffin also points to a longer list available on NYMTC's website which includes detailed descriptions of the MTA stimulus projects listed above. It can be downloaded here.]
Newark: Too Busy for Young Advocates?
Last August, Tri-State and the Greater Newark Conservancy organized a walking tour around the Broad Street train station for local high school students. Students identified pedestrian and development issues and solutions, and ended the workshop by writing letters to Newark Mayor Cory Booker about how to improve the area.
Unfortunately, the mayor never wrote back. Thinking that the students would appreciate a response and that it would show the administration in a good light, we followed up with city staff but got little reply. Finally, after both we and the Conservancy had made multiple inquiries, last month we were finally able to secure a promise that a letter would be sent. As of today, no letter has been received.
Mayors of large cities like Newark obviously face pressing and urgent issues every day. And to be fair, the Newark City Planning Department is moving forward with plans to redevelop around Broad Street. Still, responding to these student letters should have taken 10 minutes of a junior aide’s time. Instead, it took eight months.
The saddest part? When we originally suggested to the students that they write to the mayor, many of them told us there was no point, since they were sure that the city didn’t care about high schoolers’ opinions.
MTA service cuts and fare hikes are getting closer. The first cut to take effect is the end of LIRR service to Belmont; seasonal service is supposed to start on April 29 but instead won’t run. Fares will increase on May 31 for bus and subway service and on June 1 for commuter rail, and service cuts will take effect at various times starting in July. But state legislators in Albany aren’t any closer to a solution than they were last week.
Instead, they’re taking a two-week holiday recess and won’t be back to work until April 20.