With friends like these….
A recent Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) commissioned audit indicates that the total cost of redeveloping the World Trade Center site will be in the neighborhood of $15 billion, a substantial mark up from some previous estimates. The whole enterprise has ballooned beyond the original conceptions and seems likely to be a massive financial burden on the PA going forward.
If that were not bad enough, the audit went on to allege that the PA’s senior management was dysfunctional and had made many mistakes. Both governors have been highly critical of the Port Authority, and they are likely to respond to this report with efforts to change it. They might begin by changing behavior in Albany and Trenton.
The Port Authority used to have a reputation of being one of the premier public agencies in the world. Visitors came from all over to learn how it functioned and why it was so successful. One of the cornerstones was insulation from politics and tight fiscal management. The agency was completely self-financing. The staff was professional and long-serving, focused on good public projects. Over the years that approach eroded as Governors, in addition to siphoning away more and more Port Authority revenues to fill state budget gaps, placed more and more people on the Port Authority’s payroll.
An active Democrat, I was appointed to the PA board in 1988 by a Republican governor. As Chairman of the Port Authority from 1990 to 1994, I was generally confident about the competence of its staff –and never pressured to find a job for a “deserving” party member.
All that has changed in recent years. Bit by bit, the agency’s non-political nature has been compromised. It was recently reported, for example, that New Jersey’s Governor Christie was placing 50 people who had been active in the Republican politics on the Port Authority payroll. The jobs involved everything from management to toll takers. The way these things work, you can bet that New York is getting an equal share of the patronage pie.