Bloomberg's Congestion Pricing Plan: What Went Wrong

A detailed look at Mayor Bloomberg's ill-fated congestion pricing plan reveals a series of serious missteps by the normally adept mayor in dealing with the state legislature.

2 minute read

July 20, 2007, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


While Mayor Bloomberg denounced lawmakers for failing to even take up his plan, suggesting that they lacked "guts" and "just does not seem to get it," a look at the "strategic missteps" made by his administration helps explain why the plan died in Albany on Monday, July 16.

"Rather than engaging either Gov. Eliot Spitzer or legislative leaders from the beginning, operatives said, Mr. Bloomberg and his aides sprang a complex proposal on the Legislature at the end of its session, seemed unprepared to answer questions or revise details, missed opportunities to sway legislators, and then used the deadline to apply for federal financing as a bludgeon to shove the plan through."

It "showed how Mr. Bloomberg's operation, increasingly adept at promoting the mayor's national reputation, has not yet learned to navigate the city's business through the politics of Albany."

"Mr. Bloomberg has defended his efforts as a bold move to secure as much as $500 million in federal aid and help solve the city's traffic problems." However, the unfolding events clearly showed that the opponents of the plan, especially Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who refused to convene a special session of the Assembly, were not influenced by the threatened loss of the funds.

Perhaps the biggest blunder may have occurred with the inception of the plan, unveiled as the centerpiece of his environmental agenda on Earth Day in April. {See related link}.

"When you want to change a fundamental pattern of living for a lot of people, you have to educate them," said Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who supports congestion pricing. "They have to believe that it's going to be better than what they have, and you can't do that in two months."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 in The New York Times

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