Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef has been an impediment to any efforts to reduce Rockland’s subsidies to the NYC subway and bus system. In this letter to the editor, Legislator Ed Days questions why the county exec continually sides with Albany and NYC over Rockland County…
To the Editor,
My gratitude to the Rockland County Times for both your recent editorial on the history of inequity we here in Rockland suffer through with our affiliation with (or should I say servitude to) the MTA, and for leading and staying on this critical issue for so many years.
I and a number of my colleagues in the Rockland County legislature share in your frustration in the pace of action in response to our effort to chart a course of withdrawal from the agency. The recent partial rollback of the MTA payroll tax has only scratched the surface of an unacceptable situation where we in Rockland get a mere 43 cents for every dollar we convey to the MTA. No pun intended, but we “rail” about a cost of Medicaid here in Rockland that was the approximate equivalent of the entirety of our county property tax collection. The fact is the MTA “value gap” of what we here in Rockland get compared to what we pay is also equivalent to that very same number! In short, we here in Rockland are the MTA’s piggy bank.
As far back as my first term in the Legislature some six years ago I have worked to bring focus to this problem; a demand for equivalent service or withdrawal was part of my Minority Address four years ago; and a formal withdrawal process was commenced in the legislature, under the auspices of the Economic Development committee headed up by Legislator Michael Grant, three years ago on January 21, 2009 to be precise.
Central to measuring, assessing, and implementing any effort is the cooperation of the executive branch. After a couple of committee meetings during that year and the next, promises were made to us that an assessment would be done. More than a year and a half later, and after numerous follow ups by legislative staff, the county executive suddenly and unilaterally announced on September 15, 2010 that he directed the hiring of a consulting firm, Cambridge Systematics, to work on the project. It was also announced that the assessment would be done in six months.
Their soon to be released report came to us in a “draft” form, not in six months, but one year later. And when reviewed as part of the Economic Development Committee hearing, what was most disturbing was the assertion by these consultants that the value of transportation services provided to Rockland was – ready for this – 33 percent MORE than what even the MTA claimed! For this report we paid $52,000? Really?
Obviously these numbers were cited and challenged during that committee hearing and our transportation people were told to go back to Cambridge Systematics; have them check their numbers; and return to the committee. We were told then we would have the answers one month later. Well, like the Rockland County Times, we are still waiting too.
Much like that great satirist Will Rogers all that we know is what we read in the papers, as you reported that the County Executive said he has determined that leaving the MTA is impossible. Yet his head of Planning and Public Transportation says withdrawal is still on the table. Meanwhile the duly elected legislative representatives of the people of Rockland wait … and wait … and wait. The people of Rockland County? They pay … and pay … and pay.
I would remind the administration that there are two branches of County government. And it was the Rockland Legislature, not the County Executive’s Office, who commenced the review of withdrawal from the MTA. The people of Rockland County deserve to have this matter fully vetted. After all, it is their money we are talking about.
Edwin J. “Ed” Day