Sunday, July 31, 2011

Government Follies Post #3

One thing that's all over the news here in the NYC area is a referendum before the Nassau County taxpayers to fund a new arena to replace the old Nassau Coliseum. The owner of the NHL's Islanders, Charles Wang, has said he will move or sell the team if Nassau County doesn't provide his team a new stadium.

It seems like every professional sports team pulls this stunt, or tries to, at some point. Why do these multimillionaires think the public is supposed to build them a place of business? Do you ever hear of Walmart threatening to relocate one of their stores because the local government won't provide a new building for their business? If Charles Wang wants a new stadium, he should build one. Period.

Government Follies Post #2

I was all set to rant about how all this stupid political posturing in Congress was about to create financial chaos, when lo! the sparring parties managed, somehow, to put aside their ideologies and agree to some kind of compromise. Of course, the sticking point were these Tea Party rookies who haven't yet learned that in strong winds, grass survives because it bends, while trees stand stiff and resist the wind and thus they break.

Earlier tonight I saw some talking-head show where one of the Tea Party rookies naturally said, "Hey, it wasn't us, it was the oldsters who've been there 30 years who made this mess." And yeah, he was right. The underlying mess wasn't created by the Tea Party rookies. But if everybody stuck to their guns, with no chance for compromise, millions of people who did all the things they were supposed to do, and contributed to the Social Security kitty all those years, would have been told, "Sorry, we can't pay you." And the military members who the Tea Party people seem to think they emulate would have gone unpaid also.

Of course, it's not really over just yet. Everybody still has to vote, and let's face it, little bits of the crisis they're supposed to be trying to prevent will still come to be. The US economy, and the US government itself, will not stop on a dime. It's more like one of those oil supertankers that need thousands of feet to make even the smallest course changes.

And, for what it's worth. a balanced budget is mandatory. There's no way it can just be pushed aside. But adding a constitutional amendment saying the budget must be balanced cheapens the Constitution. You don't have to add an amendment in order to do it. Just... do it.

Mass T-RANT-sit (Government Follies Post #1)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a New York State agency that manages public transportation systems in and around New York City, wants to charge $1 for Metro Cards. They've been trying for awhile now to encourage reloading existing cards rather than buying new ones. That's well and good for people who use the subway or the city buses every day, or at least live near a subway station where they can recharge their card before going on the bus.

But for us in Westchester County, which signed on to using MetroCards a couple of years ago, this amounts to a tax or a fee, for using a system we didn't ask for. I happen to live in Mount Vernon, which borders the Bronx. I can walk to the 241st Street subway station to recharge my card... theoretically, at least. More about that later. The point is, someone in, say, Tarrytown or in Mount Kisco, doesn't have a subway station nearby to put more money on their cards. Their local Metro North train stations have ticket machines that will dispense MetroCards, since MetroNorth is a division of the MTA, but those machines don't recharge existing cards.

The MTA would probably claim that the cost of allowing for recharging cards outside the city is prohibitive, not cost-effective, and so forth and so on. But there is an obvious solution to that problem. Since the cards are issued by the MTA, and Metro North is run by the MTA, just allow for Metro Card use for Metro North train fares. Metro North is not a closed system as the NYC subways are, but the system could be made to accommodate the cards if the MTA wanted to do it. 

As it happened, I went to the 241st Street subway station intending to put some money on one of my Metro Cards, only to see when I got there that I couldn't get into the station. It was closed because of trackwork. Riders were being offered shuttle buses to the 180th Street station, but I wasn't about to ride to 180th Street just to put money on my card. I wound up using the remaining balance on my one Metro Card with money on it to go to a local store, then taking a cab home, since I didn't have change or a Metro Card for the bus. Again, if there were a way to recharge the cards in Westchester, I wouldn't have to go the subway station just to find that I can't get in.

Yeah, I know, I didn't have to wait until I had only one ride left to recharge. But that's beside the point... ;-)