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Port Authority Scandal Is Result of Leadership, Patronage Mess, Analysts Say

While Christie insisted previously that he makes “no apologies about trying to put some people in place who are going to understand what the view of this administration is,” Gallagher said that when governors insist on “having their own eyes and ears throughout the organization, their loyalties are not to the organization and its mission, but to the governor who put them there. It’s just a fact of life.”

Consequently, the Port Authority functions today “like two separate organizations side-by-side, where the deputy director answers not to the executive director who is supposed to be his boss, but to the governor who appointed him. And the executive director doesn’t have the power to fire his own subordinates,” Robins said.

“The executive director and deputy executive director have to work as a team, be on the same page, and have a common agenda, and that’s the way it worked when I was at the Port Authority,” said Gallagher. “It didn’t matter who the governor was in either state, or which party he was from. Everybody worked for the good of the region.

“Today, you have divided management, and it’s like having a president of the United States from one party, and a vice president from the other one,” he said.

Gallagher, a resident of Somerset, added that “the notion of the Port Authority being a bistate agency on regional issues seems to be taking a back seat to the parochial views of one state or another.”

“We see $1.8 billion in Port Authority funds being siphoned off to rehabilitate the Pulaski Skyway,” he noted. “It’s not a Port Authority facility, and it’s not a proper use of Port Authority funds. It’s a convenient use for Christie because he hasn’t done anything to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund, and he got the money by killing off a new rail tunnel project that was a regional project and he has made no effort to come up with a replacement. But it fits the governor’s needs, so it goes through.”

Doig suggested in a February 2012 op-ed in The New York Times that the Port Authority has been unable to fulfill its mission properly because “the governors of New York and New Jersey have been unable to resist meddling in the day-to-day operations of this multibillion-dollar agency and unwilling to appoint members to the authority's board of commissioners who will use their independent judgment to carry out a sustained program of critically needed transportation improvements without continual political interference.”

Those actions, Doig said, are contrary to the goal of those who created the Port Authority in 1921. The agency was designed to be “insulated from patronage demands and other short-term political pressures generated by mayors, legislatures and the governors themselves” by having each governor appoint six commissioners for six-year terms. That would mean their terms would run longer than the terms of the governors who appointed them and would prevent new governors from stacking the commission with friends and party loyalists.

For its first 75 years, Doig asserted, the Port Authority operated efficiently and professionally with minimal political interference. By tacit agreement, the New York governor appointed the executive director and the New Jersey governor the commission chairman, but the chairman and the executive director worked together smoothly to set policy.

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