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MTA Brass Says “Congestion Fee” Panel Can Meet in Secret

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A group of 20 groups representing rider, watchdog and industry groups sent a November 15 letter to the MTA Board urging it to promptly appoint the Traffic Mobility Review Board (TMRB) and ensure that body follows the state Open Meetings Law (OML), according to the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC). Photo Credit: Google Maps

By: Uri Barzel

A group of 20 groups representing rider, watchdog and industry groups sent a November 15 letter to the MTA Board urging it to promptly appoint the Traffic Mobility Review Board (TMRB) and ensure that body follows the state Open Meetings Law (OML), according to the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC).

The law establishing the TMRB requires that it make its recommendations on congestion pricing (by law Central Business District or “CBD” tolling) no earlier than one year from today, with the MTA Board ultimately setting the tolling charges,” noted CBC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization pursuing constructive change in the finances and services of New York City and State, in a release. The TMRB is also charged with “reviewing” the MTA 2020-2024 Capital Program.

Groups signing the letter include Reinvent Albany, Regional Plan Association, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC), Citizens Budget Commission, Riders Alliance, TransitCenter, and others. (See the letter for the full listing.)

“Congestion pricing is expected to yield $15B after bonding to support the MTA’s 2020-2024 Capital Plan; those funds will be placed in a “lockbox” for that purpose only. Drivers will be charged a yet-to-be-determined amount to enter the congestion zone south of 60th Street,” the release noted. “Given the keen public interest, it is particularly important that the TMRB’s critical deliberations −which will affect millions of transit riders and drivers − be held in the open. Therefore, the groups asked that the MTA Board ensure the TMRB follows the Open Meetings Law, which requires that voting and deliberation by a public body be carried out only at a public meeting. The groups noted in the letter that the public interest is best served when the public can understand the reasoning behind government decision-making.”

The letter also pointed out that the Committee on Open Government (COOG) “issued a December 2018 advisory opinion saying an advisory body similar to the TMRB, the MTA Sustainability Advisory Working Group, was subject to the Open Meetings Law after concerns that it was not meeting in public. That opinion is attached for your reference. The Open Meetings Law requires that voting and deliberation by a public body be carried out only at a meeting during which a quorum has physically convened, or during a meeting which is held by videoconference. (The public is required to be able to attend in either case, with advance notice of the time and place of the meeting.)… In sum, we urge you to immediately appoint the TMRB, and ensure that the body follows the Open Meetings Law. The public interest is best served when the public can understand the reasoning behind government decision-making.”

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